Photo of Reena and Anju (at right) © Clare Samuel.

Art text by Robin Pacific and Bengali script by Naasreen Khan


Bangladesh Workers Solidarity Centre in Rampura, November 9, 2014

"When I began organizing the union, the boss asked me, how many people are there?  I said, eight hundred.  He took a calculator and said, eight hundred people will only give you 8000 taka a month ($130 Cdn.). I will give you 10,000 taka ($161 CDN) a month.  Stop this nonsense, don’t form a union.  I said no, it’s not possible.  If you want to stop me, you can shoot me here and stop me. You can shoot me in my heart and stop me.


I want everybody to be like me, to be strong, to work and support their family.  All over the world, I want all women to be independent, so they can work, and look after their family, and have a happy family."

Anju Speaks - F.A.S.T.
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Garment workers from Bangladesh and Canada

In 2014 three artists from Toronto—Robin Pacific, Clare Samuel and Leah Houston—travelled to Dhaka.  They met with over 100 garment workers represented by Kalpona Akter of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, and Alonzo Suson of the Solidarity Center/Bangladesh.  The workers, facilitated by Leah, made drawings on paper “petals” in response to three questions:  What is the first thing you see when you leave your house in the morning? Where do you get your strength?  What are your hopes for the future?  Clare photographed them, and Robin had conversations with 40 garment workers. Later the same questions were asked of Canadian garment workers represented by Workers United Canada. The following  stories are some of their images, their voices, and their words.

Photo of Tanya Akter and Aleya Akter © Clare Samuel.

Art text by Robin Pacific and Bengali script by Naasreen Khan

Photo of ???? © Clare Samuel.

Art text by Robin Pacific and Bengali script by Naasreen Khan

"I want to speak to the world from Bangladesh. There is a lot of pain here in Bangladesh.  I really don’t want to stay here any more.  There are small children working in Bangladesh, they have no education, they have to work. Just like I have been working since childhood. When I will be a mother, I will try to give my children education. All women have this in their heart, to give education to their children."

Shrabonti Begum Speaks - F.A.S.T.
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Shrabonti Begum

Bangladesh Workers Solidarity Centre in Rampura, November 9, 2014

Photo of Doli Begum © Clare Samuel.

Doli Begum Speaks - F.A.S.T.
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Doli Begum

Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation, November 6, 2014

I grew up at my grandmother’s house.Then I went to visit my father.I had a stepmother, and she tricked me and got me married.I wanted to study further but I couldn’t. They got me married at my father’s place. There was no fun in it. I was very young, I was crying, I don’t have any brothers and sisters.


After getting married my husband got very sick, and my mother-in-law wouldn’t give us any food, because he was sick and couldn’t work. I took my husband to my grandmother’s, we were living there, and I met someone who brought us to Dhaka and gave us jobs in the factory.


Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation, November 3, 2014

Photo of Moushimi Akter © Clare Samuel.

Art text by Robin Pacific and Bengali script by Naasreen Khan

Moushimi Akter Speaks - F.A.S.T.
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Moushimi Akter

National Garment Workers Federation, November 5, 2014

"When I come home, then I start cooking, I have to cook and take care of the children. We have dinner, we eat as soon as possible, and then we go to bed, because early in the morning we have to go to work again.


When we all walk to work, it’s like a race, it’s like the flow of water, like the rainwater when it’s raining, it’s like a current of people going through….we are walking together and it’s fun, we walk through the markets, through the streets."

Lanh Ly

Coppley Suits, Hamilton, Ontario, January 27, 2015

I come Canada 30 years, I’m from Vietnam.  I have one son, he’s fourteen.


In the morning there are some men, I see the beautiful flowers in my garden, and my neighbour, some neighbour, go to work the same time as me.  Because in Vietnam, when I open the door, lot of people, look like the market, around my house.  In Canada quiet.


My hope for the future, I’m healthy, my family healthy. I make money, and for my son, he finish school, finish the university.


Strength from my family, yeah, my family, I have mother, live together with me, and my husband, and I have one son. My strength, when my family, any people healthy, I very happy.

Lanh Ly Speaks - F.A.S.T.
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Photo of Lanh Ly © Clare Samuel.

Lenora Jones

Bernard Athletic Knits, Toronto, February 23, 2015

Photo of Moushimi Akter © Clare Samuel.

Art text by Robin Pacific and Bengali script by Naasreen Khan

I’ve been working here fourteen years, I started to work here May 13, 2000.  First, I’m the Union rep, I’m the president of this company, and the other two companies.  I’m a machine operator, I can serge, I can work on single needle machine, I can do different jobs.


I used to work in an office when I first came here, doing filing, and I didn’t like the job very much.  So one day, I was just walking on Spadina, and I saw the sign, “Machine Operator”, because I could sew a little bit, and I went there, and I applied, they took me.  Because to be honest, I like to sew.


Now it’s good.  I don’t have no regrets. I have two kids, I’m married, yeah, I like my life.


The Union made a difference in my life because when I first started to work in the factory, certain things I see that I did not like, so I complain about it, and they gave me different courses. That is how I become the shop steward, the president of the local, they gave me different courses, they inspired me in that way.


I like to cook spicy food, like last Sunday, yesterday I went to the church and we had this Black Heritage, and I was cooking curry for them, curry chicken.  To be honest, I like food. I like Italian food too.


Have love for each other, respect other people, accept people and their culture, accept everyone that lives in this world.

Lenora Jones Speaks - F.A.S.T.
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Photo of Lanh Ly © Clare Samuel.

Photo of Lenora Jones © Clare Samuel.

Photo of Hasi © Clare Samuel.

Art text by Robin Pacific and Bengali script by Naasreen Khan

Hasi is a union organizer. This is her story.


On  February 22 we went to a factory to give advice to the workers there.   That factory had a lot of problems, not paying on time, not paying overtime, and shouting all the time at the workers.  They contacted us and asked how we could help them. So I gave them the primary advice, get into a group, form a union, choose a leader and let the leader speak with the owner.   There was a layoff until February 27, so we took the union membership forms to all the workers houses, 400-500 people.

It was around 2 o’clock . All of a sudden there were about 20 people, sent from the management, from the local mafia.


They said, what’s going on here.  I stood up and said I was from the union. First they took everyone’s mobile phone, and all the union membership cards. They took me by the neck, they pushed me, I fell down on some pieces of brick.  They used their feet, they were kicking me all over my body, they were jumping on me and on Mr. Selim (the lawyer for the Solidarity Center).  They said, we will kill you.

I was taken with Mr. Selim to the hospital. The doctor did some tests and admitted us immediately.  I was in the hospital for ten days.  I wasn’t 100% cured but I came home.  I’m still not better.


What I want is for the owners of the factories to pay the right amount of salary, not to withhold the salary for overtime.  And once one of them becomes a leader in the union the owner cannot chase her out, cannot fire her.  Most of the factories are the same. Once there is a leader of the union, they fire that person. We want this to be stopped.


If you can come up with a system for us—to stop them from torturing us, physically and mentally, blocking all we do, and treating us as if we are not human. If there is a way, and if you can figure it out, and apply that, we will be very grateful.


My strength comes from inside of me.  I want to help my brothers and sisters, the workers, and until I die, I will fight for their rights.

Hasi Speaks - F.A.S.T.
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Tanya Akter

Bangladesh Workers Solidarity Centre in Rampura, November 9, 2014

Tanya Akter Speaks - F.A.S.T.
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"I am really very hopeful, and I want my message to get to Canada.  We are working here with a big community in the garment factories, making the union. And all this courage, all this fun, we are having here, I want the women garment workers in Canada, that they also can get into this kind of union and enjoy, enjoy their rights.


I want the message to go on the other side, that the people that are buying these products, that they get the message, that the people who are here making the clothes for them, they can get a proper salary, so that they can have at least rice and dal at the end of the day."

Photo of Suma Akter and Shrabonti Begum  © Clare Samuel.

Art text by Robin Pacific and Bengali script by Naasreen Khan

Photo of Tanya Akter and Aleya Akter  © Clare Samuel.

Art text by Robin Pacific and Bengali script by Naasreen Khan

Photo of Doli Begum  © Clare Samuel.

FAIR living wage

• ADULT labour only

• SAFE working conditions

• No unpaid overTIME

Robin Pacific

+1 (416) 994-9980


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