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Interview with Halima

September, 11 2006 Share

Interview with a Child Worker sewing for Hanes 

Bangladesh, 9/11/2006

Halima, 11 years old

Picture  of Halima

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NLC: What is your name?

HALIMA: My name is Halima.

NLC: You work in a garment factory?

HALIMA: I work in Harvest Rich.

NLC: What is your job?

HALIMA: I am a helper. I cut the thread.

NLC: What is the name of the floor that you work on?

HALIMA: Underwear.

NLC: Do you recognize this underwear and this label?

HALIMA: Yes. 

HALIMA takes the Hanes men's underwear and looks at it.

Halima with NLC Director Charles Kernaghan, Bangladesh, Sept. 2006.

Halima and CK

NLC: Did you actually work on this?

 

HALIMA: Yes.

NLC: That exact type?

HALIMA: Yes.

NLC: What is your job?

HALIMA: I cut the thread.

HALIMA motions cutting thread off the underwear.

NLC: So if there are loose threads coming out, you cut the threads?

HALIMA: Yes.

NLC: Are you standing up all day or sitting down?

HALIMA: I stand up all day.

NLC: You stand up all day?

HALIMA: All day.

NLC: At a desk or at a table?

Halima stands up to demonstrate how she works all day. 

 

HALIMA: There is a table.

NLC: How come you don't sit down?

HALIMA: We stand up all the time.

NLC: What time do you go to work?

HALIMA: I start working at 8 in the morning.

NLC: When do you break for lunch?

HALIMA: 12:30.

NLC: And you get an hour for lunch?

HALIMA: 1 hour.

NLC: So you go back to work at 1:30. What time do you leave the factory?

HALIMA: We work until 5 in the afternoon.

NLC: Do you work overtime?

HALIMA: Yes.

NLC: Until when?

HALIMA: I work overtime starting from 5 in the afternoon until 8:30 but also extra time, but they don't consider this overtime.

NLC: So is it normal for you to leave the factory at 8:30 at night?

HALIMA: No. 10:00 at night.

 

 

 Halima, September 2006.

Halima

NLC: So with the overtime, you mostly are at the factory until 10 at night?

 

HALIMA: Sometimes 8, sometimes 10.

NLC: Do you get one day off a week? Are you always off on Friday?

HALIMA: All days.

NLC: You work on Friday?

HALIMA: I work Fridays.

NLC: So you are actually working all 7 days a week?

HALIMA: I work 7 days.

NLC: So you get to the factory at 8 in the morning and you don't leave until 8 at night or even 10 p.m.?

HALIMA: No. This month, now we are working until 5 at night and last month we worked until 8 p.m. and sometimes 10 p.m.

NLC: How old are you?

HALIMA: I am 11 years old.

NLC: How much do you earn? What are your wages?

HALIMA: 930 taka per month.

NLC: And you stand up all day long from 8 in the morning until 8 at night or 10?

HALIMA: Sometimes I sit down.

NLC: Where do you eat lunch?

HALIMA: On the roof of the factory.

 

 

Halima at interview with NLC in Bangladesh, September 2006. 

halima
NLC: Are there tables and chairs?

 

HALIMA: No, there are no tables or chairs.

NLC: Do the supervisors ever yell at the helpers or young workers?

HALIMA: If I are absent one day, the following day they will beat me and shout at me. If we make any mistake, they beat us, they scold us.

NLC: What exactly do they do? What do they say, what do they yell, and do they actually slap you?

HALIMA: They slap us on the face hard.

HALIMA demonstrates being slapped.

NLC: And these are men?

HALIMA: Yes.

NLC: They are big?

HALIMA: Yes.

NLC: Does it hurt when they slap you?

HALIMA: It hurts.

NLC: Do the supervisors yell or curse at the workers? What do they say to you when they yell at you?

HALIMA: They say, "You make mistakes" and they yell and shout at me.

NLC: How many pieces do you have to do? What is your quota?

HALIMA: 150 pieces an hour.

NLC: You have to cut the threads off of underwear, 150 an hour?

HALIMA: 150 pieces an hour. 

HALIMA demonstrates cutting loose threads.

NLC: When you don't make the quota, what happens?

HALIMA: They shout at us. They beat us.

NLC: Is that common? Are people beaten every day or is it rare?

HALIMA: It happens daily.

Halima with  her family
NLC: How many children are in the factory with you? How many underage workers are on your floor in the underwear section?

 

HALIMA: There are many. Around 50 in a line.

NLC: In your line?

HALIMA: Yes.

NLC: So there could be more child workers on that floor?

HALIMA: 50 child workers are on my floor.

NLC: Do you know how many workers total on your floor?

HALIMA: I don't know.

NLC: Are you allowed to use the bathroom when you need to?

HALIMA: We cannot go when we want to go.

NLC: Do you have to get permission and raise your hand?

HALIMA: We need to take a card.

NLC: How many times can you go during the day?

HALIMA: 2 or 3 times.

NLC: Do they monitor how much time you take?

HALIMA: Yes.

 

NLC: And if you take too long, what happens?

Halima washes her face at the pump outside her house, Sept. 2006.

Halima washes her face  at home

HALIMA: They beat us.

NLC: And are the bathrooms clean? Is there soap and water?

HALIMA: No. It is dirty and filthy.

NLC: Can you drink water? Is there clean drinking water?

HALIMA: No.

NLC: Does it hurt your stomach?

HALIMA: Yes.

NLC: Are you allowed to speak to each other at work and talk to each other?

HALIMA: No.

NLC: What happens if you talk to each other?

HALIMA: They shout at us.

NLC: What do you do for entertainment? Do you play, do you have a bicycle?

HALIMA: Nothing, no.

NLC: Have you ever been to see a movie?

HALIMA: No, never.

NLC: What do you do with your friends? Do you play, or do you not have time to play?

Halima's Home, Bangladesh, September 2006.

HALIMA: When I have a little time, I sit at home and I do household chores.

NLC: So what time do you get up in the morning to go to work?

HALIMA: 6:30.

NLC: 6:30? What do you do?

HALIMA: No, I get up at 5 in the morning. I leave for work at 6:30.

NLC: How long does it take to get to the factory?

HALIMA: 1 hour.

NLC: You walk?

HALIMA: Sometimes I walk and also take a bus.

NLC: What time do you get home at night?

HALIMA: If I work until 5, then I get back at 6. If I work overtime, then it's 10:30 at night.

NLC: So if you work overtime, sometimes you don't get home until 10:30 at night. Is it safe at that time of night?

HALIMA: No. There are some girls like me so we go in a group.

Halima's Kitchen, September 2006.

Halima's Kitchen

NLC: What do you eat for lunch?

HALIMA: Rice and vegetables.

NLC: Do you often drink juice, like orange juice?

HALIMA: No.

NLC: How come?

HALIMA: Because I don't have money.

NLC: Do you often eat like an apple for lunch?

HALIMA: No.

NLC: Why?

HALIMA: Because I have no money.

NLC: And during the week, how often do you have chicken or beef or fish?

HALIMA: Once a month.

NLC: And all the other times, it's basically rice and lentils and vegetables?

HALIMA: Yes.

NLC: Do you drink coca-cola for supper?

HALIMA: No.

NLC: This is your time card [referring to yellow card in Halima's hand]?

Halima's Time Card

Halima's Time Card

HALIMA hands NLC her time card.

NLC: It shows you as coming out at 5 and Friday off, so is this accurate?

HALIMA: No. But we did have Friday off.

NLC: So this is accurate? You did work 8 to 5? You weren't working any overtime?

HALIMA: Now there aren't enough work orders.

NLC: So, are the hours always marked correctly, when you were working the overtime?

HALIMA: If we work up until 9 p.m. they will write 7 at night.

NLC: Did you have a chance to go to school?

HALIMA: Yes, I did.

NLC: Until what grade?

HALIMA: Up until 4th grade.

NLC: Would you like to be in school?

Halima and her father, September 2006.

Halima and her father

HALIMA looks at her father

HALIMA: Yes, I would.

NLC: Why can't you go?

HALIMA: My father is a rickshaw driver. It costs money to go to school.

NLC: What is your dream? What would you like to do?

HALIMA: I dream that I go to school and that I continue my education.

NLC: What would you like to be?

HALIMA: I want to be a doctor. A medical doctor.

NLC: The clothing that you make goes to the United States.

NLC: Do you and the other workers know where the clothing goes? Do you know it goes to the Untied States?

HALIMA: I don't know.

NLC: Did you ever hear of the global economy?

HALIMA: No.

NLC: Did you ever hear of the World Trade Organization?

HALIMA: No.

NLC: Do you know the laws of Bangladesh, the labor laws and what your rights are?

HALIMA: No.

NLC: When you are at work, how do you feel when you are working all day like that?

HALIMA: I feel very bad.

NLC: Like how?

HALIMA: I feel very tired, exhausted.

NLC: Do you ever fall asleep at work?

HALIMA: Yes. Sometimes while cutting the thread, like last time, I fall down.

NLC: You actually fall on the ground?

HALIMA demonstrates how she sways when she is so tired at work.

HALIMA: Yes.

NLC: Do they help you and let you rest?

HALIMA: They just tell me to wake up.

NLC: When you go home at night are you tired or do you still have a lot of energy?

HALIMA: I am very tired when I get home.

NLC: What time do you go to sleep at night?

HALIMA: 11 at night.

Halima works the pump outside her house, September 2006.

Halima works the pump  outside her house

NLC: And you get up at 5 in the morning?

HALIMA: Yes.

NLC: How do you bathe? Do you have a shower or tub?

HALIMA: A pump.

NLC: Do you have a television in your house?

HALIMA: No.

NLC: On your day off, when you get a day off, what do you do for fun?

HALIMA: I remain in the home, and I [inaudible] I talk to them.

NLC: Do you have any images of the United States where the clothing goes and who the people are who buy them?

HALIMA: We know only that it goes to a foreign country.

NLC: Do the workers think that you are paid an adequate or fair wage, or is the wage not fair?

HALIMA: The salary I get is not fair.

NLC: When you work overtime, what's the most you ever earn, including overtime?

HALIMA: 1,100 or 1,200.

NLC: This would be the maximum?

HALIMA: Yes. Also, if I am absent, I get 700 or 800 also.

NLC: So when was the last time that they yelled at you or hit you at work?

HALIMA: Yesterday I was beaten.

NLC: For what?

HALIMA: The work I did was wrong.

NLC: You left threads?

HALIMA: I left some of the threads.

NLC: And what happened then?

HALIMA: Slapped. 

HALIMA demonstrates how she was slapped yesterday.

NLC: A little soft slap, or is it hard?

HALIMA: Hard, strong. 

HALIMA slaps her hand on the table with force.

NLC: Do you cry?

HALIMA: I cried.

NLC: What happened? Did he apologize? It was a man who slapped you?

HALIMA: It was the supervisor, a man.

NLC: When you cried, did he apologize or try to comfort you?

HALIMA: No. He slapped me and he instructed me to do better.

NLC: How do you feel when this happens?

HALIMA: I feel hurt. If I go to school then I might not be beaten.

NLC: Does everyone in the factory make that underwear [points to the Hanes underwear in Halima's lap] or are there different labels, or is that the kind of underwear they make in the entire factory?

HALIMA: There are different types.

NLC: But do you recognize the label, the writing on this?

Halima brushes her teeth with ashes, September 2006.

halima brushes her  teeth with ashes

HALIMA: The whole floor is making this label. All the products belong to this label, Hanes.

NLC: When you went to work, did they ask you how old you were when you went to the factory?

HALIMA: Yes, the supervisor asked me how old I was.

NLC: How old did you say you were, 20?

HALIMA: I told them 12.

NLC: But you are actually 11?

HALIMA: Yes, 11.

 

NLC: Do you get sick days?

HALIMA: No.

NLC: What happens if you take a sick day?

HALIMA: The following day they will shout at us.

NLC: Do they dock your wages?

HALIMA: Yes.

NLC: When you work overtime, is it voluntary, if you say you are tired and you say you have to go home at 5 or do they say 'no you are staying until 8 or 10?

HALIMA: It's obligatory. They will not allow us to go.

Halima brushes her teeth with ashes, September 2006.

halima brushes her  teeth with ashes

NLC: So you cannot just get up and walk out?

HALIMA: No.

NLC: One of the supervisors will grab you or push you back?

 

 

 

HALIMA: They say 'sit down, continue to work, complete it, then go home.'

NLC: You said earlier that sometimes you don't get all your overtime paid. What did you mean?

HALIMA: That means that when we work overtime, they don't give us the full overtime hours, they cut it.

NLC: Why?

HALIMA: Maybe they are paid higher, management says they are paid higher so they cut the overtime.

NLC: But what would happen if you went to the supervisor and said you are not paid your wages correctly and that you should be earning more for the overtime?

HALIMA: If anyone dares to say this, they will be out without having any salary.

NLC: They will kick them out, fire them?

HALIMA: Yes.

NLC: Is the factory air conditioned, is it cool?

HALIMA: No.

NLC: Is it hot?

HALIMA: Yes.

NLC: Do you sweat when you work?

HALIMA: Always.

NLC: What do you think about when you are at work? Do you daydream or do you think about things, or do you just have to concentrate on your work?

HALIMA: I focus all my efforts on the work that I am doing.

NLC: Does it strain your eyes, all that concentration?

HALIMA: I feel strained.

NLC: When you go up to the roof to eat what happens. Isn't it hot on the roof with the sun or what happens when it rains?

HALIMA: When its sunny weather, we will burn but if it rains we usually go down in the factory.

NLC: Sitting on the ground or is there a cafeteria?

HALIMA: We sit on the floor.

NLC: You said in the factory, the water isn't clean. What does she mean? Does it make the workers sick, drinking water?

HALIMA: Some of the workers died.

NLC: On a day like today when it rained in the morning, do you have an umbrella to go to work with so you don't get wet?

HALIMA: No. I get soaked.

NLC: And in the factory, do they have dry clothes for you or do you have to sit wet all day?

HALIMA: We have to work in the wet clothes.

NLC: In the morning when you get up, some workers have told us that they brush their teeth with their finger using ashes from the fire. Is this the case for you?

HALIMA: I also use my finger to brush my teeth. I don't have a brush or toothpaste.

NLC: So, how do you do that?

Halima demonstrates how she brushes her teeth with her finger.

NLC: So you make the Hanes underwear but you brush your teeth with your finger?

HALIMA: Yes, I brush my teeth with ashes. I have never bought a [tooth]brush.

NLC: When was the last time you went on vacation?

...

HALIMA: Increase our salary, stop beating us, Friday off. These are the demands we want to make to the US people.

NLC: Have buyers ever come to the factory when you have been in the factory?

HALIMA: They have come.

NLC: What do they do with you and the other children when the buyers come?

HALIMA: When buyers come, we are kept in the bathroom.

NLC: Before the buyers come in, they come over to the child workers and say 'you must hide in the bathroom'?

HALIMA: Yes.

NLC: Why do you have to hide?

HALIMA: Because we are little, we are kids.

NLC: Is there a place where you can sit down in the bathroom and talk or is it very dirty?

HALIMA: We stand in the bathroom.

NLC: Does it smell?

HALIMA: Yes.

NLC: It doesn't sound like its any fun.

HALIMA: We feel very bad.

NLC: When was the last time that that happened to you, that they put you in the bathroom like that?

HALIMA: 15 days back it happened.

Halima and her sister, September 2006.

Halima and her sister

NLC: Do you have any brothers and sisters?

HALIMA: 2. I am older. I have a younger sister, she is 3 years old. My brother is 7.

NLC: Do you want your brother and sister to work in the factory?

HALIMA: I prefer to see them in school.

NLC: Do you have any idea what the underwear sells for in the United States?

HALIMA looks at the underwear bunched up in her hands]

 

 

 

HALIMA: I don't know.

NLC: It costs about 280 taka. Does that seem like a lot of money?

HALIMA: We can buy it here for around 20 taka but the same product is being sold in U.S. for 280 taka. It's bad, very bad.

NLC: Why is it bad? You are not getting paid justly?

HALIMA: Because we are paid less but it's sold at a higher price.

NLC: Have you ever heard of a corporate code of conduct?

HALIMA: No.

NLC: Because the companies like Hanes, which is owned by Sara Lee, they say they have a corporate code of conduct which guarantees the rights of the workers will be fully respected.

HALIMA: I don't have any idea.

NLC: Do the workers ever talk to each other on their way home and talk or complain about the factory or hope for better conditions?

HALIMA: No. 

 

 

NLC: When was the last time you had an apple?

HALIMA: 4 months ago.

NLC: When was the last time you had a glass of orange juice?

HALIMA: 2 or 3 months ago.

NLC: Do you have any questions?

HALIMA: No.

Halima's father comes and sits next to her.

NLC [to Halima's father]: Do you know that she is 11 years old? Do you keep birth certificates in Bangladesh? How do people determine age?

FATHER: Someone wrote down when she was born.

NLC: Can she read after going to school?

HALIMA: Yes, I can.

Halima's family share this small room, September 2006.

Halima and her sister

NLC: It must have been a very hard decision that she would have to go to work but obviously you needed the money to survive. Is this true?

FATHER looks at HALIMA

FATHER:  I did not have any idea how they treat my daughter in the factory. She never told me that she was beaten, and I feel very bad, and if I had known this earlier, I would not have allowed my daughter to go to the factory.

NLC: And how much does it cost for her to go to school?

FATHER: More than 1,000 a month.

NLC: 1,000 a month, and that covers books, clothes, etc.?

FATHER: They need to buy annually some books, but monthly everything else.

NLC: So obviously you cannot afford that?

FATHER: No, I cannot afford that. I drive a rickshaw, I pull it. It's not regular. Sometimes I get sick. I cannot run continuously and I cannot afford to send them to school.

NLC: So you drive a bicycle rickshaw or pull a cart?

FATHER: Like a bicycle rickshaw.

NLC: How long do you work for?

FATHER: I usually go to work at 10 a.m. and I come back around 10 at night. But if I feel bad, I come home in the afternoon, if I feel better I come home at 10 or 11 at night.

NLC: How many days a week?

FATHER: 5 or 6 days.

[Halima yawns.]

NLC: She comes home at night, does she come home at 6 or does she ever come home later from work, like at 8 or 9 or 10?

FATHER: If she gets off at 5, she returns home at 6, if she gets off at 8, she gets home at 9, if she gets off at 10, then she gets home at 11.

NLC: It's not safe for her that time of night?

FATHER: There are some girls like her and she comes with them as a group and sometimes I go ahead to bring her.

NLC: So as a group the girls can protect themselves, they go home together.

NLC [to Halima]: Why didn't you tell your father about the treatment at the factory, the fact that you are yelled at and slapped?

HALIMA: I didn't tell my father about the violations and the beatings because if I did, my father would not allow me to continue to work and my family would suffer not having income, not having money to shop with.

NLC: You are very brave to act like that and you must love your family a lot.

HALIMA: I love my family very much.

NLC [to father]: Do you think they are justly paid, the workers?

FATHER: The way they are paid is not proper or just.

NLC: Why are the laws not respected in the factories? Why aren't the workers treated according to Bangladesh law?

FATHER: All garment workers are the same and workers have no access to the owner. So they, at best, will talk to the supervisor or manager and since the owner has no contact in the factories, they don't know about the labor laws, but all the owners are the same.

NLC [to Halima]: Have you ever heard of what a union is?

HALIMA: No.

NLC: You don't know what it is?

HALIMA: No.

NLC: What would a garment worker have to earn for it to be a decent wage?

HALIMA: 2,000 taka.

FATHER: 4,000 to 5,000 taka a month.

NLC: The North American companies could easily afford that. It could be done. The American people have no idea that the workers are treated like they are. 

FATHER shakes his head in agreement.

NLC: The companies like Hanes they tell us that the workers in Bangladesh, that all their rights are respected and they are paid a decent wage.

FATHER: It's not true that the workers are treated well and that they are paid decently.

NLC: Do you want your other children to work in the factory, too?

FATHER: No. I hope not.

 


 

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