An engrossing biography of resistance against repression, Udita is a mosaic of stories from an industry characterised by exploitation and industrial homicide.
In 2013 the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, killing 1,134 workers and leaving 2,500 seriously injured. Udita’s story tellers are the women of such factories – the women who work 14 hour shifts and whose children call them ‘aunty’ because they are cared for by their grandmothers, the union activists living alone in slums, and the leaders of factory strikes. In an industry 85-90% staffed by women, Udita serves as testimony to the strength and bravery of women under fire.
Five years of visits to Dhaka’s garment factories provided directors Hannan Majid and Richard York with a remarkable array of footage. This film offers a timeline of an industry in overdrive: halfway through the film the camera pans upwards, revealing an endless production line of workers stitching labels onto jumpers.
A highlight of Udita (Arise) is its understanding and portrayal of self-determination. 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’. All too often garment workers are cast as helpless victims in need of saving and it is very rare to encounter the viewpoint of union organisers in Dhaka. Thankfully Udita avoids this approach completely and instead portrays what is happening on the ground and, most importantly, why it is happening.
Udita is released free to watch and share on Youtube.
Udita’s difficult stories of trauma and loss are sensitively handled. Viewers cannot avoid the message that conditions are extremely bad in the industry and no one will be able to forget Razia Begum’s story of losing two daughters and a son in law to Rana Plaza, nor of the horrors of the Tazreen factory fire as described by Shohibita Rani. 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. They are doing this despite the risk of being intimidated, beaten and sacked by factory thugs.
This insight into grassroots resistance is 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). 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.
Towards the end of the film we 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. 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!’
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.
Tansy E. Hoskins is the author of Stitched Up – The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion.
Labour's 1983 election campaign has long been used to say it is impossible for a leader like Jeremy Corbyn to win any election from the left. Alex Nunns digs out the truth
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava
It may seem as though these apps are working for us, but we are also working for the apps, writes Kurt Iveson
It's over 100 years ago that domestic workers began to organise to demand the same rights as other workers. Yet with LSE cleaners on strike this week, historian Laura Schwartz asks: how much has really changed?
Omar Barghouti asks whether Donald Trump, in his recent break with America’s long-standing support for the two-state solution, has unwittingly revived the debate about the plausibility, indeed the necessity, of a single, democratic state in historic Palestine?
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out