Identity

Four Years After the Rana Plaza Disaster, Life Remains Tough for Garment Workers

Not much has changed since 1,129 Bangladeshi garment workers died in the 2013 disaster. One photographer takes us inside the brutal working conditions still endured by people in the industry.

by Claudio Montesano Casillas
Apr 24 2017, 12:55pm

All photos by Claudio Montesano Casillas

Four years ago today, the Savar building, in Dhaka, Bangladesh—known more commonly as the Rana Plaza—collapsed, killing 1,129 people and injuring a further 2,500. Those killed were workers in Bangladesh's booming garment industry, which employs around 3.5 million workers, most of them women. It was Bangladesh's largest man-made disaster, and an entirely preventable tragedy: Cracks had appeared in the building's structure, but the building's owners had ignored them.

Around 80 percent of the workers who died that day were young women aged between 18 and 20. Four years on, conditions remain tough for Bangladesh's garment workforce. Wages are low; sexual harassment is rife; workplace protections are poor. Photographer Claudio Montesano Casillas went inside the factories of Dhaka to document the conditions there.

A crowded room filled with young people and sewing machines at an informal factory in Old Dhaka. Informal factories are unregistered companies producing garments for the local and sometimes Indian market. In most of these factories, there are no labour inspectors and they receive much less attention from the international community. Many factories are non-compliant with regards to anti-child labor legislation.

Female workers at a celebration in their garment factory.

Human bones found amongst the debris at the Rana Plaza site in Savar District of Dhaka

A female worker checking the quality of the jeans produced at a factory. The minimum wage for Bangladeshi garment workers is amongst the lowest in the world, at 3000 taka a month ($37.50).

A celebration at a garment factory.

A crowded room filled with people and sewing machines at an informal factory in Dhaka.

A young worker on quality control.

What remains of the Rana Plaza site.