Udita (Arise)


Year: 2015

Type: documentary film (1 hour 15 minutes, Bengali with English subtitiles)

Directors: Hannan Majid & Richard York

Production company: Rainbow Collective

Availability: free in full on YouTube (here) and facebook (here). 

Page reference: Barker, T., Collier, J., Baker, A., Coppen, E. & Eve, H. (2020) Udita (Arise). ( last accessed <insert date here>)


[Udita is] an extraordinary and raw insight into the lives of the female factory workers in Bangladesh (Source: Posh 2016a, np link).

The film's beautifully shot protest footage gives a sense of the size of the industrial struggle that is taking place, huge demonstrations march through Dhaka: a sea of shouted slogans, red flags and saris (Source: Hoskins 2015, np link).

[It] follows a turbulent time in the lives of women at the grassroots of the garment workers struggle (Source: Anon 2015a, np link).

It's an epic tale of the social injustice and exploitation embedded in the very fabric of the garment industry, and how women workers in particular are uniting to arise' … and claim their rights (Source: Anon nda, p.20 link).

[I]ncreasing numbers of garment workers are doing [this], against all odds (Source: Anon 2015a, np link).

In an industry 85-90% staffed by women, Udita serves as testimony to the strength and bravery of women under fire (Source: Hoskins 2015, np link).

Udita, which translates to arise', is … the story of dawning self-awareness and collective identity in an industry that only really caught the World's attention after the disaster at Rana Plaza and the fatal fire at the factory Tazreen (Source: Henriksen 2015, np link).

This film offers a timeline of an industry in overdrive (Source: Hoskins 2015, np link).

[It] follows 5 years in the lives of … women at the grass roots of the garment workers struggle [in Bangladesh]. From 2010, when organising in the workplace would lead to beatings, sacking and arrests; through the tragedies of Tazreen and Rana Plaza …(Source: Rainbow Collective 2015i, np link).

… [which] significantly increased union membership: the 2012 fire in the Tazreen factory … killed 57 workers and the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in 2013 … killed 1021 workers … (Source: Bramhall 2015, np link).

… and to the present day, when the long fight begins to pay dividends (Source: Rainbow Collective 2015i, np link).

We see this vital period through the eyes of the unions' female members, workers and leaders … (Source: Rainbow Collective 2015i, np link).

… [as they] increasingly tak[e] leadership roles to challenge exploitation … (Source: Anon nda, p.20 link).

… [and provide] solidarity support to make sure more women leaders emerge to win dignity at work in garment factories (Source: Anon 2015b, np link).

[This is a] proud and self-aware documentary that portrays the workers as human beings (Source: Henriksen 2015, np link).

[It is] an important counterweight to the conventional portrayals of the textile industry in Bangladesh where workers are often reduced to passive extras in a show where the leading roles belong to international fashion corporations, factory owners and Western consumers (Source: Henriksen 2015, np link).

[It] differs from other sweatshop documentaries in that in focuses minimal attention on the western brands (Walmart, Gap, etc) that reap obscene profits from employing third world women in conditions of virtual slavery (Source: Bramhall 2015, np link).

[Its] huge strength is that it places women, the garment workers and trade union activists - perspectives which are usually side lined - at the centre of [the] film (Source: Anon nda, p.20 link).

[Here, t]here are no passive victims. Only men and women who fight for their rights and unsentimental scenes from their everyday lives … (Source: Henriksen 2015, np link).

… [including how they] mobilise … en masse to demand a better life (Source: Rainbow Collective 2015b, np link).

Udita asks its audience to listen to the testimonies of workers and organisers. No simple solution is presented. No judgements are passed. Viewers are left to draw their own connections … (Source: Hanlon 2015a, np link).

… [from] a mosaic of stories from an industry characterised by exploitation and industrial homicide (Source: Hoskins 2015, np link).

[The film] follows the stories of four members of NGWF [Bangladesh’s National Garment Workers Federation] who speak of abuse they've faced at the factory for being in a union (Source: Anon 2015c, np).

[The film] show[s] us from the beginning the sound of life and struggle: the livid speeches of union leaders, the chants of those marching for labor rights, the sordid noises that emanate from the textile machines inside a factory and the sincere testimony of those who work in them. These testimonies focus primarily on working women, for whom garment factories generally represent the only opportunity for formal employment (Source: Anon ndb, np link).

The film begins by profiling one organizer who first tried to form a union in 2010, when the minimum wage in the garment factories was $22 a month. Deducted from this was the $13 a month a typical garment worker paid to live in a one room shack with shared bathroom facilities (Source: Bramhall 2015, np link).

A garment worker and organizer interviewed in Udita explains that 'five years ago, wages were $9 per month, then they raised it to $42, and now it has become $68 as a result of campaigning. They demanded $109 but the government agreed to $68' (Source: Islam 2017, p.46-47 link).

According to one garment worker … , 'we are stronger now that we re unionized ... We will only survive by fighting [exploitation]' (Source: Islam 2017, p.46-47 link).

[As we watch a]ngry men and women under red flags and powerful protests … [she] says: 'In one factory I succeeded with getting 530 workers organised in a union and we opened an office at the factory. There are four million workers in the textile factories in Bangladesh and we are not stopping until they are all organised in a union' (Source: Henriksen 2015, np link).

[T]he factory owners live lavishly while the workers live like beggars. Garment workers live in run-down rooms in the slums where many have to share a communal bathroom and most sleep on the floor. Their salaries are barely enough to pay bills and afford food (Source: Anon ndc, np link).

The camera … showed what frequently these workers eat at home; very little food with which they have to live through their lives. This includes mostly rice and vegetable and some form of lentils. In one occasion, a protagonist told that meat is rarely cooked (once in 3/ 4 months) (Source: Sumon 2015, np link).

[They] work 14 hour shifts and [their] children call them aunty' because they are cared for by their grandmothers (Source: Hoskins 2015, np link).

One worker says she only gets to see her baby for one hour a day when she gets home in the evening, and then he's asleep (Source: Crawford 2015, np link).

[W]hen asked the usual question of why they have come to work[, the women said] that [a] lack of work in their respective homelands (desh) have brought them to this profession. Generally, they felt that such opportunities have given them means of survival unavailable at home (Source: Sumon 2015, np link).

Some women begin working in the factories as early as age 9 because the income is needed at home, although the salary for a helper can be as low as $9 per month. Some of the luckier ones get $38, but who can survive for a month on that? Not to mention the times when there's simply no pay, often for months at a time. Because they are unable to get an education, when they grow up they realize that there are no other jobs available. It seems like once you start working in garments you get trapped there; it's no different to being in prison. These women don't get regular time off … and if they're a minute or two late, they lose the entire day's pay (Source: Anon ndc, np link).

Overtime was compulsory, with workers only getting only one day off a month. They were also subject to beatings and/or firing if they complained about maltreatment or non-payment of wages (it was common for paymasters to dock their pay for non-existent infringements) (Source: Bramhall 2015, np link).

Many families move to the city pursuing the dream of a better life, but they quickly realize that it's not to be had so easily. However the lack of education also means that many of them are unaware of their rights and have come to accept abuse as the norm (Source: Anon ndc, np link).

We meet Razia Begum who lost her two daughters and a son-in-law when Rana Plaza collapsed and Shohibita Rani who tells us about being caught in the flames at Tazreen. These are stories that stick to your mind (Source: Henriksen 2015, np link).

[Razia] now has to care for her daughter's children who appear shell shocked and shy. In one scene the children listlessly walk… over the rubble of the Rana Plaza factory under which their mother was crushed. They pick out pieces of clothing still caught in the debris, each one has a Western label on them. Their grandmother is struggling to pay for school fees and clothes (Source: Anon 2015b, np link).

The building collapse has changed the life course of the family and [Razia] … (who was beginning to get the fruits of her daughter's hard work at the factory) trying hard to overcome her grief knows no way as to how to continue life with small kids (Source: Sumon 2015, np link).

Like too many families that were victims … , [Razia] had not received compensation for the Rana Plaza collapse (Source: Anon 2015b, np link).

In all cases the workers, although having a hardship, were [keen] to educate their children. They didn't want their children to take up the hardship (Source: Sumon 2015, np link).

One of the most touching moments in the film … is when one of the workers is explaining their desires and wishes for the future… 'I wish people would buy clothes with a conscience. My desire is that what's happening now will never be repeated. That people who are buying clothes abroad stop and think about how much they buy for it and how much is the true cost for us here' (Source: Posh 2016a, np link).

[These] difficult stories of trauma and loss are sensitively handled. … Yet this film is also one of hope because people are standing up for themselves. Things are changing because women, like the inspirational Ratna Miah, are working long days on garment assembly lines and then going to union offices to learn about their rights and to plan demonstrations, strikes and the reinstatement of sacked colleagues (Source: Hoskins 2015, np link). 

'When a woman knows her rights she can demand them' says local labour organisation leader Nazma Akhter. She is among a group of labour rights campaigners who recognise that teaching women their rights is key to the mobilisation of the workforce to challenge the status quo. … The Awaj Foundation; set up by Akhter who was once a factory worker herself, is one Union that has developed an innovative method of educating women workers through women's cafes'. Knowledge is imparted over a cup of tea and a snack in an informal environment where women can talk and take part in the discourse, voice their concerns and be heard. And the word has continued to spread, passing through word of mouth with some women promoted to cell leaders gaining further training to act as peer educators and leaders on the factory floors. Membership of Awaj alone has climbed to more than 75,000, with more and more women demanding better pay and working conditions. The result has been a steadily increasing minimum wage and an empowered workforce. Though progress has been slow, it has been labour groups who have initiated these changes. Some 60% of garment factory unions are now led by women who provide meaningful representation for workers. The self-determination by these women to stand-up for their rights and make demands is a case where women can clearly be seen as agents of change rather than merely the beneficiaries (Source: Anon 2015d, np link).

They are doing this despite the risk of being intimidated, beaten and sacked by factory thugs (Source: Hoskins 2015, np link). 

The documentary ends with a call for protest. It shows that workers are trying to unionize. In the case of one protagonist who works closely with a union, it shows how she spends some time of her day in union activity. A small office is seen. Workers are seen sipping tea and chanting slogans 'workers of the world, drink tea'! The activist protagonist tells the audience how she is trying to organize, how she is trying make people aware of their rights, how they should raise their voice etc. (Source: Sumon 2015, np link).

[F]rom here on … [e]veryone in the film talks about compensation; the union leader urges people to join forces; promises that he will ensure compensation (Source: Sumon 2015, np link)

[W]e meet Aleya Atta poised in a warehouse with what can only be described as an army of workers who are about to join an NGWF demonstration. With 30 years of factory work behind her, Aleya is a deeply inspiring woman who has made educating women about their rights and unionising factories her life's work (Source: Hoskins 2015, np link).

'We should be happy with what we get because we are girls' is exactly the kind of mind-set that [she] is trying to overturn … 'We tell the women they should never be treated or paid differently because of their gender, otherwise they will be exploited' (Source: Anon 2015d, np link).

The women she is with describe how their boss locked the factory gates having not paid them for two months: We protested outside the factory, then we marched to the owner's house,' one woman says. After that he paid us one of the months'pay.' These workers, like the wider movement, have formed a powerful group, determined to keep protesting and get what they are owed even if it means breaking the locks on the factory. For 30 years the factory has ripped us off. Our eyes were closed, we understood nothing … now our eyes are open, we're standing up for ourselves. We are all one. Friends of the world, unite as one! … (Source: Hoskins 2015, np link).

UDITA shows that women in trade unions in Bangladesh have grown in confidence hugely in five years and closes with a triumphant scene of a female NGWF member leading a rally for higher wages through the streets of Dhaka (Source: Crawford 2015, np link).

[This is] a humongous 2014 protest march, in which [Razia Begum] and her grandchildren participate. The principal demand is compensation from the factory owner for the 1121 [Rana Plaza] deaths (Source: Bramhall 2015, np link).

[T]he women in UDITA will not be discouraged, as they know that being part of a union is the only way they can overcome the serious problems they face at work with unsafe conditions, low pay and very long hours (Source: Crawford 2015, np link).

Udita is inspiring on a global level, the stories these women share with us are life lessons about why the world needs to change, and how it is to be done (Source: Hoskins 2015, np link).

Inspiration / Technique / Process / Methodology

Bangladesh's relationship with global capitalism, which has been characterised by exploitation and industrial homicide in recent years, is an all too familiar discourse (Source: Anon 2015d, np link).

Women face poor and dangerous working conditions, and often are subject to violence by male managers; a relationship that replicates the dynamic found within the patriarchal structure of the family and society at large (Source: Anon 2015d, np link).

Women make up the majority (85%) of workers in the garment industry in Bangladesh but under 2% of these workers are in trade unions. [They] frequently face harassment by male supervisors and can face particular harassment if they are in a trade union  (Source: Anon 2015b, np link).  

[This] can include sexual assault as Human Rights Watch has reported. Without women leaders, however, it is more difficult for women to tackle the harassment and poor conditions they face at work … (Source: Crawford 2015, np link).

… [and] to bargain for their rights (Source: Anon 2015b, np link).  

All too often female workers are portrayed only as helpless victims that the Western consumers should sympathize with and rescue (Source: Henriksen 2015, np link).

Most people who report on the garment industry fall into the trap of supplanting their own story for that of garment workers, turning the narrative into one about the guilt and agency of consumers'in the West' (Source: Hoskins 2015, np link).

[But] ’Udita'is not about the guilt of the Western consumer and the directors have left out the voice over, experts and observers who traditionally tell us what must be done. There are not just close ups of sad faces in dimmed lighting telling stories of abuse and broken dreams (Source: Henriksen 2015, np link).

Unlike the usual, presenter-led pieces made by broadcasters, everything was told through the eyes of the subjects (Source: Finamore 2018, np link).

[There’s n]o western voice over or presenter! just the workers voices (Source: Rainbow Collective 2016, np link).

[These] female workers [are] active players who tell their own stories. …They are not waiting for their rescuers (Source: Henriksen 2015, np link).

Udita … portrays what is happening on the ground and, most importantly, why it is happening (Source: Hoskins 2015, np link).

Five years of visits to Dhaka's garment factories provided directors Hannan Majid and Richard York with a remarkable array of footage (Source: Hoskins 2015, np link).

UDITA' weaves together characters from [their] acclaimed documentaries The Machinist' (2010) and Tears in the Fabric' (2014) with new faces and senses, filmed in 2015 (Source: Nidle 2015, np link).

The Machinists' … follows the daily lives of workers who make clothes for popular high street brands like Primark, H&M and Zara in the garment factories of Dhaka, Bangladesh … (Source: Cohen 2018, np link).

… [and] collected stories of three garment workers and a fledgling union in Dhaka, Bangladesh (Source: Chavez 2018, np link).

It [was] the first in a series by the[ir] projection company Rainbow Collective on the subject, with Tears in the Fabric'and Udita (Arise)' following swiftly after (Source: Cohen 2018, np link).

In Tears in the fabric (2014) they dealt with the tragedy of the collapse of the Rana Plaza, the most serious incident in the history of fashion where 1,134 manufacturers died and there were 2,000 injuries that they made for brands such as Primark, Mango, Benetton, Auchan, Carrefour or The English Court. … With Udita (2015) they intertwined women from previous documentaries with new ones who were followed for five years to expose their struggle to achieve decent working conditions (Source: Chavez 2018, np link).

[Majid and York’s] Rainbow Collective, is a unique production company, formed as a social enterprise and committed to raising awareness on issues of human and childrens' rights through powerful cinematic documentaries and have collaborated with Amnesty International, The Consortium For Street Children, War On Want, TRAID, Labour Behind The Label, International Labor Rights Forum and many others. In addition to our own production work, we have run and facilitated numerous youth training schemes, the results of which have been screened in the House of Commons, the House of Lords, The BFI, The Equality and Human Rights Commission and at film festivals across the UK (Source: Rainbow Collective 2015c, np link).

[It] has … made films for broadcasters like Al Jazeera, but always ensured anything that was filmed could be taken apart and used by campaigners like TRAID (which has a shop on Rye Lane) (Source: Finamore 2018, np link).

All money made from the sale of our documentaries on Reelhouse will go towards youth training projects we do in Bangladesh with street children, child labourers and children of domestic & garment workers (Source: Rainbow Collective 2015c, np link).

Hannan Majid and Richard York met at film school in Leeds in the early 2000s, and went on to found their production company in 2006, specialising in creating documentaries that highlight human rights issues. Hannan and Richard began making documentaries together in 2004, in South Africa and then in Bangladesh, creating films with a childhood angle. They have since worked in countries including Turkey, Jamaica and Iraq. 'When we started in South Africa we were focussed on children's rights, their right to education,' says Hannan. 'Then in Bangladesh we started doing documentaries looking at street children and child labour.' The team also focused on the garments industry, working with trade unions to create films like Udita (Source: Finamore 2018, np link).

Hannan Majid's parents are originally from Dhaka, but they immigrated to Bradford, West Yorkshire (England), where Majid was born in 1979 (Source: Anon ndd, np link).

So how did you move … to your Bangladesh projects (Source: LL 2016, np link)?

I went back to Bangladesh after my studies with a Sony A1 camera. As I had been away for so long, it really struck me how many children worked around the city, in the factories, in the tea shops, in the food stands, just everywhere. Even in the villages. So I just filmed a couple of images and started to talk to child labourers or parents. I showed it to Richard and we came to the idea of making a bigger project. In 2008, we went there together for a month (Source: Majid in LL 2016, np link).

How did your first films shape your later work in Bangladesh (Source: LL 2016, np link)?

If I look at it now, all of our films have this mix between distance and closeness in common. The camera has a sort of observational distance, typical for documentary, to the action but, at the same time, everything seems always really close. There is a certain intimacy to the people and the situation. I think that aspect of our films really came from that time in South Africa working with the school and these young people. We would connect with people and understand their background in the school and through that relationship they would take us to the township and show us their homes. We are also really interested in those little moments, which make our films also very episodic (Source: Majid in LL 2016, np link).

[T]he only way to tell those stories was through their protagonists, the workers, and articulating it from there because they can and should tell it. The first experience like this was The Machinists. So nobody made documentaries from their point of view, they talked about them but their voices were not heard. We decided that the only way we would shoot was by listening to them. The success of the documentary confirmed that this was the honest way to do it, something that we knew deeply in our hearts (Source: Majid in Chavez 2018, np link).

The Machinist was able to … make it clear to people that the differences are not that big when you see these people's life. You can see how they care about their family, how they brush their teeth and you can see that they are not that different but their working conditions definitely are. It became a tool to engage people into what the garment industry is really about (Source: Majid in LL 2016, np link).

That is why we always do our activist or documentary campaigns through the eyes of the people (Source: Majid in Chavez 2018, np link).

Why do you keep the perspective of women and families so present in your work (Source: Chavez 2018, np link)?

[Richard York]: We both come from family backgrounds full of women, our fathers died when we were little, we grew up with our mothers and sisters. Our entire life and childhood is permeated with it. It is impossible for us to do it any other way. [Hannan Majid]: I now live with my wife and my two daughters. Anyone, looking around and at our work, realizes that women are very strong. We work with many organizations like TRADE, run by women. When you see so many powerful women, you feel that you have to give them visibility. When we do courses, most of our students are women and if it is with little ones there are always more girls than boys. In Cambodia we have taught activism campaigns with mobiles and 70% were female, in Bangladesh 100%. It's not something we want to advertise, or brag about, it just is (Source: Chavez 2018, np link).

How do you prepare for your docs (Source: LL 2016, np link)?

[Hannan Majid]: We don't like to over think things too much, because you can have an idea about doing something in a kind of way but the reality of it will always change your initial plans. [Richard York]: Exactly. You can think very intellectually about it beforehand but in the end it does not work out that way. The only thing we ask ourselves is how would these people represent themselves, if they had the equipment and the skills to make a film about their life. It is not helpful if you go too much with your own idea or your own agenda into a film (Source: LL 2016, np link).

Have you experienced dangerous situations filming your documentaries (Source: Chavez 2018, np link)?

[Hannan Majid: Early on, w]e took the opportunity with the relationships we had built [in Bangladesh] to go into a garment factory and shoot for two hours straight. That was quite unique at the time, because most footage would be more under-the-sleeve type of shots. We could really shoot it cinematically. [Richard York]: We really had that access to the factories and to the people (Source: LL 2016, np link).

[But] when we recorded The Machinists there were several [dangerous situations]. In a workers' protest, they were watching us and one of the union leaders told us: 'You have to leave now and leave the city.' We had to go about 100 kilometers. Also filming in a factory making the owner believe that we were buyers, they produced for Primark with very young people: boys and girls. When we were about to leave I had the feeling that they were not believing us, they did not ask many questions and they stopped us just before leaving. We sneaked out and drove as fast as we could. There is an organization of factory owners and that factory was part of it. There were people who had already informed them, fortunately it was the last day of filming. Once again we were going to record the families of the workers on a day off and there was a strike in the area we went to. The Government sent the army with wagons with water hoses, that became very violent and the workers took us out of there. The army also stopped us from filming, even at the end of filming the police told us that the government wanted to use our car and we went to the police station (Source: Majid in Chavez 2018, np link).

When did you start doing your activist campaigns (Source: Chavez 2018, np link)?

[Hannan Majid]: Filming The Machinists, we helped document the Fashion Victims report from the War or Wa[nt] workers' rights organization, it's fantastic, but a lot of people haven't read it. With a documentary they reach a larger audience. When we completed the film, we decided to make short stories about textile workers and that's where the videos for activist campaigns of many organizations were born (Source: Chavez 2018, np link).

When Rana Plaza happened, we just really wanted to go there and capture what was going on and use that footage to help the campaign give the victims the compensations that they deserve. Here again, it is really about thinking how to support people in their struggle. It was by far the hardest shoot we did. The whole community was just in a very tough situation. But in the end after all those years, everything came together in Udita (Source: Majid in LL 2016, np link).

[W]e wanted to just give a proper overview over the situation. The news at the time were only interested in how this affected Europe and how this made Europe feel rather than to engage really with what this community was feeling and what they had to say. We really want to give a voice to the people there and gain their trust in that we are there to help (Source: York in LL 2016, np link).

Having seen so much exploitation, repression and so much colonialist legacy in different ways … has made us very militant and aware of not using exploitation ourselves. When you see these power structures and how they work, you are able to recognize them everywhere, not just in fashion factories, but also in the movie industry. In the end, our question is always who the documentary benefits the most, if it is some presenters, directors or networks who are going to earn more money or who are going to get notoriety in that way we say not to participate (Source: York in Chavez 2018, np link).

Rainbow Collective has made [Udita] available to watch for free on YouTube in celebration of International Workers’ Day (Source: Anon 2015e, np link).

[Y]ou are also now able to buy your own copy … from BitTorrent Bundle. All the money from sales will go towards our future youth training projects in Bangladesh (Source: Rainbow Collective 2015i, np link).

The film premiered on the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse on April 24th at an event hosted by Unite [Labour Union] Tower Hamlets Community branch in partnership with War on Want and the [UK Trades Union Congress] (Source: Crawford 2015, np link).

Calling all fashion revolutionaires! Fashion Revolution is visiting five UK universities to spread the word about the issues in the global fashion industry and to encourage young people to become part of the solution. The focus will be on different areas impacting the fashion supply chain in the global south. Get involved to discuss inequality and human rights, the role of women and girls in the fashion supply chain, climate change, decent jobs and sustainable livelihoods. … Each event will include a film screening of an inspiring documentary, including The True Cost [see our page on this film here], Traceable and Udita, a panel discussion, and a photography exhibition on the subject of sustainability in fashion and the important role of development cooperation in the textile and fashion industry, with exciting and compelling new images by fashion photographer Stephanie Sian Smith on the theme of #whomademyclothes (Source: Anon nde, np link).

The programme will include an overview of the European Year of Development's 2015 programme, which will inform the panel discussions, ideas about how to get involved in Fashion Revolution, and ways to inspire young people to take part and design a new future. … The exhibition will also include images of garment workers saying I Made Your Clothes', as well as photographs of celebrities and key opinion formers in fashion to ensure that the visual link between makers and wearers will follow the thread between fashion lovers and the people who make the clothes we buy. With the new global developments goals hot off the press, 2015 is decisive year when we can make our mark on history and young people's voices need to be heard. We want the Arts and Speakers Tour discussions to be inclusive, encouraging the audience to suggest ways in which they and their peers can help to bring about much needed change within the global arena. Young people will inherit this planet, and fostering a sense of ownership and the permission to become agents for change will go a long way towards showing brands and governments that changes matter, that fashion can be a key instrument for positive action, leading the way to a more transparent approach. Nietzsche said 'Invisible threads are the strongest ties', and connecting young people to the people who make their clothes is the first step towards creating relevant, life changing and enriching new human connections (Source: de Castro 2015, np link).

On Friday 24th April, to mark the seventh anniversary of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse, tune in to Facebook at 12:30 to see the acclaimed documentary Udita by Rainbow Collective, and then take part in a live Q & A from 1:30pm with the makers of the film, Bangladeshi trade union leader Nazma Akter, author Tansy Hoskins and Chief Executive of TRAID Maria Chenoweth (Source: McAlea 2020, np link).

You can now watch Udita on the TUC [UK Trades Union Congress] website (Source: Anon 2015f, np).

TUC Aid is currently supporting NGWF to run a leadership development programme for female members which is designed to tackle the fact that women make up the majority (85%) of the workforce in the garment industry but are under-represented in union leadership (Source: Anon 2015f, np).

The TUC has been calling for all companies sourcing from Bangladesh to pay into the compensation fund (Source: Anon 2015b, np link).

As the ITUC [International Trades Union Congress] highlighted last month, two years after the Rana Plaza collapse, the government of Bangladesh has made woeful progress on reforming the labour law to allow freedom of association and address anti trade union violence. … Many of the concerns highlighted by the ITUC about the lack of union rights in Bangladesh were … reflected in the EU's … assessment of Bangladesh's poor progress on reforms to its labour law which it committed to under the Sustainability Compact' trade preference agreement. It was encouraging to see the European Parliament passed a resolution last week which also highlighted the inadequacies of the labour law in Bangladesh and stated it: calls on the [European] Commission to establish whether Bangladesh is adhering to human rights, labour and environmental conventions under the GSP [trade preference regime] and to report back to Parliament’ (Source: Crawford 2015, np link).

Discussion / Responses

You need to watch this! Learn the true price of cheap clothing. Not for guilt tripping but you need to know (Source: Name 2015a, np link).

[This] humbling film … made me sad, it made me angry; the final imprint left me hopeful. United We Stand (Source: Season Bangla Drama 2015, np link)!

[It has a] clear vision and obvious empathy with the people portrayed (Source: Rob 2015, np link).

As an empath, it was such a challenge to watch this until the end without crying (Source: CL 2019, np link).

This is heart breaking (Source: McCulloch 2020, np link).

… heart wrenching (Source: Name 2015b, np link).

My heart goes out to the aged grandmother who lost her two daughters at Rana Plaza. Now alone, broke and homeless with 3 orphaned grandchildren to raise … such hardship one could only imagine (Source: Schon-Meier 2018, np link).

My heart and prayers go out all those still suffering from the [Rana Plaza] collapse and or on daily basis to fight for their rights (Source: Kirpalani 2018, np link).

I wouldn't call it light viewing (Source: Rob 2015, np link).

[I]is there … a lighter side [of fast fashion] (Source: Posh 2016b, np link)?

It's interesting that the mainstream media shows so little about these warriors and their struggles, so thank goodness for films such as [Udita] Arise, which do (Source: Di Boscio 2020, np link).

I'm so angry!! This needs to have more views (Source: Nora 2020, no link)! 

I wish more documentaries like this are made available on easily accessible platforms like Netflix. The masses need to be educated on this issue and there needs to be change (Source: beeper210 2020, no link).
It's over an hour long, but perhaps you can switch out a Netflix episode for something like this, instead (Source: Posh 2016b, np link)?

[It’s an i]nformative and emotional watch (Source: Anneysa 2015, np link)!!

It would be good as background for an Economics class about the spectrum from free market to controlled economies, because it illustrates one of the problems with 100% free markets (Source: deewise 2015, np link).

[It was r]equired viewing in my South Asian Studies lecture last week on #Bangladesh #fashion #poverty #media @EdinburghUni (Source: Hanlon 2015b, np link).

I was referred to this video via studying the London college of fashion' - fashion and sustainability course (Source: McCulloch 2020, np link).

I'm also here from the course Fashion and Sustainability in Future Learn btw, if anyone is interested (Source: Nora 2020, no link).

Showed this film to my students today - inspiring material (Source: Cowden 2017, np link).

Udita is inspiring on a global level, the stories these women share with us are life lessons about why the world needs to change, and how it is to be done (Source: Hoskins 2015, np link).

[The Machinists & Udita] do make you want to change your shopping habits because it opened my eyes to the people behind the garments I was buying. No matter how pretty the dress was, in no way was the story behind it pretty (Source: Claudie 2017, np link).

Out of all of the documentaries I've watched about the darker side of fast fashion …, [Udita] truly shows that even the garment workers themselves want us to change our ways, even just by thinking about the way we shop (Source: Posh 2016b, np link)?

[T]he actual garment workers themselves are saying that they want US to shop consciously. WE CAN DO IT (Source: Gregory 2016, np link).

This documentary … is one of the worst thing I have ever seen: these poor workers from Bangladesh (as from many other poor countries) are struggling to live and get a minimum wage. Some of them also lost their lives working in factories with terrible working conditions! LC Waikiki (min 54:55) is one of the brands (also Primark, Walmart) named on the tags of the clothing showed in this doc. Just terrifying ... These brands are just interested in making profits with NO RESPECT FOR LIFE. Hopefully, I have never bought anything from this clothing brands. If brands have no respect for human rights, then consumers should react by NOT buying anything from them & protesting. How could you, dear consumer, think of buying things for $5? Who pays all the workers of the whole supply chain? Awful quality and low price means EXPLOITATION OF HUMAN LIVES. Snap out of it (Source: Melani 2020, np link)!

Every penny you spend with a brand using an exploitive system, is a vote towards their work (Source: Posh 2016b, np link)?

After watching this documentary, I am thinking why [are] those brands … allowed to continue selling? Why does nobody care about the life and miseries of those poor souls that died in the fire (Source: Timey 2020, np link)?

[Hannan Majid:] [Consumers] are aware [of this misery and exploitation], with the collapse of the Rana Plaza, everyone was, it was in all the news and all the newspapers went to cover it. Over the years, organizations and pressure groups that make this situation visible, people like us, or who write about it, have made it known why the clothes are so cheap. The problem is that they do nothing with that information, they feel guilty, perhaps, buying but cannot stop consuming it. Perhaps the problem is that there are not, or not enough known, the alternatives, even in England that there are many options. We buy second-hand clothes. Many working people know that there are people who literally die making clothes for themselves but find it impossible to access other alternatives. All governments should make it clear that clothing, or any consumer good cannot be produced in this way, and not put all the pressure on the consumer. [Richard York]: Organizations such as Clean Clothes, Behind the label, etc., have investigated that, even passing on the cost of paying a living wage to the consumer, would mean raising the price of garments by 25 or 35 cents, transforming the lives of workers. It is not expensive to end that colonialism and exploitation. [Hannan Majid]: If they did, they would produce better, they would be happy to work for those brands and they would do it in better conditions. In Cambodia and Bangladesh their salaries only allow them to survive, it is not fair, in Bangladesh they pay them 70 or 80 euros per month and when the garment reaches the West it is sold for 40 euros. [Richard York]: In the current context of austerity, of increasingly precarious wages in Europe, without contracts or real jobs and with cuts in social benefits, a situation is generated in which people opt for the cheapest, but for example the second hand It's a great ethical option, with so many textile surpluses, and it's affordable (Source: Chavez 2018, np link).

[Udita’s] insight into grassroots resistance is [also] a key strength for this film and a big reason why it deserves to be widely viewed. Those wanting to work for change in the garment industry, to prevent another Rana Plaza, need to identify where change is already happening and help to apply pressure. In Bangladesh this means supporting union organisations like the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF) (Source: Hoskins 2015, np link).

I didn't know a garment manufacturer earned on average 156$ a month in Bangladesh. That seems like a huge improvement compared to years ago as shown on the #Udita documentary … though still nominally too low compared to the Global #LivingWage Coalition (Source: argüello 2020, np link).

[A]t the end of the film, it appears that compensation is all we need! The protests are organized around this issue. Yes, the corporate accomplice is depicted from visuals showing the labels of the brand. But what about the local accomplice of this 'supply chain'? Where is the state in the picture? What about the different institutions of state whose negligence and malpractices are also part and parcel of criminal negligence in the garments sector of Bangladesh? In a related query one is also inclined to ask: what happened to the worker's unions of Bangladesh which have worked for years for the rights of the workers? Why are these bracketed off? None of these questions are answered in the documentary. It provides a romantic picture of resistance, copy book indeed, where workers are chanting duniarmajdurak how (poorly dubbed as 'friends' of the world, unite!). In this 'small' dubbing error, workers are dropped altogether in the end (Source: Sumon 2015, np link)!

There is a chance this positive portrayal of the laborers'organisation and the self-awareness of the seamstresses will leave you with an image that is a little too optimistic. Udita' is not the film that makes you wiser on how small a part of the workers that are actually organised, the problems with fake unions or the state's missing protection of the unions. Udita' offers a good insight into the lives of the seamstresses and the construction of a collective identity as workers (Source: Henriksen 2015, np link).

The employment of so many women in the RWG [Ready to Wear Garment] industry has been instrumental to the dismantling or the patriarchal structure and norms such as purdah; that seclude women according to the country s religious and cultural customs. Increased opportunities for economic autonomy and improved livelihoods have been a platform for a generation of successful and independent women to emerge. Girls are marrying later, and are able to move around the city, very much independent. Yet, employment in the garment industry is no panacea for women's empowerment unless it is combined with equal rights and respect for women. Pressure from below must be joined from above and be maintained to make these gains by women sustainable in the long run and within the larger context of society as a whole (Source: Anon 2015d, np link).

[Udita offers] a limited insight that does not educate you on the systemic issues under which the industry suffers (Source: Henriksen 2015, np link).

[I]t does not bring up the broader issues of restructuring of the production system within which the industry has flourished in Bangladesh in the recent past. It doesn't bring up broader questions of neoliberal economy within which garments industry in Bangladesh functions. Such bracketing off strategies gives an impression that the industry is an opportunity crested by the industry leaders of the country; it falls prey to the familiar trope that the industry leaders try to claim: haven't we heard several times from the big guns of the industry, often BGMEA [Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association] personnel that they have provided employment opportunity for [so many] people? If we look at the broader scheme of things, then perhaps one may shed off such self-congratulatory statements and remain more humble! I think the film also erred on this side. As such, it continued with the familiar story: as if economic hardship has brought them to city and they had been helped by the industry. If we bring the broader story of economic restructuring at the heart of the capitalist countries, then this narrative may not remain as simplistic (Source: Sumon 2015, np link)!

Without changes in the law and in the attitude of too many factory managers in Bangladesh, … the struggles of the dynamic women in the film will continue to face repression and violence at work (Source: Crawford 2015, np link).

The underlying message to the Government of Bangladesh here is that if improvements aren't made to the law to make sure workers rights are respected, then they may lose their trade preferences. This is important as we know that the removal of trade preferences to Bangladesh by the USA played an important part in reforms being made to the law in Bangladesh to allow unions in the garment sector in 2013 (Source: Crawford 2015, np link).

Outcomes / Impacts

We still love movies and long documentaries but their process takes several years, [so] sometimes we take elements of them to show them as campaign pieces (Source: York in Chavez 2018, np link).

For us, the Rana Plaza was a turning point, videos were made to shock the audience but now many of the most powerful filmings are to collect evidence … that activist groups can share it. Maybe the public never sees it but they are used in a legal or political fight (Source: York in Chavez 2018, np link).

[When we made Udita, w]e took photos and videos of the labels to send them to the activists so that they could find out the brands they manufactured there to make them react. With social networks you can bring a campaign to life with just one [short] video (Source: Majid in Chavez 2018, np link).

References / Further Reading

Anneysa (2015) Informative and emotional watch #Udita Brilliant work @TRCdocumentary !! Shout out whenever you need support!!, 24 April ( last accessed 15 September 2020)

Anon (2015a) New film on Bangladesh garment industry: Udita. ILRF Newsletter, May ( last accessed 15 September 2020)

Anon (2015b) Watch UDITA (ARISE) documentary on women unionists in Bangladesh. TUC, 7 May ( last accessed 21 October 2019) 

Anon (2015c) Watch UDITA (ARISE) documentary on women unionists in Bangladesh. European Union News, 9 May

Anon (2015d) The Unionisation of Women Workers in Bangladess Garment Industry, flying the flag for self-determination. Global gender justice, 17 November ( last accessed 15 September 2020)

Anon (2015e) Sham Marriage and Fast FashionWorkers: August 2015's Women-Centric VOD & Web Series Picks. Women & Hollywood, 17 August ( last accessed 15 September 2020)

Anon (2015f) ‘UDITA’ film shows need for labour law reform in Bangladesh. European Union News, 8 May

Anon (nda) Udita: women garment workers arise. Behind the seams, p.20 ( last accessed 28 September 2020)

Anon (ndb) Udita. Guide doc ( last accessed 15 September 2020)

Anon (ndc) Udita. Documentary Storm ( last accessed 15 September 2020)

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argüello, f. (2020) I didn't know a garment manufacturer earned on average 156$ a month in Bangladesh. That seems like a huge improvement compared to years ago as shown on the #Udita documentary by @TRCdocumentary though still nominally too low compared to the Global #LivingWage Coalition., 25 April ( last accessed 15 September 2020)

beeper210 (2020) Comment on Rainbow Collective (2015) ‘UDITA’ (Arise) [Documentary about female garment workers, Bangladesh]. ( last accessed 15 September 2020)

Bramhall, S.J. (2015) Organising Bangladeshi sweatshops., 23 October ( last accessed 21 October 2019)

Chavez, B. (2018) Rainbow Collective: 'Fiction always tends to seek artificial ways to replicate the same power structures'. El Salto, 5 October ( last accessed 15 September, translated from Spanish into English by Google Translate)

CL (2019) Comment on Rainbow Collective (2015) ‘UDITA’ (Arise) [Documentary about female garment workers, Bangladesh]. ( last accessed 21 October 2019)

Claudie, E. (2017) sustainable documentaries worth a watch. Eleanor Claudie, 13 December ( last accessed 15 September 2020)

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Cowden, S. (2017) Showed this film to my students today - inspiring material., 7 March ( last accessed 15 September 2020)

Crawford, R. (2015) ‘Udita’ film shows need for labour law reform in Bangladesh. Stronger Unions, 7 May ( last accessed 22 October 2019)

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LL (2016) Rainbow Collective: ‘that is now we, as a community, can bust the cycle.’ Cheap cuts documentary film festival, 1 May (–- That-is-how-we-as-a-community-can-bust-the-cycle' last accessed 28 September 2020)

McAlea, L. (2020) Rana Plaza: seven years on. Traid, 23 April ( last accessed 15 September 2020)

McCulloch, K. (2020) Comment on Rainbow Collective (2015) ‘UDITA’ (Arise) [Documentary about female garment workers, Bangladesh]. ( last accessed 15 September 2020)

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Name (2015a) #Udita. You need to watch this! Learn the true price of cheap clothing. Not for guilt tripping but you need to know., 27 November ( last accessed 15 September 2020)

Name (2015b) #Udita is a heart wrenching #documentary.... Must watch., 28 November ( last accessed 15 September 2020)

Nidle (2015) FILM – Udita – sweatshops, women workers, ethical fashion & Bangladesh. TES, 7 May ( last accessed 21 October 2019)

Nora (2020) Comment on Rainbow Collective (2015) ‘UDITA’ (Arise) [Documentary about female garment workers, Bangladesh]. ( last accessed 15 September 2020)

Posh, T.D. (2016a) Slow fashion by Safia Minney. Tolly Dolly Posh, 2 July ( last accessed 15 September 2020)

Posh, T.D. (2016b) My 2016 Ethical Fashion Education | Books, Documentaries & More. Tolly Dolly Posh, 18 December ( last accessed 15 September 2020)

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Rainbow Collective (2016) @WritersofColour Pls help share! No western voice over or presenter! just the workers voices #ranaplaza @ILRF #Udita, 24 April ( last accessed 15 September 2020)

Rob (2015) UDITA! The view from the pier, 18 September ( last accessed 15 September 2020)

Schon-Meier, P. (2018) Comment on Rainbow Collective (2015) ‘UDITA’ (Arise) [Documentary about female garment workers, Bangladesh]. ( last accessed 21 October 2019)

Season Bangla Drama (2015) #Udita @TRCdocumentary TQ for the humbling film. It made me sad, it made me angry; the final imprint left me hopeful. United We Stand!, 25 April ( last accessed 21 October 2019)

Sumon, M. (2015) Udita (Arise): a film on the plight of female workers in the Garments Industry of Bangladesh. Thotkata, 22 May ( last accessed 15 September 2020)

Timey, M. (2020) Comment on Rainbow Collective (2015) ‘UDITA’ (Arise) [Documentary about female garment workers, Bangladesh]. ( last accessed 15 September 2020)


Compiled by Theo Barker, Joe Collier, Annabel Baker, Lizzie Coppen & Henry Eve as part of the Geographies of Material Culture module at the University of Exeter. Edited by Ian Cook (last updated November 2020).