The OM Project Bangladesh

To know what you consume, consume what you know.
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Susie Taylor & Jason Motlagh
Small Business
Washington D.C.
United States
10 Team Members

Project Mission

  • When you purchase an OM bag - designed by me, Susie Taylor - you'll fuel demand for Munni's goods.  Through her work with us, and our work with her, we will build out the structures she needs to support her current business and grow.  Through this unique crowd-funding platform we'll build a community of people intimately connected to Munnis development, and vice versa.  As Munni's business starts to grow we'll experience the transformation with her through the power of documentary and multi-media.  

  

Project Funding Allocation

  

  • Did you know that female entrepreneurs make up 35% of small-to-medium enterprises in emerging markets?

  • Did you know that females represent 80% of the consumer market, globally?

  • Did you know that in spite of working with a third less capital than their male counterparts, women demonstrate 12% higher returns on investment?

  • And finally, did you know that women return up to 88% of their earnings back to their community? ... depending on health and abudance for the prosperity of their children and families.  

 

 

Why Contribute?

Collaboration with artist JR

Want to know more?

 

 

Our Team & Ethos

Susie Taylor is a creative entrepreneur and documentarian. You can read her work on the garment industry in Bangladesh in the The Atlantic, as well as view a discussion on HuffingtonPost Live.
 
A trip to Dhaka in early 2013 inspired the team to produce The One More |OM| Project as a solution to some of the challenges facing the industry - empowering women through dignified and profitable production.  The OM team (8 strong US-based activists) have created a working hand bag to get the project off the ground and we're here on indiegogo to take the first steps forward. 

In short, we’ve started a for-profit company to generate wealth, keeping the focus at the beginning of the supply chain.  The OM Project is creating fair employment opportunities, rather than charity, because dignified work spurs personal empowerment and a broader sense of agency.

We seek to connect artisans around the world with mindful consumers, and we do so by fusing journalism with design in the way we source our products. This project is about transparency.

*NOTE: To avoid a conflict of interest, Jason Motlagh is no longer involved in the OM Project.  

Did you know?

Dhaka is the world's most densely populated capital, and Bangladesh is one of the world's poorest countries. Garment making accounts for 80 percent of the country's $24 billion in annual exports and provides employment for roughly 3.5 million people. On average, workers are able to secure $0.18/hour and face overtime in hazardous conditions to make ends meet. 

Roughly 88% of assembly line workers in the industry are female. Despite the sometimes brutal labor conditions, it is common for underage girls to lie about their age and begin working to support their families. These girls face severe occupational hazards and gendered pay discrimination.  

 

We found these pockets on floor of the SMART factory after the fire.  Rajina was sewing them for winter vests bound for Europe when the fire broke out.  Knocked unconscious by the smoke, her co-workers carried her to safety. February 2013.We found these pockets on floor of the SMART factory in Mirpur, Dhaka. A young girl, Rajina Akter, was sewing them for winter vests bound for Europe when the fire broke out. Knocked unconscious by the smoke, her co-workers carried her to safety. 8 women died in the fire. January 2013.

 

What's the story?

In early 2013, Susie Taylor spent time in Bangladesh investigating its garment industry in the wake of the Tazreen Fashions fire. During the course of her reporting, she confronted the systemic problems that continue to claim hundreds of lives each year as manufacturers cut corners to meet global demand for cheap clothing. To date, pledges to clean up the industry have not resulted in lasting investments that protect workers.

Investigation turned into investment. In Dhaka, she visited the lead artisans for Bangladeshi-American label SourceFK - an innovative social business model. The OM Project is working to expand sourceFK and models like these in order to empower the women artisans they employ. 

At Saidpur Enterprises, a successful women's co-op in the rural city of Saidpur, their commitment to women has allowed them to successfully expand abroad over the past 40 years. Employees earn a daily minimum wage for an 8-hour workday, and even accrue savings. They are free to take their work home with them, and enjoy financial planning help, heath care, and advancement within the organization.  

 

Agency and a broader sense of responsibility grow hand in hand. 

We believe that when consumers are offered the chance to see where products originate, they will likewise be empowered to make better choices and choose to invest in the people who make them.  

We've designed a working bag made of locally sourced plant fiber and repurposed sari cloth. Made entirely by hand in dignified conditions, the bag is a symbol of fair and honest work, and a commitment to productivity.  Purchase of the OM bag will fuel a local-global collaboration, providing a healthy alternative to assembly line work in Bangladesh.

We're here today on Indiegogo because you're the solution.

 

Putting the finishing touches on an OM bag prototype - Saidpur, Bangladesh. February 2013.Yasmin putting the finishing touches on an OM bag prototype - Saidpur, Bangladesh. February 2013.
 

The OM Project is about generating fair employment opportunities because dignified work spurs personal empowerment and a broader of sense of agency. We seek to connect artisans around the world with mindful consumers, and we do so by fusing journalism with design in the way we source our product. We document every step of the creative process because we believe inter-personal knowledge generates the trust needed for a new business paradigm. When you purchase an OM product, you know where it came from, who made it and how

At its heart, the OM project is about relationships: with you, and with the artisans who make our goods.

What's in the Name?

OM stands for One More. It started from the vision to employ One More Woman, after one more woman, after one more woman. We wanted to formulate a business model that could produce sustainable growth for female-led enterprises, and allow them to grow their business and employ others in their community. We don't want to exclude men in keeping a focus on female entrepreneurs, so the name became employ One More.  Simply, OM.  

Where does my investment go?

First, we believe that crowd-sourcing is the most effective way to address this problem.  As consumers, we're using our purchasing power.  We want to learn who, what, when, where, and how are goods were produced before they make it to our local big-box retailer or artisan boutique.  We're innovating. 

Second, we've done the math and found that to pay a living salary to a employee of Saidpur Enterprises for one full year, we need $561.00.  To pay a living salary for an employee in Dhaka we need $935.00.  Your donation to our project will fuel the demand for this bag and put the money aside to secure a daily wage for workers in these two locations.  That's why on the sidebar you see we have perks set to those amounts.  This way the artisans we work with are not so vulnerable, and they can immediately begin to accrue savings to use at any point during the year.  

The fun is in the bag.  The wages we secure for each employee equals a certain number of OM bags, depending on what material we use.  So when you support the OM project and employ one more woman you'll receive a really personal story, and have the ability to get to know the artisan you're working with.  You'll be part of micro-community of consumers who have come together to support that woman's employment for the year.  OM bags will display the number of artisans employed, and provide consumers with an interactive channel to learn more about the artisan who made their customized OM bag. We're very unique. 

In addition to developing the OM bag for retail, we're developing our project, in the spirit of collaboration, with international designers through Fashion4Development and  appropriate retail outlets.  You'll be able to purchase OM bags both online, fall of 2013, then in retail stores and boutiques in 2014.  We're expanding.  

 

Project Funding Allocation

 

Why Saidpur and sourceFK?

Saidpur Enterprises has been run by the tireless M. Ghayasuddin for more than 40 years. It has developed a tried and true model whereby women are paid a daily minimum daily wage, with the ability to earn more. 

M. Ghayasuddin at his desk in Saidpur. February 2013.M. Ghayasuddin at his desk in Saidpur. February 2013.
 

We interviewed well over a dozen women in Saidpur, some of whom were raised in refugee camps following Bangladesh’s bloody war for independence, and we found they unanimously choose to use their money for education and home improvements; and delay marriages that many families acquiesce to in order to ease financial burdens. A generation later, many of their children are graduating with degrees from higher education programs.

 

Whether on site or at home, women work together while taking care of their children.Whether on site or at home, women work together while taking care of their children.

 

Women at the co-operative work 8-hour days, alternating between the workshop and their homes. They make a daily minimum wage that is adjust to the cost of fair living, no matter what, and for an 8 hour work day.  If they choose to produce more bags, the extra money they earn goes to a savings account, which allows them to accrue credit and invest. At any point during the year, an employee can borrow up to 50% of what she’s saved. If and when she decides to leave the co-operative, she can take the sum of her savings with her. 

 

Munni at her home in Mirpur, Dhaka. February 2013.Munni - of sourceFK - at her home in Mirpur, Dhaka. February 2013.

 

It’s never easy being an entrepreneur, and certainly not in inner-city Dhaka. Starting as a child garment worker, Munni has amassed over 15 years of experience in traditional silk weaving and hand embroidery. Because of her work with sourceFK she now employs six full-time weavers in her workshop. Her business growth has allowed her to access better schools for her four children, clean food, and housing.  She needs opportunities to grow in order to solidfy this progress and push forward.  She needs those opportunities to be shared with support networks in financial managment and business development, as well as healthcare and education.

 

Munni lives in a conservative Muslim neighborhood, and she employs men.  She's up against heavy social pressures to carve a new path for women.

 

We’re working with sourceFK founder, Faizun Kamal, to enlist the financial and business development partnerships, together with the healthcare and education opportunities that facilitate sustainable growth.  We're investing.  

Next Steps

We need to return to Bangladesh in July to report our progress in Saidpur and Dhaka.  We'll document the connections we’re building between Munni of sourceFK and M. Ghayasuddin at Saidpur Enterprises, as well as the state of the garment industry since the tragic collapse of the Rana Plaza building. 

We’re commited to tracking the changes generated by The OM Project specifically, and their implications for what’s possible in the Bangladeshi garment industry in general. We will then market our OM documentary with Fashion4Development and other global partners looking to take part in the project. 

The trajectory is clear: if more people purchase the OM bag, well established designers will want to collaborate with us and raise our project profile. The more bags we sell, the more women we’ll be able to employ. Without a doubt, it's a win-win.

Transparency: Risks and Challenges for The OM Project

There are challenges to every worthy endeavor. We face several, and the time we’ve salready spent on the ground coupled with our in-depth investigations have prepared us to tackle them.

Stigma |

a) We are well aware that in the wake of deadly accidents in Bangladesh's garment industry, consumer stigmas have developed. And with good reason: how can we trust that our purchases are not tainted by bad labor conditions? Our goal is to turn these perceptions inside out by thoroughly documenting production and the lives of the people involved. By focusing on individuals and the skills they bring to their work, we want to make "Made in Bangladesh" a source of pride, for artisans and consumers alike.

b) It’s important to maintain a cross-cultural perspective going in to this project. Our Dhaka-based partner, Munni, lives on the site of a former Pakistani refugee camp where ethnic divisions contribute to an environment of turmoil.  Hard times call for a female entrepreneur. Women like Munni need support.

Fortunately, our other partner organization, Saidpur Enterprises, has been up and running for more than 40 years. Director M. Ghayasuddin has guided the cooperative from its infancy as a small start-up in a refugee community to a thriving operation with international clients. From the start, empowering women artisans has been a guiding principle.

Government corruption |

Bangladesh falls near the bottom of all global corruption and transparency indexes. Lax, selective enforcement of the law has fostered a culture of impunity in the garment industry. Politically-connected factory owners make fortunes at the expense of workers who endure dismal conditions, at risk to fires and other industrial accidents. When things do go wrong, such figures are rarely held accountable. Too often, justice is bought and sold. note: not all factories are bad, and the good players should be supported.  

In this climate, new businesses with progressive goals may be unsettling to the establishment. Bribery and graft are systemic problems, and our commitment to transparency will be on trial. While we are a small-scale venture, our long-term goal is to grow and demonstrate that despite the industry standard, it is possible to run a profitable operation where workers enjoy dignified conditions and a stake in their future.

Political Instability |

Political turmoil has been a constant in Bangladesh since the country’s founding, and today is no exception. A youth-led protest movement that has risen against paralysis in the government and legal system is being targeted by Islamist groups quick to use violence. An already fledgling economy has been hamstrung by frequent worker strikes. Street clashes between protesters and police have claimed dozens of lives and further polarized the country.

Bangladesh’s unstable political scene is a legitimate concern to would-be investors. By keeping our goals modest and production centered in the north of the country, a region that is relatively quiet, we believe we can mitigate the knock-on effects that strikes and street violence have had on urban industries. There still may be instances where the delivery of raw materials and the shipment of finished goods to market are threatened, making reliable partners essential.

So thank you for being here.  We are in this to make a tangible difference in people's lives by providing an outlet for fair work, and to establish a credible way for consumers to have a relationship with the people producing their goods.   By producing the OM bag and selling it on the open market, we hope to initiate sustainable change for everyone involved.  We hope that you will join in the effort.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Find This Campaign On
$25,459USD
raised by 71 people in 1 month
51% funded
No time left
$50,000 USD goal
Fixed Funding This campaign did not meet its $50,000USD funding goal by the deadline.
Campaign Closed
This campaign ended on July 14, 2013
Select a Perk
  • $1USD
    Welcome!

    You're one of us! Your online activism makes you an official part of our community, and included in all upcoming events and newsletters. We'll send you great music, great footage, great art and lots of love.

    2 claimed
    Estimated delivery: September 2013
  • $10USD
    The Webby

    Your name will appear on the front page of the website as a consumer activist. You'll get our newsletter with stories, projects, and events.

    10 claimed
    Estimated delivery: September 2013
  • $25USD
    The Creative

    A 3-D printed OM Project key-chain and your name on the website as a consumer activist.

    9 claimed
    Estimated delivery: September 2013
  • $50USD
    The OM Activist

    An OM Project mix-tape compiled from our travels through Bangladesh, a 3-D printed OM Project key-chain and your name & profile on our website as a consumer activist.

    6 claimed
    Estimated delivery: September 2013
  • $100USD
    The Eco-OM Activist

    The OM Project t-shirt | ethically sourced and environmentally screen printed by one of our artists; An OM Project mix-tape, a 3-D printed key-chain; and your name & profile on our website as a consumer activist.

    3 claimed
    Estimated delivery: September 2013
  • $200USD
    The OM Bag

    The OM bag | a sustainably sourced and custom made working bag, made by our friends in Saidpur, Bangladesh. You'll also get the OM Project t-shirt, an OM Project mix-tape, a 3D printed keychain; plus, your name & profile on our website as a consumer activist.

    4 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2013
  • $300USD
    Nomadic OM

    An exclusive framed 24x18 image of your choosing from one of our photographers working around the world; the OM bag made in Saidpur, the OM Project t-shirt, an OM Project mix-tape, a 3-D printed key-chain; and your name & profile on our website as a consumer activist.

    1 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2013
  • $561USD
    One More Woman Saidpur

    Saidpur | You've employed ONE MORE woman (!!) at our partner artisan organizations in Saidpur, Bangladesh for one full fiscal year. This includes a profile of the woman you've employed and your name & profile as a founding employer of the One More woman project You'll also receive an exclusive framed 24x18 image, custom OM bag; an OM Project t-shirt, an OM Project mix-tape, and a 3-D printed key-chain.

    2 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2013
  • $935USD
    One More Woman Dhaka

    Dhaka | You've employed ONE MORE woman (!!) at our partner artisan organization, sourceFK, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, for one full fiscal year. This includes a profile of the woman you've employed and your name & profile as a founding contributor and employer of the One More woman project. You'll also receive an exclusive framed 24x18 image of your choosing from one of our photographers working around the world; a custom OM bag, an OM Project t-shirt, an OM Project mix-tape, a 3-D printed key-cha

    2 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2013
  • $1,500USD
    The Invite

    You'll be invited to meet our founders at the OM conference planned for October 2013 in Washington, D.C. Plus, you'll receive a special thanks on our documentary. As well as other perks.

    2 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2013
  • $3,000USD
    The Collaborator

    We'll determine an exclusive number of OM bags to give to you, or your favorite designer, for collaboration. You can keep the bags, and we'll feature you on our website. You'll also be invited to join us at the OM conference.

    2 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2013
  • $5,000USD
    To the Stars!

    You'll be invited to join founders at Fashion-4-Development's marquee events, coinciding with the UN General Assembly in NYC. We'll be screening our short film and marketing our work to fashion industry leaders.

    0 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2013
  • $10,000USD
    OM Producer

    You're an OM Producer with credits on the OM short documentary to debut at Fashion-4-Development's marquee event in NYC, September 2013. We'd also like to invite you to join us in Washington for the OM conference. Includes all other OM products, listed above.

    0 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2013
  • $20,000USD
    OM Champion

    You're extraordinary, and you're support has changed many lives. You will receive a personal invite to join the OM team in NYC for the screening of the OM documentary. In return for providing the seed money we need to get this venture off the ground we would like to extend ourselves and develop a relationship with you as an Executive Producer. You'll also receive all other OM products.

    0 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2013
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