On my second day in Bangladesh I accidentally visited an informal factory for the first time. I engaged myself in “tourist tour” in Old Dhaka and I did not know these factories were part of it. The factories I saw did not correspond with my idea of a factory – a shiny well organised place with large scale production. Ever since I have been curious to know more about this underground world and have tried to portray the world beyond the label.
What is the informal garment sector? ‘Informal factories’ are companies not officially registered in Bangladesh producing garments for the local and sometimes the Indian market. These factories also produce garments for well-known and established international brands through subcontracts. There are an estimated 7’000 informal factories across Bangladesh and because there are not registered these factories are not subjected to safety controls. In fact, these factories are not subjected to the nation wide fire and buildings safety assessments. The working conditions and facilities are of much lower quality than most formal export oriented factories. In most of these garment factories there are no labour inspectors and the factories receive much less attention from the international community. Many factories are non-compliant with regards to anti-child labour legislation.
Inside these factories garment workers work six to six and a half days per week from dawn till far after dusk for a minimum wage. Therefore the workers from these factories sleep inside or rent rooms next to these factories. They come from villages to cities seeking for employment and dreaming of a better life…
A room with 15 sewing machines could be considered an informal factory in Bangladesh. In these factories the majority of workers are boys and men. Women cannot commit to the same working hours due to their responsibilities at home and they are not allowed to sleep next to a man who is not a relative. Traveling at night is also dangerous for them.
Claudio Montesano Casillas is a documentary photographer born in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. He established his roots in three separate cultures, Mexican, Italian and Swiss, and he has developed an ability to both recognise and capture the richness of people, cultures and their respective evolution. Currently, he is based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. See more at his website, or follow him on Instagram.
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