AWAJ Foundation



I was listening to one of my favourite podcasts and was pleasantly surprised to hear the voice of Nazma in my ears. I first met Nazma on a trip to Bangladesh back in 2017 with canadian company, Operation Groundswell. Nazma was a true inspiration and one of my main influences in changing my fast fashion ways to that of sustainable fashion (and also starting Aunty Ellen).





meaning 'voice' in bengali



- charity arm of a union that represents 10 000 + women working in Bangladeshi clothing factories. 

-  works to empower women workers by helping them improve their negotiating skills and build a better relationship with managers and the garment in industry of Bangladesh as a whole.

- By evening, 12 offices around Bangladesh transform into a 'cafés' where over 60,000 women come to drink tea and learn about their rights in the factories through role play. 

 topics include:

  •  managing money

  • maternity rights,

  • communicating effectively with household members and colleagues/supervisors at work

  • developing critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.



- Nazma Akter in 2003.

- One of Bangladesh's foremost labour leaders. She began working in a clothing factory at the age of 11, alongside her mother, often doing as many as 70 hours a week.

- Witnessing continual problems and abuses including long working days  and verbal and physical abuses she decided to stand up and fight for her rights.

- Leader of Sommilito Garment Sramik Federation, an affiliated union with over 70,000 garment workers as members, and an alternate for IndustriALL, a global union. 

 "For me, MADE IN BANGLADESH is our identity. It’s true that today these three words paint a picture of death and great human sacrifice, but let us not forget that these same three words have put Bangladesh on the map for the rest of the world. If Bangladesh has any standing in the global financial market at all, it is thanks to the ready–made garments sector and our women workers! In our women’s cafés we encourage them to continue learning, including about the rights they have."

 “The union allows women to raise their voice"



// The first woman was so lovely and beautiful inside and out. She kept asking the 6 of us (all under 30) why we were not yet married as we were so beautiful.  At the age of 21 she was married and working as a helper in a denim factory close by to AWAJ earning around 5300 taka/ month - $2.60 AUD/ day. Her rent is around 2000 taka a month for a small one bed in Dhaka. She has worked since she was 16 years old. She spoke of a time when she had joined other workers in an attempt to improve conditions, approaching their manager for increased pay. However the two leaders of this 'union' were fired and the pay remained the same. 

// The second lady was older and began to cry as she told us her story. She said that life was hard after her husband left her to raise and support her children never earring enough money. She had sent her daughters to school and her two sons to work.  In the past parents had sent their sons to school and their daughters to work or look after the home however the tables have now turned. 

// The next lady was very well dressed. She said that she loved to sing and working in Dhaka allowed her to be close by to a singing class. She is married with one child. 

//The next lady was much older than the rest. She had been employed in the garment industry for as long as she could remember and now worked as a cleaner in the factory. She had been doing for 9 years and when asked what she would change about her job she did not wish to change anything as she loved her job. 







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