Bangladesh tailors struggling against ready-made garment makers

Mohammad Gholam Mostafa in his shop. (AN photo)
Updated 18 November 2017
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Bangladesh tailors struggling against ready-made garment makers

DHAKA: “My life is full of struggle and suffering. I earn only 20,000 taka ($250) every month to provide for my family of five,” said Mohammad Golam Mostofa, who runs a small tailor house in the capital of Bangladesh.
Mostofa is not alone. He represents many senior tailors who are struggling with the very existence of their profession. While Bangladesh is crowned with being the world’s second largest ready-made garment (RMG) producer country, a group of clothing industry professionals is facing hardship.
Mostofa started his career at 19 but now, after three decades, he can’t see any growth in his profession. He said: “The volume of orders has decreased although per unit the tailoring charge has increased several times. But the increased income cannot cope with the high inflation rate of the market. As a result, my life continues with the same vicious cycle of poverty.”
At 49, Mostofa, a father of three, cannot think of any other career options despite the serious downturn in his business.
“It’s a common phenomena of capitalist society everywhere in the world. Large capital swallows the small units at grassroots level,” said Professor Dr. A. S. M. Aman Ullah, a sociologist at Dhaka University.
“During the last two decades, many large garment industries have been established to cater for the local clothing market. In addition, export-bound RMG factories are providing their leftover clothes in the local market at a cheaper rate. These two things made the tailors’ life even harder. Nearly 50 percent of the tailor houses have shut down across the country in recent years. And I have not heard of anyone who has opened a small tailor shop,” Dr. Aman added.
Maybe after two decades there will soon be no such thing as a small tailor house, Dr. Aman fears.
Economist Dr. Pratima Pal Mazumder, who worked for Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies as a senior researcher, said: “Some local small tailor houses now resorted to diversification in their business. They are integrated with large export-oriented garments and work for the export market as an outsourcer of the main supplier. I have noticed that in some cases people are delivering this type of garment, outsourcing services from their home.”
Dr. Pratima, who currently heads the NGO Kormojibee Nari (Working Women), added: “Our fashion trend has also changed with time. Centering different festivals, now the middle class is also wearing a lot of fashionable clothes. Especially in terms of ladies’ clothes, our small tailor shops are contributing a lot. So these shops are diversifying their business to survive.”
However, Dr. Aman suggests that an integrated approach linking the small tailors with the large garment units might help save the livelihoods of such small-unit-owner tailors. Nonetheless, such an approach, although feasible, will require consistent and long-term efforts.


Philippine police: Gunmen kill 9 people who occupied farm

Updated 58 min 8 sec ago
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Philippine police: Gunmen kill 9 people who occupied farm

  • At least two of the victims may have fired back at the attackers because spent pistol and shotgun casings were found in the area
  • The National Federation of Sugar Workers condemned the killings of its members

BACOLOD, Philippines: Gunmen killed nine members of a farmers’ group who occupied part of a privately owned sugarcane plantation in a central Philippine province, police said Sunday.
The victims were resting in a hut Saturday night when about 10 gunmen opened fire, police said. At least four farmers survived the attack at the plantation in Sagay city in Negros Occidental province, which has a history of bloody land feuds.
“There are groups fighting over that land,” Sagay police Chief Inspector Roberto Mansueto said.
At least two of the victims may have fired back at the attackers because spent pistol and shotgun casings were found in the area, Mansueto said.
“Witnesses say they heard only a few initial shots. Apparently the victims were just being threatened,” Mansueto told reporters. “But later there seemed to have been an exchange of fire.”
The National Federation of Sugar Workers condemned the killings of its members, who included four women and two minors. The group said the victims were forced to plant vegetables and root crops to feed their families on idle land that’s covered by the government’s land reform program but remained undistributed to poor farmers.
Two other peasant leaders belonging to the federation were killed in Sagay city last December and in February this year by suspected pro-government forces, the group said. It said that about 45 farmers asserting their land rights have been killed on Negros island under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.
Instead of offering an effective land reform program, Duterte’s government “red baits those who assert their rights to the land,” the group said, referring to pronouncements by civilian and military officials linking protesting farmers to communist guerrillas.
There was no immediate government reaction. Regional police chief Superintendent John Bulalacao condemned Saturday’s attack and said everything was being done to ensure the rapid arrest of the killers.
In September 1985, government forces opened fire on protesters, many of them farmers, in Negros Occidental province as they were commemorating the 1972 declaration of martial law by then-President Ferdinand Marcos. Several died in an event that left-wing activists still mark each year.