Ten Years After Rana Plaza

Date: April 2023
Author(s): Maheen Sultan, Iffat Jahan Antara, and Touhidul Islam
Publication type: Policy brief
Published by: BRAC Institute of Governance and Development

The 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex drew global attention to factory safety and worker rights in Bangladesh’s apparel industry. Since then, factory buildings have become safer and manufacturers have begun to work with labor unions on factory safety monitoring. But Bangladeshi workers are still paid the lowest wages in the world.

This research brief  from BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) examines how the Rana Plaza catastrophe is remembered, as well as what has – and has not – changed in the industry. Looking ahead, it calls for reforms in the global governance of the apparel supply chain; social protection and decent wages; and worker voice.

The brief was collaboratively authored by Maheen Sultan, Iffat Jahan Antara, and Touhidul Islam of BIGD, with support from 21st Century ILGWU Heritage Fund. Kalpona Akter, Debra Efroymson, Ismail Ferdous, Judy Gearhart, and Naomi Hossain also contributed to the report.

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Maheen Sultan is Senior Fellow of Practice and Head of Gender and Social Development Cluster. She is one of the founders of the Centre for Gender and Social Transformation at the BRAC Development Institute, BRAC University – a regional centre on research, teaching and policy related to gender and social transformation. She is presently leading the Gender and Social Transformation Cluster. Previously she was a development practitioner with over 25 years of experience working for NGOs, donors, the UN, Grameen Bank and the Bangladesh Government in a range of capacities. She has worked on issues of social development, poverty, civil society and community participation and gender equality. Maheen is a member of Naripokkho, a Bangladeshi women’s activist organisation. She is the co-editor of ‘Voicing Demands: Feminist Activism in Transitional Contexts’ (Zed Books: London, 2014)

Iffat Jahan Antara is a a Senior Research Associate in the Gender and Social Transformation Cluster at BIGD, where she works on  the Sustaining Power for Women’s Rights (SuPWR) research project. The main goal of the project is to investigate when, how and why South Asian Women’s power struggles have withstood backlash and succeeded in holding onto their rights. She has worked as National Consultant for UN Women to develop and adapt training module to Combat Gender Based Violence, and as project officer for  Naripokkho, supporting action research and advocacy for ensuring sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and adolescents from local to regional level.

Touhidul Islam is  a Research Associate at BIGD. Prior to this, he was a Trainee Research Associate under the qualitative stream of the Young Researchers Fellowship (YRF) program. He is passionate about ethnographic research in critical cultural contexts. His primary research interests include cultural heritage practices, indigenous knowledge systems, identity politics, visual representation, climate change, migration, and policy making.