Remembering Rana Plaza, and Working for a Brighter Future

By Susan Davis
April 24, 2015
Bangladeshi garment worker Ankhi at sewing machine

Today in Dhaka, Bangladesh, people will pay their respects to more than 1,130 Bangladeshi garment workers who lost their lives two years ago when the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed.

Since 2013, we have seen Rana Plaza survivors move forward with strength and perseverance. As they work to make better lives for themselves, they also constantly honor and remember co-workers and loved ones whose lives were taken away. We should do so, too.

On the anniversary of this heartbreaking day, I want to bring to light the story of Ankhi, a Rana Plaza survivor.

Ankhi’s Story
Ankhi has no recollection of when or how she was rescued. When she woke up at the military hospital in Savar, the former site of the factory, her first thought was not fear for herself, but fear for her husband’s health.

The two had worked together as tailors at Rana Plaza. Despite weeks of prayer, her husband’s remains were never found. Ankhi wondered how she could carry on. “At first, it felt as if I’d never be able to get up again,” she said. “I was afraid I’d remain forever bedridden.”

After the tragedy, BRAC approached Ankhi and asked where she would like to work. Ankhi replied, “I trained as a tailor under my husband, so I wish to continue that, because it would keep his memories alive for me.” BRAC set up a training session for Ankhi and equipped her with money, a sewing machine, material and an iron.


Ankhi Today

Today, Ankhi sits with pride behind her sewing machine. The shop where she works has richly colored fabrics and tape measures strewn about the floor.

On most days, it seems Ankhi is looking forward, not back. “After a hard day’s work, when my daughter hugs me… I forget all about my hardship.”

One day, Ankhi hopes to fulfill her husband’s dream of having a shop of her own. As she works toward this, Ankhi can at least provide for her young daughter with her sewing machine.

Ankhi is one of nearly 4 million garment workers in Bangladesh, all of them working for a brighter future.

Honor Ankhi and women like her
There’s a good chance that the clothes you’re wearing now were made in Bangladesh. Let’s thank these remarkable workers.

Women’s empowerment, helped in part by opportunities in the textile industry, has transformed Bangladesh. Poverty has been halved in the last 20 years. It’s not a coincidence that there are also more girls in school now than boys. Women’s empowerment leads to better lives for everyone – men, women and children.

I’m proud to say that BRAC, with its origins in Bangladesh, has served as a resource for victims’ counseling, rehabilitation, medical treatment, and living expenses. I’m optimistic that a few decades from now, unsafe factories like Rana Plaza will no longer exist. 

Susan Davis is the president and CEO of BRAC USA, an organization working to empower people and communities in situations of poverty, illiteracy, disease and social injustice. Learn more about Walmart’s commitment to the workers of Bangladesh.