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From blogging to sandblasting: activist talks in Turkey

Roof top view of Istanbul (Daisy Gardener/OxfamAUS)

It is day three at the Clean Clothes Forum here in Turkey. 180 activists have come to a small island called Bandirma, off the coast of Istanbul. We’re here to share ideas and information for how we can effectively support workers around the world to get a fair deal.

I’m feeling invigorated by the talks and workshops. It’s inspiring to bring activists from all around the world together who all have the same aim for workers: living wages, the right to organise, the right to secure employment, the right to a safe workplace. There have been workshops, talks, songs—even belly-dancing lessons.

There have been stories of hope and stories of struggle.

On Tuesday I heard from the Turkish Solidarity Committee of Sandblasting Labourers (TSCSL) about the process of sandblasting denim. The jeans are sandblasted to give them a “worn” look. The TSCSL estimates that as many as 1200 workers in Turkey have a disease called silicosis – which they contracted from blasting jeans with sand and several have died as their lungs slowly stopped working.

There have been some positive and encouraging stories. I presented the successes of Sewani’s blog to workers and union members at a workshop. Now there is a garment factory worker from Cambodia interested in starting her own blog about life making clothing in a factory. There will also be some hard-hitting campaigns in the lead up to the London Olympics 2012 and towards the Brazil 2014 World Cup.

Yesterday there was a lively discussion about newer manufacturing processes (such as lean and cellular manufacturing) and how this has led to more intense work for people making shoes in places like Indonesia. There has also been an interesting discussion about how to push brands to implement a living wage for workers in their supply chain.

Overall, the most important thing here is the chance for activists to share ideas and strategies and to feel part of a global movement—a global network working to achieve change.

Greetings from Turkey,


Labour Rights Advocacy Coordinator, Oxfam Australia

An activist poses as Cassandra, the new Clean Clothes mascot (Daisy Gardener/OxfamAUS)

An activist poses as Cassandra, the new Clean Clothes mascot (Daisy Gardener/OxfamAUS)

Top image: Roof top view of Istanbul (Daisy Gardener/OxfamAUS)