Aftenposten TV Captures Injustice of Sweatshops

    Perhaps one of the saddest results of the new global economy is the human rights atrocities that are happening in the garment industry. We’re talking about sweatshops, and they are very much a global issue. Although many consumers are already aware of the conditions that workers endure to make our clothes, it is not common for first-world citizens to take action. For one, the scale of the issue can be difficult to fully grasp without any real exposure.

    However, one Norwegian media network, Aftenposten TV, decided  to address the issue of comprehension head-on. They invited three teenage fashion bloggers from Norway to participate in a reality show that goes to Cambodia to visit the sweatshops where some of their garments are made. The series was called Sweatshop, Deadly Fashion and all five episodes can be watched online in their full form. We personally applaud the show for really making the three visitors live the same lives the workers do. During their short stay, the three bloggers shared a house — or shall we say a room — with one of the workers, and worked in the factory for a full day receiving a worker’s pay, only to have to feed the entire cast of 9 people with the wages they earned.

    The show should really be praised for providing exposure to the issue of sweatshops. For one, it’s a reality TV show on one of Norway’s biggest media channels about a relatively taboo topic. Even in the show, they state the conditions seen were from the only factory that let them in and that the conditions in the off-limits factories were probably much worse. This commitment from Aftenposten to create such a show reflects a rare commitment from a developed country to try to give exposure to the struggles that garment workers go through. This exposure is continued further since all the participants were fashion bloggers, with one girl getting 10,000 hits on her blog daily. These young bloggers, through their many followers, have an unofficial voice that carries weight with it but are also not bound by contracts to corporations. Thus, they can very publicly call out huge brand names, like one participant of the show did with H&M, without major repercussions.

    Exposure to the problem helps to bring consumers together to put pressure on brands. For example, take the United Students Against Sweatshops, a coalition of university students across the U.S. which demanded universities use brands that respect workers’ rights. According to its website, the pressure succeeded, and several universities agreed to the Worker Rights Consortium, which is an independent organization that holds corporations accountable for violating workers’ rights. USAS has also actively helped build several living wage factories.

    What comes out of USAS is real action, but before reaching such a stage, a deeper and more passionate level of understanding was needed. This is why we are so glad the Sweatshop series was created. We can only hope that the outraged atmosphere resulting from the show inspires more consumer pressure so that more change-initiating communities like USAS are created. It’s building those organizations that makes a difference. Until then, Sweatshop was a great but small first step.

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