Recently an article published by GIZ on the Bangladeshi Garment Sector outlines its activities towards the improvement of business through training and workers through awareness .
The article claims that since 2005 GIZ has been supporting over 2,000 businesses (supposedly of the garment sector as the article is based on that), with a total of 1.5 million employees, on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the European Union. In 2011 and 2012 alone, 350 textile factories markedly improved their social and environmental standards, and 170 factories were certified for at least one international labor standard.
Although such moves if done sincerely enough must always be welcome, and we too would do the same. However, since 2005, beginning with the Spectrum factory collapse, Bangladesh saw factory disasters of grand scales resulting in hundreds of deaths in an increasing order. Ironically, these factories usually had an international audit where they were certified “acceptable”, however of course denied by the audit firms later quite blatantly, often referring to the scope of the certification or expressly denying any certification at all! A vivid example can be observed by the following picture secured from the “then” website of Tuba Group which directly contradicts what the global certification body WRAP claims while denying that they gave any certification to the owner of Tazreen Mr. Delwar Hossain (still a free man, often termed as a “mass murderer”) for his “interests…”:
WRAP’s denial: http://www.wrapcompliance.org/en/news/314-tazreen-statement
But then what would this be, and to what avail?:
This certification was used by the Tazreen owner on his website as a symbol of his “acceptability”. However may this now be denied, it is definitely a burning question as to how these certification and their marketability is managed by those who hand over these certificates. How much can they be relied upon?
Moreover, Tazreen actually had the confirmation of the “orange” signal by its famous buyers the German Brand KiK, and the U.S. Stores Giant Walmart, which according to records was soon followed by a better – i.e. “yellow” signal :
As for Rana Plaza, its factories were certified numerous times by the famous German firms “TUV SUD” and “TUV Rheinland”  for the very purpose of proper working conditions, and they too found it good enough to be certified – in fact, several times too!
When we come to talks regarding social standards, it has been evident in more than one report from either researchers, human rights activists or the media both locally and internationally that the social condition of the workers are still far from proper. Such reports, focus on the worker and the clear image of the structure, rather than concentrate on fancy documentations which are often nothing more than pieces of white paper with black ink on them, something not impossible to achieve in a country like Bangladesh where corruption unfortunately is rampant. Improving the situation of 1.5 million workers would be just too significant to not have created an environment where it could be felt, and seen as a significant number of crumbling factory buildings would start showing the brightness of positive change. The long working hours, unfortunately, are still the same for most of the garment factories in Bangladesh, while workers still live in fear of fires/disasters or oppression.
Instead, since 2005 we saw activists and honest worker rights leaders/organizers being persecuted or killed, unrest plaguing an already struggling garment sector which is crucial for Bangladesh’s economic progress, trade incentives being removed, shocking factory disasters and deplorable working conditions. We even saw worker federations spiraling down towards a process of industrialization of its real purpose and often seen to be away from the sentiments of the common worker. We have seen the common worker helpless, unheard and uncontrolled in her outcry of protest; unorganized and disoriented – harming herself, her factory and her future. No innovations yet to modernize worker representation for the countries (e.g. Bangladesh) going through the painful early phase of industrialization; no new solution coming from any avenue for the worker’s rescue out of the chain of exploitation.
Trainings are welcome, but through them a visible chain is more than welcome – rather prayed for.
The article also writes about “women cafe’s” organized by GIZ, for women garment workers who are practically supposed to be toiling tirelessly from dawn into late nights – sometimes even 7 days a week. Women with barely any money to educate their children or get some medication in times of need. These women have families that they care for apart from their job. But of course, we are supposed to believe that these so called “women cafes” are actually going to make a difference to their awareness or empowerment. Alas, the reality of Bangladesh Garment Worker women would testify to something quite different. A garment worker cannot get that time to spend in these wonderful cafes – this is not the west.
There is no scope to celebrate no more in Bangladesh on castles made on canvases. Bangladesh needs real change.
GIZ is an important partner for development in Bangladesh and its Garment Sector, it does has its contributions for the Bangladeshi Garment sector, but its potential remains far more significant. The lack of visible change as well as the broader attention to its “marketable image” does less justice for the main objective of development that has marked the attitude of Germans throughout the world including Bangladesh.
The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH (German Society for International Cooperation) or GIZ is an international enterprise owned by the German Federal Government, operating in many fields across more than 130 countries. It primarily works with states, state agencies, and the private sector. Its headquarters are located in Bonn and Eschborn, Germany . It focuses on sustainable development with worldwide operations, and is very active in Bangladesh representing German support to the nation’s development.
 “Profile”, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. Retrieved 15 September 2013.