Since the age of 16, the former child labourer Nazma Akter has been campaigning for better working conditions in the textile factories of Bangladesh. Today she creates spaces – women’s cafés – where female textile workers can learn about their rights. On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, GIZ is working to improve social and environmental standards – with Nazma Akter as one of its partners.
When I was 11 years old I started working as a seamstress in a garment factory. Now I am a mother of two children and leading an NGO as an independent and self-sufficient woman. When I speak, my opinion is heard and well respected - locally and internationally. People know me and take my photo. It’s amazing!
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.
No. I have achieved so much in such a short period of time that I dare not complain! A lot of people tell me: “Nazma, calm down, be a little more reserved”. But honestly: I don’t believe in reigning in my emotions. It’s not always wise to always be disciplined.
If you would like me to give you a definition, work is an occupation within a limited period of time. But for me it is more: a lifestyle and responsibility.
I have great hopes and expectations. A lot depends on our next generation. Today’s young activists will someday take our place. I want their actions to be honest, fair and accountable. I don’t want to see them involved in dirty business. I am doing my very best to make this dream of mine come true.