The clouds slowly turn orange, but the sky is still blue. I see it all through a small window, and half of my view is occupied by an airplane-wing. Today I fly to Dhaka, Bangladesh. I am going there for 2 weeks to assist with a review of a number of projects in the garment industry. It feels like the beginning of a new Maaike, the development consultant who routinely travels around the world. It doesn’t feel very routinely yet, but it’s not very stressful either.
I have spent the past few days with Freddy in our little house. That does not sound very spectacular, but it actually was. The reason is that he has been in Madagascar for 5 weeks (I didn’t put that on the website because of my sense of safety). When Freddy came back, Ivan was immediately put on a diet… Probably the dual effect of an expanding Ivan and the skinny cats in Madagascar.
I have aIso enjoyed the beginning of the summer with some extra appreciation. The changeable weather and the transitions from sunny to cold — and vice versa. Now I am preparing myself mentally for the monsoon season in Bangladesh, according to Lonely Planet ‘unbearably hot’ … Fortunately, my new travel style is not squeamish about hotel costs, so it will probably be bearable for me.
The projects that I will work on are partly funded by DFID, the development fund of the British government. They aim to improve the human resource management of garment factories: workers’ rights, safety, occupational health, trade unions. This mainly happens by training and supporting the management.
The ready-made garment industry in Bangladesh is growing exponentially. You will probably remember the disaster at Rana Plaza in 2013. After that incident, the big brands have united to demand worker safety from factories. This was a temporary agreement, set to end this year. It is not clear if the safety has really improved. And of course much more is needed to make the industry more humane; workers should be able to defend their rights themselves.
It should be very interesting to hear the stories of these projects and visit some of the factories. With a bit of luck I will also have time to see the city. According to what I hear about it, Dhaka is an overwhelming melting pot of people with the worst traffic in the world. First a few more hours in the air – finally watching the latest Hunger Games while the world turns underneath and the moon watches calmly.