We’re excited about the release of our series of films about the garment industry in Bangladesh so thought we’d tell you a little about our approach to creating the series.
On Our Radar and our partners New Internationalist and Fashion Revolution wanted to know more about the garment industry in Bangladesh and the people who make the clothes we all wear every day.
It’s a topic which has received increasing interest in the media over the past few years but most of the depictions of the workers have been one-dimensional, tired portraits of women crouched over sewing machines. Sometimes it’s involved quite exploitative images too.
We wanted to hear from the perspective of these garment workers; what did the work actually meant to them? How it has changed their lives? How has it changed their country?
We partnered with a local trade union and ran workshops with 80 Bangladeshi garment workers. We trained them on ways to interview each other and how to brainstorm together to find stories about their experiences. As a journalist it’s sometimes easy to do your desk research and decide on your themes, then try to find the stories and characters that fit with your ideas and reflect those themes. But by using that open approach and without starting with too many preconceptions, what Radar has done in Bangladesh is more open.
We said; “Tell us what your life’s like, tell us what YOU want to share with the world.” Through that process you get these much more human, universal stories. Sure, the framing of their stories is around the garment industry and their work within it but we also heard stories about dating and dancing. We heard from a third gender person [hijra] who has finally gained respect by getting a job within the garment industry. We got a much more nuanced view of the positives, negatives and subtle cultural shifts that the garment industry has brought about.