With the safety (or lack thereof) of Bangladesh sweatshops in the headlines, Canadian journalist Raveena Aulakh decided to experience the conditions at factories that make our clothes firsthand, in a report for the Toronto Star. The first surprise? The worker showing her the ropes, Meem, was a 9-year-old girl, who worked 9am to 9pm every day to help support her family. Conditions were also pretty grim. The factory floor where Aulakh was a windowless room "about half the size of a basketball court" and one rat-infested restroom, with one squat toilet, for all employees to share.
For a week, Aulakh observed as every single shirt was made by hand—work she describes as "back-breaking," "finger-numbing," and "particularly rage-inducing," because she had to watch kids "hunched over hour after hour, squinted at the threads, cleaned one collar after another, one cuff after another, one arm piece after another until the piles were depleted." When they made a mistake, talked too much, or hummed too loudly, the factory owner yelled at them. They made about $25 to $31 a month, with no weekends, holidays, or sick days. Meem's dream was to one day earn $37 a month. "Meem would say: Sab bhalo, it is all okay," writes Aulakh. "It isn’t." Click through for the full report and a video showing inside the factory. (Read more Bangladesh stories.)