Journalist Raveena Aulakh got a first hand look at life in a Bangladeshi sweatshop, going undercover as an employee for four days. Aulakh’s story revolves around her young boss Meem, who at just 9 years old would be expected to be at school, not managing a group of young women cutting and sewing garments. The firsthand account reveals the stark reality of Bangladesh sweatshops, and gives insight into the lives of the children who make the world’s clothing.

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Aulakh traveled to Dhaka, posing as a woman down on her luck from India, looking to earn some money in her new city. Finding a job wasn’t as easy as she’d thought, as big companies now go through careful screening after the Rana Plaza collapse this past April. Finally, through friends in Dhaka, she was finally able to secure a job at a smaller privately owned facility, where she met Meem.

The small factory was in a windowless room, with just 24 sewing machines, two cutting machines and piles of fabric, accessible by just one doorway. It continued on to a second floor with similar conditions. For four days, Aulakh, Meem, and five other workers sat in a circle on the floor with no chairs or back support, cutting threads from big piles. Other workers were stationed at tiny stools at sewing machines, where garments were made piece-meal, each worker sewing the same piece over and over.

The women and girls worked from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day in a stifling hot room, earning just $32 a month, desperate to help their families financially. Aulakh worked for just four days alongside children, but her first-hand experience exposes the danger and reality of child labor in Bangladesh.

+ Toronto Star