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Kabul Korrespondence

Fresh, factual, and funky view of Afghanistan and the surrounding Central Asian region

Afghan Sweatshops

Sunday, November 04, 2007

HERAT, 30 October 2007 (IRIN) - The Safi fur and wool factory, in Herat city, western Afghanistan, has more than 350 female and 300 male workers who earn only 300 Afghanis (US$6) for their 48-hour, six-day week. The factory produces coats, jackets, hats and other garments for the European and North American markets. There are more than 1,500 women working in four such factories in Herat city.

The air in the Safi processing plant is full of dust from dirty furs, which workers tear to pieces with their bare hands. Jamila (not hear real name) has worked in the factory for more than a year and recently experienced an unrelenting pain in her chest. “First, I was coughing and now I feel a terrible pain in my chest,” the 32-year-old said.

“Doctors and medicine are expensive,” she said. The modes amount she earns helps to supplement the family income to help feed her four children. Less than 2m away from where Jamila is working, her baby has fallen asleep on a thin piece of straw. Jamila brings her youngest son to the factory every day, because there is nobody to look after him at home.

Ahmad Zia Rahmani, a lung and chest diseases specialist at the Herat city hospital, says workers in fur and wool factories are vulnerable to virulent microbes, which harm the respiratory system and cause chest infections. Almost all workers in factories in Herat province have no written contract with their employers, particularly in the private sector. Workers and employers have only verbal agreements, which do not cover medical and hazard insurance.

In the past 12 months, seven women workers of the wool and fur factories in Herat have died due to respiratory diseases and chest infections, workers and Mohammad Ibrahim Ghafori, an official at the Safi factory, said. “We are not in a position to offer medical insurance or any financial assistance for health problems. We tell this to our workers before they start a job with us,” said Mohammad Ibrahim Ghafori, an official for the Safi wool and fur factory.

Some workers, meanwhile, acknowledged that they are exposed to health hazards in the factory but said lack of employment opportunities and economic needs force them to accept the risk.
posted by Travis, 9:26 pm


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