A win - money for Rana Plaza

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A win - money for Rana Plaza

After the terrible clothes factory disaster, a win - some compensation money, says Ilona Kelly. But what about the suffering?

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© Heather Stilwell

This is unusual – the workers won. All the people who suffered in the collapse of the Rana Plaza clothes factory in 2013 will get money (compensation) for the money they could not earn and for medical care.

The International Labour Organization started the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund in January 2014 to get money for compensation for people affected and their families. They got enough money - $30 million - in June.

‘This money will help each person to continue their life. For some it will be enough for them to continue to send their kids to school. At least they will all have food now,’ said Kalpona Akter (Executive Director of the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity).

The Rana Plaza disaster in April 2013 was the worst industrial accident ever in the clothes industry. More than 1,000 workers died. Many of them were making clothes for Western shops.

It was difficult to get the compensation. Companies like Matalan only gave money after a campaign by British online pressure group 38 Degrees; Benetton only gave $1.1 million after a campaign by Avaaz and a petition signed by a million people.

A global day of action 2 years after the disaster made other companies give more money. This was because some people in Bangladesh and the West were fighting very hard.

This is the first win in a campaign like this. It will help many people, not just the Rana Plaza victims. It is the first ever compensation plan for the victims of a large factory disaster. It will help make the clothes industry responsible.

Here are some of the people involved in the day of action. The compensation will really help them.

Asha Khatun

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Asha Khatun (Heather Stilwell)

Asha started working at Rana Plaza 6 months before the collapse. She worked every day from 8am until 5pm, and most days she worked overtime until 9 or 10pm.

She earned about 3,000 taka ($40) a month. But if she worked overtime she could earn 6,500 taka ($83) a month.

The morning of the Rana Plaza collapse, Asha, like many other workers, was too scared to go inside the factory. The workers knew there were cracks in the building. But the manager said he wouldn’t pay them if they didn’t go in.

Asha had to start working, but soon the building started to shake. As it fell down, Asha remembers the bodies of women falling around her. She saw the body of her dead auntie.

Then a stone fell on Asha and everything went black. Asha was the main person earning money to look after her mother, father and younger sister. Now it is very difficult for the family to live.

Asha has received compensation for her injuries. But says it was only enough to pay for medical costs. Two years after the collapse, Asha says she still can’t eat properly and she feels pain in her head and chest. She is too weak to stand for a long time, so she does not leave the house. Asha says she has no hope of living a normal life again.

‘I feel like I’m living like a dead person. It would have been better if I died, because now my family have to look after me.’

Mossamat Jomela and Mossamat Surjo

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Mossamat Jomela (left) and Mossamat Surjo (right). (Heather Stilwell)

Surjo (right) with her mother Jomela (left) in the place where Rana Plaza factory was, 2 years after the collapse killed Jomela’s youngest daughter, Parvina.

Parvina (18) was working on the 4th floor of the building the day Rana Plaza collapsed, but no-one ever found her body.

Jomela says she tried everything to find her daughter. A long time after the factory collapsed she brought Parvina’s clothes to the area to try to find the same clothes buried in the collapse. The only thing Jomela found was her daughter’s cell phone.

Jomela got 45,000 taka ($575) compensation. But she had to move away from her home because she didn’t have enough money to live there. She has no hope. But she travelled 8 hours from her new home to be at the Rana Plaza site for the 2-year anniversary to continue to look for her daughter.

Mossamat Sharbanu

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Mossamat Sharbanu (right). (Heather Stilwell)

Mossamat Sharbanu (right) worked on the 6th floor of Rana Plaza. The morning of the collapse, Sharbanu was also scared to go inside the factory, but she really needed the money.

After the collapse, Sharbanu couldn’t move under the collapsed building for 2 days. She said it was so dark that she thought she had gone blind. She had an injury to her head. She lost most of the skin on her back. And she still feels pain in her stomach and legs.

Sharbanu got 45,000 taka ($575). But she needed all the money to pay for her injuries. Now Sharbanu’s husband, Mohammad Mominul Islam (left), a rickshaw driver now supports her and her 2-year-old daughter.

The family says that they really need more compensation money that has been promised to them.

Anowara (middle) found the body of her 26-year-old daughter-in-law, Sewli, 9 days after Rana Plaza collapsed. Two years later, Anowara sits outside the Rana Plaza site with her grand-daughter Shimu (9) and grandson Shimul (7) next to her.

Shahana Akter

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Shahana Akter. (Heather Stilwell)

22-year-old Polly Akter (right) started working at Rana Plaza when she was 18 years old because her family had a lot of debt to pay. After the factory collapsed, Polly’s mother Shahana waited 7 days before rescuers found her daughter’s body under the collapsed building.

Shahana got compensation money for her daughter’s death. But it is still very difficult to support herself and her 4 other daughters. One of her daughters got an injury in the collapse.

The two daughters’ factory work was where the family got most of their money. But Shanana says she won’t let her daughters work in the factories again.

It is now very difficult for her to support her family. She gets some money from a small vegetable shop.

‘Polly was so good at her job. She was beautiful and she died just before her wedding. I just want her alive and back with me.’

Rashida Begum

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Rashida Begum (right). (Heather Stilwell)

Rashida Begum (right) was working at Rana Plaza for 5 years before the factory collapsed. As the building started to fall, Rashida ran to the stairs, but couldn’t get out.

She ran to the window, but was too scared to jump because it looked like the others were falling and dying. Rashida thinks she fell out of the window. But she doesn’t remember anything until she woke up in the hospital. She was in hospital for 15 days.

Rashida still suffers from the memories. She says she is too scared to be alone. When she sleeps she has very bad dreams that everything is collapsing and she is drowning in water. She tried to work at another factory, but she couldn’t work well because of her injuries, so she lost her job.

Rashida got 95,000 taka ($1,200) compensation for what happened to her. But says she doesn’t want to live now.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: http://newint.org/features/web-exclusive/2015/06/19/rana-plaza-compensation-scheme/ (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).