So much for girl power - female workers in Gazipur, Bangladesh, are reportedly abused, harassed and paid a pittance. Pic: Comic Relief

Charity T-shirts backing a Comic Relief campaign for gender justice are being made in a clothing factory where women workers earn just R6,25 per hour, it is claimed.

So much for girl power - female workers in Gazipur, Bangladesh, are reportedly abused, harassed and paid a pittance.

The T-shirts, which are designed by the Spice Girls, bear the slogan ‘#IWANNABEASPICEGIRL’ and are made by a mostly female staff whom managers allegedly call ‘daughters of prostitutes’ for missing their targets.

They are paid less than R107 for a 16-hour-day, while the tops sell for R346 each.

Comic Relief takes R206 of the retail price of the tops which helps to support their fund to ‘champion equality for women’.

Musicians Sam Smith and Jessie J, Olympian Jessica Ennis-Hill and TV presenter Holly Willoughby are among the stars who have modelled the tops on social media.

The T-shirts have the words ‘gender justice’ written on the back despite the workers earning a fraction of a living wage. A minister in Bangladesh’s nationalist government part-owns the factory, it is claimed by The Guardian. There is no suggestion any of the celebrities backing the campaign knew of the working conditions.

A spokesman for the Spice Girls said they were ‘deeply shocked and appalled’ and pledged they would finance an investigation into the working conditions at the factory, while Comic Relief said it was ‘shocked and concerned’. 

Both the group and the charity said they had checked the ethic sourcing credentials of Represent, the online company commissioned to make the T-shirts.

The company changed supplier without informing either of them and took ‘full responsibility’ for the scandal. It has offered to refund any concerned customers. The Spice Girls said Represent should donate profits to ‘campaigns with the intention to end such injustices’.

In 2014, Comic Relief became a Living Wage employer in the UK. At the time, it said: ‘Comic Relief’s vision is a just world, free from poverty, and I’m proud that we have become Living Wage accredited. It’s only right that our practice and policies as an employer reflect our values, goals and ambitions as a charity.’

Some women say they earn just 8,800 taka (R1 460) a month for a 54-hour week, just a fraction of the 16,000 taka local trade unions say is a living wage in the area.

A machinist, who has worked at the factory for five years, said: ‘We hardly get anything. It’s barely enough to survive.’

The worker struggles to provide for her seven-year-old son and has developed neck issues from bending over the sewing machines.

She said: ‘Inside the production manager’s office, they use very bad, abusive language, like, “this isn’t your father’s factory”, “the door is wide open, leave if you can’t meet the production goals”.

‘Sometimes they use more obscene language like, “khankir baccha” [daughter of a prostitute], and many more that I can’t even say.’

© Daily Mail