When workers talk about Nazma Akhter in Dhaka, their affection for her is obvious. Even those who are not part of her Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation, or the Independent Garment Workers Federation — which she claims has more than 70,000 members — talk about the fact that she has credibility and truly cares about the plight of the 3.8 million workers in the garment industry in Bangladesh, which generates $21 billion in exports. More than 80 percent of these workers are women, many of whom are migrants from smaller villages.
Akhter, who started working in the industry when she was 11, tells WWD that she understands their situation because she is one of them, and so can champion their cause. In some three decades since she began work at a factory, she has gained fame as a leader, one whose beliefs are backed by her words, her words backed by action. Employers are said to listen to her, too.
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