***This article was originally inspired and written after the 2017 marches
I have to say, I was really impressed with how many women (and men) marched, posted, shared, and advocated on March 8th for International Women’s day. People around the globe gathered together to push forward a movement that we desperately need to see changed — women’s equality rights.
When that many people come together for a cause, the work is easier, the message is obvious, and the energy is contagious. It’s the next step that’s difficult. It’s the everyday march we often forget — the choices we don’t realize undermines our vocal determination for change.
Amongst all of the protester signs, I saw one that read “I am not free while any woman is unfree.” (an Audre Lorde quote). I immediately thought of all the women who work in the fashion industry.
There is approximately 24 million garment workers worldwide and 80% are women. Also note that 60% of clothing exports are made in developing countries where the rights of workers, particularly women, struggle the most.
Oxfam recently reported that, “On average in Asia women earn between 70 to 90 percent of what men earn and carry out around 2.5 times the amount of unpaid care work that men do.”
Staggering as this statistic may be, it still does not include other forms of violations including, sexual harassment, discrimination, and the fact that rarely do women have security in their jobs, especially when they get pregnant.
“I am not free while any woman is unfree.”
I can’t help but wonder,
What kind of impact could we make if we changed the way we buy clothes?
Our purchases have a voice too. It tells the industry what we want. Right now, we aren’t telling the industry that we want a change. At the end of the day, this 3 trillion dollar industry listens to our wallets, not our voices. So, while we were out marching, our money was out telling a different story for the women in Asia, Bangladesh, and the many other countries where our clothes are made.
Today is Equal Pay Day and April 24th-30th is Fashion Revolution Week. It’s a big month for awareness, but awareness is only the first step. Consistent supportive action (i.e. how we buy) is also key in propelling change forward.
As I challenge myself, I challenge you — the thousands of marching heroes and social media advocates. Do some research and find out who made your clothes and then use that as a guide for buying your clothes responsibly. Wave your bold signs in the streets, and then go back to your homes and wave them in your closet's.
Together we can change the world.