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We pull the thread to know what is behind the textile industry Featured

(Textile & Fair Trade. COTTON INEQUALITY) (Textile & Fair Trade. COTTON INEQUALITY) Imagen del fotógrafo Sean Hawkey

When talking about the textile industry in Spain, it is unavoidable to mention the Inditex Group, founded by the businessman Amancio Ortega and whose most distinctive company is Zara, a worldwide business model and a clear example of success shown at every business school. But, do you know what is behind those jeans, T-shirts and dresses? The Spanish Organization for Fair Trade (Coordinadora Estatal de Comercio Justo) helps us answer this question thanks to their monograph published this year to commemorate the Fair Trade Day on May 9th. It invites us to pull the thread…(Link to the Spanish version)

In order to understand the textile global market and its trade imbalance, the start point must be the analysis of a production model in which big companies own more than a single sewing factory and only work in the design and distribution of their products, leaving the manufacture for businesses based in countries with very low work costs. This reality leads to a globalization of the production which causes two important phenomena: the relocation of production and the growing importance of the transnational companies Such phenomena provoke, at the same time, the diffusion of responsibilities, a decrease in salaries and the consolidation of a corporate power with higher and higher political influence.

Such scenario leads to maquila diasporas, that is to say, factories located in developing countries taking advantage of the benefits of cheap workforce and getting linked to the sector’s multinationals through subcontracting networks that are pretty complex some times.

Desglose Gastos Camiseta Fuente


[Picture: BREAKDOWN OF THE EXPENSES OF A T-SHIRT. T-shirt price: €29; 1: Retail sale (€17); 2: Benefits for the brand (€3,61); 3: Materials costs (€3,40); 4: Transportation costs (€2,19); 5: Intermediaries (€1,20); 6: Benefits for the factory in Bangladesh (€1,15); 7: General costs (€0,27); 8: Payment to the workers (€0,18)]

The Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh

On 24 April 2013, an 8-storey building hosting garment factories and called the Rana Plaza collapsed in Savar, a town close to Dhaka. 1.130 people died in awful security and hygiene working conditions. This tragic event was a milestone in labour exploitation and opened an international debate on working conditions in the textile industry. Reality showed that almost all major brands were directly or indirectly linked to the factories involved in the accident.

Minimum wage in Bangladesh is €50/month, even after the substantial increase by 77% occurred after the collapse. Such wage increases provoked the relocation of the industry to Africa, to countries such as Ethiopia and South Africa.

Textiles and the feminization of poverty

Work in the textile sector is one of the most intense and feminized: women make up 80% of garment workers. Despite that, as shown by the Clean Clothes Campaign: “in most places they earn less than men, even for equal work as skilled operators”. Such wage discrimination means that women are more likely to be malnourished and to lack decent housing, access to health care, and community services such as clean water and sanitation. Additionally, as women must work longer and harder to make ends meet, it leads to exhaustion and injuries from stress and overwork.

This is a critic situation of inequality of women in the labour market already addressed in this blog and which Afrikable wants to face through the implementation of diverse measures, such as those related to maternity and work balance.

Spain and the Textile Fair Trade

In Spain, Fair Trade is mainly present in foodstuff, as 9 out of 10 Fair Trade sales involve those products. It remains thus little room for the crafts sector, in which textile is included. Barely 1.7% of total invoicing registered in 2013 belongs to textile products, but this figure grows gradually.

The Fair Trade textile supply in our country is certainly limited compared to other European countries, and this is due to the delay of 20 years in the development and implementation of an alternative commercial model. Nonetheless, the existing gap gets smaller and smaller every year, as shown by data from the Eurobarometer survey of September 2014, which determines that 45% of Spaniards would be willing to pay more for Fair Trade products.

Afrikable Jimudu Woman Group

Afrikable and the Textile Fair Trade

Afrikable makes its contribution by supplying Fair Trade products, as that is the basis of its work and a tool for empowering women. Afrikable’s female workers are divided into producer groups and, as we are talking about textiles we will focus on the Jimudu Woman Group which in Swahili means “women who fend for themselves”. They are in charge of producing gorgeous fashion accessories and home textiles with Kikoy and Kangas fabrics, local fabrics from the Swahili coast with flashy patterns and made of 100% cotton. Learn about the Afrikable textile products, an alternative to wear Fair Trade.

Author: Estefanía Vera | Translator: Ara Calavia

Read 1635 times Last modified on Sunday, 03 April 2016 00:05


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Afrikable is a Spanish charitable organisation, registered in the National Register of Associations under number 1/1/594088 and in the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation for Development (AECID)'s Register of Non-Governmental Organisations under number 2033.


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