Ploumen to visit Bangladesh for textile conference and girls’ rights

Foreign trade and development cooperation minister Lilianne Ploumen will visit Bangladesh on 28 and 29 September. There she will take part in a conference on garment sourcing organised by the Netherlands for clothing manufacturers, trade unions, clothing buyers and the Bangladesh government. The conference will discuss how clothing brands can more effectively address the issue of working conditions when they purchase goods from factories in Bangladesh.

By working more closely with factory owners and planning more effectively at the purchasing stage, clothing brands can help to prevent extremely long working hours for factory employees. Buyers can also ensure that, when agreeing on prices, they take into account the extra expenditure involved for the factory owner in maintaining a safe working environment and paying workers a decent living wage. The conference is the next step in ongoing efforts to improve conditions in Bangladesh’s garment sector.

For a number of years now, Ms Ploumen has been working for better labour conditions and wages for textile workers. ‘In the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster, conditions in many exporting factories in Bangladesh have significantly improved,’ she said. ‘Workers now have safer conditions and more rights. But there is still a great deal to be done to make the garment sector fully sustainable and healthy. That’s why clothing companies need to focus on issues like working conditions and living wages right at the start of the production process, at the purchasing stage.’

In addition, Ms Ploumen will visit various projects which in recent years have provided at least 2.5 million people, including 1.5 million girls, with information about contraception, domestic violence and child marriage. Ms Ploumen commented, ‘In Bangladesh over 50% of girls are married before the age of 18. Four out of every 10 have teenage pregnancies. This has a major impact on their health and future: they no longer have the opportunity to study or build up a life of their own. I’m looking forward to seeing what our projects have achieved.’ The minister will visit an institution in a slum district in Dhaka that provides medical and legal help for women and girls, as well as a school where young people receive sex education. Dutch aid has provided sex education for over 2 million young people in Bangladesh, including students in scores of Koran schools.