Book Review: Trading Away Our Rights

Trading Away Our Rights by Kate Raworth


As I reach for a designer label dress from my closet, I seldom take the time to see where it was made or think about the various countries and laborers that had a hand in assembling my dress. The few times that I check the tag to see where it was made, I notice that it is usually from one of the more underdeveloped countries, but I still don’t concern myself with the woman many miles away that had to sacrifice her time, her family, and low pay to get this dress into my closet.

Raworth’s publication about Working Women in the Global Supply Chain was an eye-opener. As I began to read it, I saw the situation as hopeless. I remember some years back when Kathy Lee Gifford was blasted by the media for having her clothing line made in one of the countries where the young women were only being paid a few pennies per day for assembling the clothes. Stories like these outrage us Americans for a short period then we go back to our old habits. As I continued reading, I was happy to read that organizations like Oxfam are working to resolve some of these issues.

In my mind, I came up with the same “catch 22” that the article addresses. I thought to myself, “If we boycott the brands maybe they’ll change their policies.” Then I thought, “If we boycott, these women will have no jobs.” I battled with which is better, a job where you are abused, or no job at all. Some jobs have provided independence for some of these women. I’m reminded of the young Asian girl who said her family used to beat her all the time, but once she got the job, they stopped beating her because they depended on her income. Here we see that she is being exploited twice. Another young lady in the publication is a flower picker and says she “thanks God for having that job even though she makes barely enough money to survive.”

Some of the most horrifying things I discovered after reading this publication were the back-alley abortions these women have so that they won’t be fired, putting their lives in jeopardy. Another is the sexual harassment they receive and the sexual favors some of them must perform to protect their meager jobs. Having to choose between starvation and this kind of abuse is horrid.

Another negative effect of this industry in these societies is what it does to the men’s egos. Not being able to provide for their families and having to depend on their wives for support is a terrible blow, especially in traditional patriarchal countries that believe the man should be the provider and the woman should be at home rearing the family. Unfortunately, this often leads to an increase in alcoholism, domestic violence, and no marriage for some of these women.

Being a woman myself, this article was very eye-opening. I feel for these women who find themselves in this situation. I am glad that the publication also addresses solutions for the problem and it is not just informative.

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