Monday, June 30, 2008

Primark in the news

Last Saturday while out trying to get stuff for husband's birthday we got stopped by a socialist. He alerted me to the TV expose (sorry, don't know how to put accent in) on Primark and I duly signed a petition.

I don't shop at Primark. Call me snooty if you must. But I smell a fish when clothes are sold so cheaply. (See previous post.) In any case I have eschewed 'fast fashion' for some time and prefer fashion on the slow, classic lane.

Any way I went home and sought out the programme on BBC iPlayer. The three things that struck me were
  1. women quarrelling over drinking water in a village devastated by a huge textile factory (of which effluence has poisoned the natural water supply and drinking water has to be trucked in every day -- criminal!)
  2. the smiling faces of the boys being rescued from sweatshops because they know they are headed for a better life, and
  3. big corporations like Primark simply washed their hands off the whole issue -- buried their heads in the sand -- by not giving their properly contracted factories new work for six months.

Our yearn for cheap, fast fashion has had a direct impact on the livelihood on people elsewhere on earth by way of poisonous dyes, pesticides, detergents, etc making their only source of drinking water undrinkable.

The reporter asked if taking employment from these young children would mean leaving them with no livelihood. I used to struggle with this. The interviewee replied without any hesitation, "Why can't the jobs that the children do be given to their parents?"

Why not indeed, except that the employers, contractors, big corporations, us consumers, must be willing to pay more.

As for withholding work from these factories which employ hundreds and thousands of workers legitimately, the likes of Primark are merely running from an opportunity to 'engage' with their contractors to thrash out terms that would allow them to have the clothes made and finished (with elaborate beading) at a fair and reasonable price. Meanwhile the company goes elsewhere to exploit another group of factories, another group of children, away from the gaze of investigative journalists and their cameras.

Sometimes when I look at the sad state of education, health provision, youth crime, etc in this country I think we need some root-and-branch reforms. When we look at the issue of child labour, unfair wages, corporate greed, etc, the same idea of root-and-branch reforms come in. But how?

Do I go into politics to strive to make that change? Or do we do what us little people could do in our little local area? Is what I do with young mothers and their young children at a toddler group, for example, more effective in imparting support and lessons in parenting than in becoming an MP?

If I help these young parents now to manage their children, would they be better disposed to manage their children when they are older?

What if everyone of us were to do the very little that we are able to do, would that make a difference?

Then I read: Hello, class, I’m the 16-year-old head

A 16-year-old started his own school in India (when he was 11!) to help children in his village who did not have the privilege like him to go to a private school. This is an example of how the 'little people', the real people, could make a difference and change the world.

Now, how can I become like this 16-year-old?

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1 comment:

Laura Brown said...

Oh, but Primark in Harrow now has a big sign in its window explaining the company's "ethical policies," so it's OK!

I never cease to be astonished by the cynicism of big corporations, or by the fact that consumers fall for it.