Bangladesh, located to the east of India, is a leading global garment manufacturer, producing clothing for such American companies as Gap, Walmart, and J.C. Penney. The Ready Made Garment (RMG) industry makes up 80% of the country’s exports and employs about 4 million Bangladeshis, 80% of whom are women. A survey published by the Japan External Trade Organization in December 2013 reported that Bangladesh garment workers earn nearly the lowest monthly wage in the world, second only to Myanmar.
The garment industry has been a backbone of Bangladesh’s economy. In 2012 Bangladesh had more than 4,000 garment industry factories making clothes for major Western brands such as Walmart and Zara. The garment industry earned the country $12 billion a year – nearly 80% of the country’s total exports.
Historically, hartals have been a common form of resistance in Bangladesh, although there was a three-year period without hartals from 2007-2010. On May 19, 2010, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the main Bangladeshi opposition party, held a rally, where party leader Khaleda Zia announced a nationwide hartal for June 27, in opposition to the Awami League, the ruling party. She also announced that there would be many sit-ins and rallies nationwide leading up to the hartal.