On 24 April 2013, the building that contained several garment factories collapsed, killing 1,138 people and injuring another 2,500. Some of the women who survived tell their stories. Rozani, a former worker, had to cut off her hand to survive; Rashida jumped from a window and broke her hip; Rokaya lost her husband.
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Five years after the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Savar (Dhaka), the worst industrial incident in Bangladesh’s history, the pain and memory of survivors are still alive.
When the eight-storey structure, which housed five garment factories, collapsed, it killed 1,138 people and injured another 2,500.
On Tuesday, the anniversary of that fateful 24 April, hundreds of community leaders and survivors paid tribute to the victims, lighting candles as a symbol of hope for the future of all garment workers.
In April 2013, thousands of people worked in the Rana Plaza building, making garments for big names like Benetton, Primark, Mango and Walmart. Shortly before the disaster, it had been declared unsafe because it stood on a swampy ground.
The owners of the companies using the building – except one, an NGO – forced their employees to come to work, even though they knew of the danger of a possible collapse. When the building did crumple on itself, it buried everyone inside. Some however managed to survive.
Rozani Begum was one of them. Although she spoke to AsiaNews, she still does not want to remember “those horrible days.”
“My younger sister Murgina and I worked in a garment factory inside the Rana Plaza. When the building collapsed, I took a saw and cut my hand, just to save myself. Now I have a lot of physical problems and because of that accident, I cannot work."
The mother of two daughters is worried about their survival. She receives help from various organisations but fears for her children. "I do not want them to work for a garment company. I would be much happier if I could send them to some good school."
She wants the death penalty for Sohel Rana, the owner of the building and the main defendant in the court case.
Like Rozani, Rokaya Parvin cried at the memorial ceremony in front what is left of the building. "My husband and I worked for the same company. I managed to save myself, he is dead."
At the time of the crash, Rashida Akter was on the first floor. "Suddenly I saw only dust and in the middle of all the confusion, I managed to jump out of the window. I hurt my hip and now I cannot work as before. Today no factory wants to hire me."
As the world's second largest garment exporter after China, Bangladesh’s garment industry, in particular the export sector, is a cornerstone of the country’s economy. About 80 per cent of the workforce is made up of women who are paid very low salaries.
In 2013, during his general audience on 1 May, St Joseph the Worker Day, Pope Francis condemned the use of "slave labour".