Twenty-five-year-old Anju works in a factory in the bustling capital of Bangladesh, where she makes 37 cents an hour sewing together sweaters sold in Australian shops.
The sweaters made by Anju eventually make their way into the wardrobes of thousands of everyday Australians.
But not before Anju has toiled six days a week, sometimes from 7am until after 11pm, to earn at most just $107 a month.
There are times Anju’s pay is docked if she fails to meet unrealistic targets, and other times the work dries up and she is sent home – she once took home less than $14 for an entire month.
No matter how hard Anju works, her meagre pay is not enough to meet the costs of even the basics – and her family is falling into spiralling debt.
Anju and her husband live in a slum. They share their compound – which has one kitchen, two toilets and two bathing areas – with seven other families. The rooms are hot, dark and cramped. Running water is available only three times a day, for just an hour each time.
The crowded slum is unsafe, and no place for Anju’s eight and 10-year-old daughters – especially when she works such long hours. For this reason, Anju has made the heartbreaking decision to have her children live with her in-laws, nearly 200km away in a remote village.
Anju now sees her two daughters just twice a year during national holidays. She is trapped – in a cycle of poverty and in a life without her children.
During a trip to Bangladesh late last year, I visited the homes of women just like Anju. Sadly, their stories are all too common – families ripped apart, women sleeping on concrete floors after long hours at work and others going hungry as they try to support family members and stretch their pittance of a pay to the next month. Women being paid poverty wages that force them to live in shocking conditions.
Oxfam has just released research that exposes the shameful truth – a tiny portion of the retail price of clothing sold in Australia goes to the wages of women like Anju.
The research, conducted for Oxfam by Deloitte Access Economics and the first of its kind in Australia, shows that on average, just four per cent of the price of a piece of clothing sold in Australia goes toward workers’ wages in garment factories across the globe.