Across Women’s Lives’ “Wear and Tear” series traces the roots of women in the garment industry from textile mills in North Carolina to sweatshops in Los Angeles to crowded factories in Bangladesh, where the memory of the deadly Rana Plaza disaster lingers but real change has been slow.
"My dad was a doctor, and when I was 6 my family moved from the center of the garment industry, New York City, to North Carolina, America's garment manufacturing state," recalls Marco Werman, host of PRI's The World.
Rongmala Begum, like many of Bangladesh’s garment workers, doesn’t know how old she is. She doesn’t have a birth certificate, which is common for the rural poor here. She thinks she’s in her 40s. She has an identification card, but she can’t read it. Begum is illiterate.
The Rana Plaza collapse made companies and consumers more aware of working conditions in the clothing factories. In some places, reforms have made workers safer, but the changes are far from universal.