Getting chatty with Jess from Oxfam’s What She Makes Campaign!

Getting chatty with Jess from Oxfam’s What She Makes Campaign!

We caught up with Jess, one of our Melbourne Rummage Coordinators, second-hand book shop owner and campaigner at Oxfam. She’s an all round go getter, leading by example and standing up for what she believes in. We have a whole lotta love for this gal!! On the 9th & 10th November, Jess and a team of community members from across the country (it could be you if you sign up!) are holding a Weekend of Action. They will be sneaking into change rooms of big brands who have not made genuine commitments to pay a living wage and leave behind a #WhatSheMakes doorhanger, snap a photo, and share it for the world to see. They mean business and we want to support them! We think you should too!

Tell us a little bit about yourself! Hi! I’m Jessica and I’m a fashion activist. Actually, when it comes to activism, I’m a bit of an all-rounder – you might spot me wielding a sign at a climate strike, in a politician’s office talking about tax dodging, or drumming up petition signatures for refugee rights. But at the moment I’m all about making the fashion industry better. 

What do you do with your time? For the last two years, I’ve been working with Oxfam on the What She Makes campaign as a campaigner and community organiser. I want to show everyday people that they have the power to change how the world works – if you see something wrong, we can speak up, take action, and make a difference! Right now, big brands are keeping the women who make our clothes in poverty, but it doesn’t have to be like this. We can work together to demand big brands pay the women who make our clothes a living wage

Why you do what you do? Since the tragic Rana Plaza collapse happened in 2013, killing over 1,100 people in a factory that was outright dangerous to work in, I realised that conditions in clothing factories can be extremely bad. What I didn’t realise was that the women who work in these factories – typically doing long hours in poor conditions – still don’t make enough money to pay for the basics of life. Now I want others to learn more about this issue, and stand with me to demand change. Anju is one of the women Oxfam spoke to when the What She Makes campaign first launched. She was working in Dhaka, Bangladesh, making clothes for Australian brands. Like many women in the garment industry, she is paid poverty wages. Anju does skilled work, for long hours, but the poverty wages paid by big Australian brands are just not enough to pay for even the basics of living. In fact, she is so underpaid that she can’t afford for her two young daughters, Munia, 10 and Ginia, 8 to live with her, instead sending them to stay with their grandparents in her home village. She only sees her daughters twice a year. 

“If I had a better wage, I could have my daughters near me. I could keep them here and take them out to visit places; take them out for a day.” It doesn’t have to be like this. Big brands make big money and they must do the right thing and pay a living wage. A living wage is not a luxury or a privilege, it is a universal human right for every working person around the world, including the women who make our clothes.

What are you working on at the moment? I’ve been working on a plan to hold these big fashion brands to account. On the 9th + 10th of November, we’re holding a Weekend of Action, where people across the country will demand they pay a living wage to the women who make our clothes! On this Weekend of Action, we will sneak into the change rooms of big brands who have not made genuine commitments to pay a living wage. We’ll leave behind a #WhatSheMakes doorhanger, snap a photo, and share it for the world to see – tagging them on Instagram and sharing on the Oxfam page.By publicly holding brands to account in their changerooms, on their social media and in front of our communities, we will pressure them to make real commitments to pay a living wage.

How can others get involved? Sign up for the Weekend of Action! It’s easy, fun – and just a little bit cheeky. Leaving doorhangers behind in change rooms is legal and non-confrontational, and we know that it sends a strong message to these big brands. 

Even better, get a few friends together and make a day of it. I will send you out all the materials you need, and you can get your mates together for a sneaky trip down to the shops. With all of us taking action at the same time, all across the country, we can make a huge impact!

If you want to take part in the Weekend of Action, you can register on the Oxfam website here.