Category Archives: Nondiscrimination

Interview // Artist and activist Robin Pacific, TakeActionFAST campaign

As we mark the 106th anniversary of Triangle (25 March 1911), I wanted to share the work of Canadian artist and activist Robin Pacific. Since 2013 she has been working on a community project to raise awareness on the realities of work and life for garment workers in Bangladesh. In May she is launching TakeActionFAST, a labour rights campaign she has organised with partners in Bangladesh and in Canada (details below).

I first heard of Robin’s work when I was in Dhaka conducting part of my fieldwork in 2015. Recently I was lucky to connect with her and learn a bit more about her work.

Mary Hanlon:  To get started, could you tell us a bit about the F.A.S.T. campaign and how it came about?

Robin Pacific: We are now calling it TakeActionFAST (because the Heart and Stroke Foundation launched their own FAST campaign – cheeky!). In 2013 I received some funds from the Ontario Arts Council to do research on possible art projects about who makes our clothes. I turned the research into a collaborative community project and invited 30 women in groups of three to my house. I cooked for them, and gave a 10 minute talk about art, fashion, globalization, free trade and workers’ rights. Then the conversation just flowed. It was at one of these gatherings that someone came up with the idea for a logo called FAST – FAIR living wage, ADULT labour only, SAFE working conditions and No unpaid overTIME.

The idea for a campaign to tell retailers we will pay 5% more for our clothes if those conditions are met evolved over time and went through many variations. The necessity that I must go to Bangladesh if I wanted to speak on behalf of garment workers there also came about during those dinners.

MH: You’ve partnered with various sponsors and supporters. How did these partnerships come about, and how important was it for you to connect with groups in Bangladesh?

RP: This whole project has been about never giving up, and just relentlessly continuing even when it seemed there was no support. So I just kept e mailing people I heard about in Bangladesh, and at UniGlobal, and various Canadian trade unions. When they didn’t answer I emailed them again. When they still didn’t answer, I phoned them! Eventually the first trip came together. We made art with 100 garment workers represented by The Solidarity Centre/Bangladesh led by Alonzo Suson and Bangladesh Workers Solidarity Centre led by Kalpona Akter. We were very, very lucky to work with these outstanding trade unions. It was inspiring and transformative to meet young women who were risking their jobs—and sometimes their lives—to form a union.

If we hadn’t had the support of these two groups I think our visit to Dhaka would have been more or less futile.

We also were very graciously hosted at a luncheon by then Canadian High Commissioner Heather Cruden, and one of her staff suggested we connect with some survivors of Rana Plaza. This too was a profound experience, and humbling – meeting these people whose bodies and psyches were so shattered.

While in Bangladesh and after, I kept meeting artists, individuals, trade union members, members of NGOs, and I also go a little connected to the Bangladeshi community here in Toronto. All of these connections have immeasurably enriched the work I’ve done.

MH: What has been the biggest challenge you have faced so far?

RP: The biggest challenge I’ve faced, in a way, has been my own despair at all those points when things weren’t working out, when it seemed things would never come together. My challenge is not to take it personally and get discouraged when people aren’t interested, or reject various proposals for exhibitions, etc.

MH: As you move forward, what keeps you inspired? What scares you?

RP: What keeps me inspired is the heroism of the young women and men I met, and also the fact that I fell in love with Bangladesh, the way one does, inadvertently, with the people, the culture, even the insane traffic. I’m committed to social justice, and taking on this one issue and really working on it exclusively has kept me inspired. Also, I did put this on a long timeline. I wanted to accomplish one thing – the TakeActionFAST petition. Along the way I got to do some fun and meaningful art projects and meet so many extraordinary people.

The issue is off the radar of the media completely. This is what I call the Politics of the Aftermath. The media lurches from one disaster to the next, disaster porn as it’s been called, and no one seems to think of the long term after effects on the survivors of these horrific crises. I’m really counting on millennials to pick up the torch. I’m afraid that I’m just too much of an outlier – an artist trying to create a social justice campaign, not really encouraged by the local art world here, and a social justice activist who is an artist, so viewed skeptically, on occasion, by trade union people and activists, because I’m working alone. Everything I’m doing is hope and prayers that I can bridge these two complex communities.


If you’d like to support Robin and the campaign project, or learn more about her work and this community project, check out the project website here.

I particularly enjoyed seeing project photographs and listening to the audio recordings from interviews with workers, here.

While the campaign is live now, there will be a launch in Toronto in May. Here are the event details:

When? May 4 – May 5, 2017, 7 PM-12AM

Where? The Great Hall, 1087 Queen St. West, Toronto M6J 1H3 (at Dovercourt)


  • Online action campaign;
  • Canadian and Bangladesh bands, singers, dancers and food;
  • a pop up fashion market of indie Canadian designers;
  • a ‘Mock Sweatshop’ where participants can sew giant t-shirts with garment workers from Workers United Canada;
  • a Rana Plaza Memorial;
  • and art by and about Bangladeshi garment workers

LEARN // The WellMade Project

WellMade - Facebook banner image


A three year project that began in 2013, WellMade provides free online resources designed to help brands better support labour rights in their supply chains.

The Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) is lead partner on the initiative, working collaboratively with other partners and associates.


There are currently four specific case studies to assist brands:

(1) “You know those pants we ordered? We need them in a different color!”

(2) “I’m visiting a factory but I’m not a CSR specialist. What can I do to help?”

(3) “We have found labour problems in one of our factories. What should we do?”

(4) “Subcontracting: How can this small group of workers produce so many t-shirts?”

If you’re in Paris, you can catch the project for a free workshop tomorrow (10 Feb) at Texworld.

Follow WellMade on Facebook and Twitter for updates on resources, as well as future workshops and events.

Educating and Engaging // Shared Talent India, Centre for Sustainable Fashion

Shared Talent India encourages “fashion designers to exchange expertise with other protagonists across the supply chain, transcending traditional divisions, be they linguistic, geographic, or discipline based.” (Shared Talent India)

Designers can now access much needed information on opportunities and limitations of materials in India such as cotton and silk (among others). While designers may feel discouraged when they learn that genetically modified (GM) cotton “has found its way into almost every Indian supply chain,” they will no doubt understand the opportunity for change, as it exists in India, when they learn that “[s]eed exchange projects empower farming communities” (Shared Talent India).   

The project also provides information on the historical and cultural significance of skills such as weaving and knitting, dyeing and printing, embroidery, etc., as well as information on their processes. And, most important to designers, Shared Talent India presents a platform not only for education, but for engagement with direct access to suppliers on the ground.

Visit the project, get informed and join in on the industry conversation!

Congratulations to the Shared Talent India design team, their partners and funders and to the Centre for Sustainable Fashion for making this brilliant project happen.

‘Taking Liberties’ // Garment workers in Gurgaon earn poverty wages, facing violence and threats

Workers’ children in the area are not admitted in the Government schools in Delhi as they cannot provide the documents the Delhi Government Schools ask for.” (Worker X, Case Study: Taking Liberties)

Labour Behind the Label and War on Want are reporting gross violations of workers rights in two Delhi factories producing garments for M&S, Debenhams, Next Monsoon and Arcadia.

Taking Liberties, cites exploitative labour practices such as unregistered living in slum housing, precarious labour through non-contractual temporary employment, threats and violence against workers through hired security in anti-union workplace environment, poverty wages (workers paid less than ½ a living wage), and forced overtime.

The report is asking M&S, Debenhams, Next Monsoon and Arcadia to:

Take action! Click here to download the report have your say! Speak out against worker violations and speak up for workers rights!

Shamelessly Idealistic? Free the Children // We Day: Vancouver, Canada

[Centre: This child was 12 years old when he was assassinated for standing up for his rights]

Acting is what I do for a living; activism is what I do to stay alive. (Martin Sheen)

Today I witnessed 18,000 youth stand up and shout out  in support for children’s rights. Have you ever heard 18,000 children chant freedom, again and again? I can assure you that it is a sound I will not soon forget.

Did you know that he has been arrested more than 60 times for activism? He looks pretty darn innocent in this photo!

This year’s We Day events saw Free the Children co-founders Craig and Mark Kielburger celebrate the hard work and dedication of students all across Canada—students who have collectively raised 5 million dollars, banking 1 million volunteer hours along the way, for children in need.

The event has attracted human rights and environmental leaders from around the world; on stage to support, celebrate and motivate these students were activists Martin Sheen, Al Gore, Reverend Jesse L. Jackson Sr., Rick Hanson, Ethan Zohn, Philippe Cousteau, Spencer West, Scott Hammell, and Robin Wiszowaty, and musicians Hedley, Colbie Caillat, and The Barenaked Ladies.

Click here to watch it live on demand.

Youth are not our future, they are our right now” (Reverend Jesse L. Jackson Sr.)

Empowering students by empowering teachers, the We Schools in Action program has built 150 schools (650 schools, over the last 15 years) in Kenya, Sierra Leone, Ecuador, China, Haiti and Sri Lanka and provided more than 60,000 people internationally with clean water.

Free the Children Founders Craig and Mark Kielburger

Want to get your students involved? Teachers, this is a year long initiative, with campaigns set to keep your students motivated and engaged throughout the entire process:

Halloween for Hunger asks children to collect canned goods instead of candy, for donation in their community: 2009 saw 217,000 pounds of food collected

• On November 19th students are asked to participate in a Vow of Silence; this day of action calls attention to the 218 million child labourers who have no voice.

• On January 12th, students celebrate and remember Haiti, through the We are all Haitians campaign

• February 19-25 is Aboriginal Education Week, where students are tasked to take action within their own local communities

• April 11-15 is 5 Days of Freedom. Register your interest and they will provide your school with posters, celebrity videos, motivational resources, etc.

Representing Social Alterations, I felt proud to be in the same room not with the leaders mentioned above, but with these kids…..these 18, 000 kids! It was like nothing I have ever experienced.

For more information, please check out We Day and Free the Children.

Fashioning the Future 2011 Award // Fashion’s Campaign for Unique

Attention tutors, students, and recent graduates! The Centre for Sustainable Fashion has launched the 2011 Fashioning the Future Award brief.

  • What kind of world are you designing for?
  • What is your motivation as a designer?
  • What is your unique contribution to our collective futures?

To participate, you must register your interest online: from1 October 2010 where you will have access to resources and ideas to stimulate your work.

Here are the submission dates and deadlines:

Round 1 of submission: you will be required to submit your work online by 15 June 2011.

Candidates who are shortlisted from Round 1 will be invited to Round 2!

Round 2 submission deadline: July 2011.

Good luck!

Source: Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion

TEACH// Fun Workshops for Pre-16 Learners: [Fashion High] Understanding the Impact of your Clothing


Fashion High @ Balmoral Jr. Secondary School from Social Alterations on Vimeo.

On Earth Day, SA stepped back into the classroom to introduce Grade 8 students to the social and environmental impacts of fashion.

We have collated our favorite activities from Teaching Sustainable Fashion: A Handbook for Educators as well as developed our own exercises to create two workshops for pre-16 learners.

These workshops hope to engage, educate, encourage and empower both educator and learner to get involved with the issues. Each workshop provides resources and tools to help lessen the impact of the fashion industry on both people and planet.

We’ve put together this video of the 1 Hour workshop in action, so that you may get a better picture on how this might work in your classroom.


This workshop was designed to introduce pre-16 students/participants the value of a responsible fashion industry, by understanding the impact our clothing has on both people and planet.


  • To engage students/participants on the impact their clothing has on garment workers working within the fashion industry.
  • To educate students/participants on the impact their clothing has on the planet, specifically in terms of best practices in laundry habits.
  • To encourage students/participants to ‘talk back’ to the industry, through a critical examination of fashion themes coming out of the industry, specifically surrounding beauty and wealth.
  • To empower learners to take back control of the impact their clothing on both people and planet.

For more information on these activities, please visit the ‘Works Cited’ page at the end of each workshop.

* If you are planning to use this lesson, please let us know so that we may keep track of our programming.*

** Please ask your students to complete the online feedback forms**

[Fashion High] Understanding the Impact of your Clothing: An Introduction by Social Alterations is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Canada License.

Click on the links below to download the workshops:

[Fashion High] Understanding the Impact of your Clothing: An Introduction, 1 Hour Workshop

Download here: Fashion High – 1HourWorkshop

[Fashion High] Understanding the Impact of your Clothing: An Introduction, 2 Hour Workshop

Download here: Fashion High – 2HourWorkshop



“Step into her shoes” for some Human Rights training with Fashioning an Ethical Industry

Back in January, we posted on Clearing the Hurdles, a report by The Playfair campaign, which is made up of  the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and the International Textile, Garment and Leather Worker’s Federation (ITGLWF), in partnership with Maquila Solidarity Network, and other organizations worldwide.

This May, Fashioning an Ethical Industry invites teachers and tutors  to “Step into her Shoes” and be introduced to a “new pack of teaching resources aimed at KS4, A-level and FE themed around the London’s 2012 Olympics. The pack focuses on issues of human rights within global sportswear supply chains, including case studies, lesson plans, an online game and picture resources. The session will introduce the materials with suggestions for how to use them, and provide a background to the wider Playfair 2012 campaign calling for a fairer deal for garment workers producing sportswear and branded goods for the Olympics.” (FEI)

Title: Teacher and Tutor Training: Step into her Shoes
Location: London
Link out: Click here
Start Time: 16:00
Date: 2010-05-26
End Time: 18:00

Sseko Designs: Social Change through Responsible Business

Janette Crawford, who runs one of our favourite blogs, fashion loves people, has shared a wonderful interview she had originally done for The interview is with Liz Bohannon, founder of Sseko Designs, an organization working to provide women with tuition money they need to attend college in Uganda through social enterprise.

I encourage you to head over to fashion loves people straight away to check out the full interview.

I wanted to share this video clip with you here, as a source of encouragement. Liz Bohannon speaks passionately on the power of social enterprise in creating sustainable change—her dedication and optimism is so inspiring! Click here for more videos from the interview.

Sseko Designs: Creating sustainable change from Janette Crawford on Vimeo.

Thanks Janette for sharing this with us!

READ// the Fair Wear formula

The Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) has launched a new publication, the Fair Wear formula.

The design by Ruben @ Buro RuSt combines with the more than readable texts by Anne Lally combine to create an innovative, attractive description of the FWF approach to improving labour conditions in garment supply chains. In hardback or paperback.” (FWF)

Image: FWF’s focus (image from the Fair Wear formula, (c) Buro RuSt


If you aren’t already familiar with the Fair Wear Foundation, an international verification initiative dedicated to enhancing workers’ lives, take a minute to check out their guiding principles:

Supply chain responsibility = realising that the Code can only be fulfilled when sourcing companies, as well as factory management, actively pursue practices that support good working conditions.
Labour standards derived from ILO Conventions and the UN’s Declaration on Human Rights = basing FWF’s Code on internationally-recognised standards which have been set through tri-partite negotiation.
Multi-stakeholder verification = verification processes developed through multi-stakeholder negotiation, and involving experts from diverse disciplines and perspectives in FWF verification teams.
A process-approach to implementation = paying special attention to the means (i.e. building functioning industrial relations systems over time) in order to achieve the end (i.e. sustainable workplace improvements).
Involvement of stakeholders in production countries = engaging local partners in shaping FWF’s approach in a given region or country.
Transparency = keeping relevant stakeholders informed of FWF policies, activities, and results; publicly reporting on member company efforts to fulfil FWF requirements.


For more information on this publication, and others, contact