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On February 1st, 2021, the Myanmar military executed a coup, illegally and violently overthrowing the elected civilian government and shattering the dreams of many across the country.
In response, citizens from all ethnicities and walks of life have joined together in the new Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). At the forefront of the CDM resistance are the young, mostly female, garment workers. On March 8th, 2021, the women from Myanmar’s garment industry responded by leading strikes and protests, boldly decrying this theft of their freedom and their future.
Ma Moe Sandar Myint, Chairwoman of the Federation of General Workers of Myanmar (FGWM) has stated: “We are being shot in the streets during the day. Our homes are being raided at night. We have made the global apparel brands huge profits with our bare hands over the years, the very least they should do right now is ensure we are not fired simply for wishing not to live under a military dictatorship. Amidst such an undisputed human rights travesty, their silence thus far is appalling,”
But the apparel factory owners are intimidating and firing workers for going on strike and taking part in pro-democracy protests. Recently, a number of workers were shot and killed when they were lured back to their factory to collect their salaries. Major brands, like Adidas, whose garments are made in Myanmar factories, have been largely silent about the plight of their workers.
Beyonce has visited Myanmar and experienced the hospitality of its people. More importantly, Beyonce has a long-time business collaboration with Adidas, which makes and co-brands her Ivy Park fashion line of activewear. If Beyonce were to speak out publicly in support of Myanmar’s garment workers and the Civil Disobedience Movement, Adidas would be under a lot of pressure to back up its apparel workers too.
Today, Myanmar’s peoples echo the song of the oppressed throughout history. They call out with one voice, “We must resist! We have nothing to lose but our chains.”