This week is Fashion Revolution Week, an initiative started after the Rana Plaza disaster where thousands lost their lives due to a garment factory collapse. The news that so many workers died creating clothes for high-street stores we regularly visit, shook the nation. But as is often the way with stories like this, the immediate outrage and call for justice started to fade and so Fashion Revolution Week was born.
This isn’t just a week-long initiative, this is a 24/7 yearlong campaign that fights for the rights of the people making our clothes all over the world. During this week we as consumers are encouraged to ask the brands we love, ‘Who made my clothes?’ We are demanding transparency in the supply chain and fighting for better working conditions, pay and respect for all.
So, what does this mean for us as Christians? I believe it is our job to join this revolution and here’s why:
‘Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.’ (Proverbs 31:8)
As Christians we are repeatedly called to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. To fight injustice, make the world a better place and bring His kingdom. So how can we stand back when the very clothes we wear contribute to so much injustice?
Behind the seams
Many of our clothes are made from cotton and almost 85% of the worlds cotton trade comes from Uzbekistan. It’s a country where thousands of Uzbek and Turkmen are forced onto the cotton fields to pick cotton for months. There is no adequate shelter, no toilets and no safe drinking water. Food is scarce, and illness is rife on these cotton farms. There have even been deaths due to the hazardous conditions. This is forced labour at its ugliest and it’s a direct result of our demand for cheap cotton clothing.
Further down the supply chain thousands of workers in garment factories, mainly women, are forced to work in hazardous conditions with no safety regulations. The Rana Plaza disaster was a terrible example of what can happen when regulations and safety precautions are not adhered to. Many of the workers in the factory were scared to go to work due to the huge cracks in the building, but they felt they had no choice. The factory owners couldn’t afford the loss of time to fix the building due to the high demand from brands on our high-street. And so they continued to force workers to work in extremely hazardous conditions.
Our demand for cheaper goods also has a detrimental effect on the rights of workers. Many garment workers are forced to work 16-hour days with little or no breaks. These workers’ wages are repeatedly pushed down due to the high demand for cheaper products and it’s not unusual for garment workers to go weeks without payment. They can barely afford food and adequate shelter for themselves and their families – all so we can have a t-shirt for £5.
Take a stand
In Jeremiah 22:3 we are told to ‘do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed.’ Is the fast fashion industry not the oppressor robbing thousands of people of their rights, their freedom and sometimes even their lives? Romans 12:2 tells us not to conform to this world, but to be transformed and to live a different kind of life. We are told to live a life that is pleasing to God that is good and honest and right. How then can we fund this injustice by buying cheap fast fashion?
As Christians it is our duty to join The Fashion Revolution. As it says in Proverbs 31:8, we need to speak up and fight the injustices of this world. To demand better for the people who make our clothes. To ask for transparency in the supply chain and then to fight for better. We have so much power to change the world by refusing to buy into something that causes so much pain and injustice.
‘Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.’ (Isaiah 1:7).
This week it’s time to ask the question “Who made my clothes?”. It is time to stand up and fight for the rights of those who cannot fight for themselves. To give a voice to the voiceless and demand better from a multimillion pound industry. To seek justice and to correct oppression. This week it’s time to join the revolution.
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