War On Want ‘Blood Sweat and Gear’

At the end of March my trip back from Berlin for the weekend included a trip down Brick Lane to Toynbee Hall where action group War on Want were staging their ‘Blood Sweat and Gear’ event. With a selection of guest speakers including Mozonke Poni from the Western Cape of South Africa who spoke passionately about the influence of the World Cup on the local community, it seemed that the aim was to raise awareness of the influence of the Olympics on the sportswear trade, particularly to highlight the shameful practices that are still going on in garment factories across the world.

The Olympics are generating massive money-making opportunities for the big sportswear giants through sponsorship, product placement and sales while the factories that create the products are indulging in practices which neglect the rights of workers and go completely against the Olympic ideals of Excellence, Friendship and Respect. The main areas found to be lacking through a series of factory visits and work done by the National Garment Workers Federation include living wages, working hours, lack of childcare, safety from sexual harassment and being allowed to congregate in groups and form trade unions.

War on Want aims to use the Olympics as platform to bring the contradictions in the event organisation and the hypocrisy of the Government to the fore but in doing so I feel that the point of the event – the exploitation of garment workers seemed to get lost in the midst of a cloud of militancy particularly during the second part of the day where we were asked to form working groups to discuss how to tackle a selection of different issues including, ‘how to take the fight to the sportswear giants’.

Overall the sentiment is definitely there but it seems that this was much more of an anti-government and big business event rather than a discussion on how to fight for the rights of marginalised garment workers in the pursuit of a more ethical fashion industry.

Stand by for a more detailed look into the life of a garment worker with the help of reports commissioned by War on Want and the Play Fair Campaign.

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