Lessons

Evaluating the Impacts of Leather Tanneries in Bangladesh

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Teenagers work alongside men in some of the most dangerous tannery jobs. Bahadur tosses goat hides into a large drum full of chromium sulfate and other chemicals. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

Teenagers work alongside men in some of the most dangerous tannery jobs. Bahadur tosses goat hides into a large drum full of chromium sulfate and other chemicals. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

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For decades, Hazaribagh has been the epicenter of Bangladesh’s leather tanning industry. More than 150 tanneries in the Dhaka neighborhood pump untreated wastewater into open canals lined with rotting hides and leather scraps. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

For decades, Hazaribagh has been the epicenter of Bangladesh’s leather tanning industry. More than 150 tanneries in the Dhaka neighborhood pump untreated wastewater into open canals lined with rotting hides and leather scraps. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

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Inside a Hazaribagh tannery, workers smooth and flatten freshly tanned hides on pulley-driven machines. Bangladesh tanners routinely work around dangerous machinery without protective gear. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

Inside a Hazaribagh tannery, workers smooth and flatten freshly tanned hides on pulley-driven machines. Bangladesh tanners routinely work around dangerous machinery without protective gear. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

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Raw hides arriving at the tannery are soaked in lime and sodium sulfide to remove hair and fat. Some workers wade barefoot through the caustic solution to tend the hides. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

Raw hides arriving at the tannery are soaked in lime and sodium sulfide to remove hair and fat. Some workers wade barefoot through the caustic solution to tend the hides. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

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Very young children can often be found playing and working around deep, open vats of tanning chemicals. This child stirs hides soaking in a chemical bath. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

Very young children can often be found playing and working around deep, open vats of tanning chemicals. This child stirs hides soaking in a chemical bath. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

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Inside the Hazaribagh tanneries, child workers are also exposed to hazardous machinery. Here, a 10-year-old boy named Joey pulls leather from a smoothing machine. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

Inside the Hazaribagh tanneries, child workers are also exposed to hazardous machinery. Here, a 10-year-old boy named Joey pulls leather from a smoothing machine. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

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Most tannery employees face unhealthy conditions. Here, a worker stands knee-deep in a soaking solution. The hides are then hung overhead to dry. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

Most tannery employees face unhealthy conditions. Here, a worker stands knee-deep in a soaking solution. The hides are then hung overhead to dry. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

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Open sores and peeling skin are common among workers who handle tanning chemicals without gloves. Some say their hands become so stiff that they cannot open their fingers unless their skin is wet. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

Open sores and peeling skin are common among workers who handle tanning chemicals without gloves. Some say their hands become so stiff that they cannot open their fingers unless their skin is wet. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

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A barefoot worker stands inside an 8-foot tall-tumbling drum filled with chromium (III) sulfate and other chemicals. Workers often have to crawl inside the drums to remove hides. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

A barefoot worker stands inside an 8-foot tall-tumbling drum filled with chromium (III) sulfate and other chemicals. Workers often have to crawl inside the drums to remove hides. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

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The situation in Hazaribagh is not unlike that in parts of India. This woman protects herself with gloves and sheet plastic as she plucks hair by hand from goat hides soaked in an alkaline solution to loosen the fibers, at a processing facility in Tamil Nadu. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

The situation in Hazaribagh is not unlike that in parts of India. This woman protects herself with gloves and sheet plastic as she plucks hair by hand from goat hides soaked in an alkaline solution to loosen the fibers, at a processing facility in Tamil Nadu. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

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Primitive factories boil leather scraps to make glue. Here, a worker carries a basket of scraps to an enormous cauldron atop a brick oven at a glue factory near the Kolkata Leather Complex in India. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

Primitive factories boil leather scraps to make glue. Here, a worker carries a basket of scraps to an enormous cauldron atop a brick oven at a glue factory near the Kolkata Leather Complex in India. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

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While leather buyers in the U.S. and elsewhere are working to clean up their supply chains, the inequities of the global leather market persist. Tanneries in Hazaribagh still dump wastewater into ditches that, in turn, empty into open canals. Here, a worker carries buckets of waste from a tannery. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

While leather buyers in the U.S. and elsewhere are working to clean up their supply chains, the inequities of the global leather market persist. Tanneries in Hazaribagh still dump wastewater into ditches that, in turn, empty into open canals. Here, a worker carries buckets of waste from a tannery. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

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A boy stands on a pile of leather scraps beside a canal in Hazaribagh. Reforms are coming slowly — perhaps too slowly — to places like this, but for now, waste from unregulated leather tanneries continue to make this district one of the most intensely polluted places on Earth. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

A boy stands on a pile of leather scraps beside a canal in Hazaribagh. Reforms are coming slowly — perhaps too slowly — to places like this, but for now, waste from unregulated leather tanneries continue to make this district one of the most intensely polluted places on Earth. Image by Larry C. Price. Bangladesh, 2016.

Common Core Standards:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6: Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7: Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

Objective:

You will be able to assess how journalists integrate diverse media and structure text in order to analyze the impacts of leather production in Bangladesh

Warm up:

  1. Leather hunt: What are you wearing today that might be made of leather? What do you have with you and/or in your classroom that might be made of leather? Make a list of items. Be sure to look for items you may not immediately realize have leather in them.

  2. Where does the leather you find come from? Check the labels and add the origin of your leather products to your list.

  3. What is leather? What is it made out of? What process does it go through before it is available in a store? Research and then be prepared to share your responses with the class.

  4. Imagine what it might look like to work in a place that prepares leather. Write a short paragraph describing how you imagine the place. Consider the following as you prepare the details you want to include in your paragraph:

    1. What is the structure of the place where leather is prepared? Is it indoor/outdoor? What tools might be involved?

    2. Who is involved in preparing leather? How?

    3. What dangers might people face in preparing leather? What might people need to do their work safely?

Journalists Debbie Price and Larry Price traveled to Hazaribagh in Bangladesh to visit a leather tannery that the government in Bangladesh is hoping to close and relocate.

  1. Click on the article and look at the first image:

    1. What do you see? What do you notice about the structure?

    2. Who is in the image and what are their roles in preparing leather?

    3. What elements are keeping people safe/unsafe?

    4. How does the image compare to what you imagined in the warm up?
       

Introducing the resource:

The authors of the article you will read today use images and text to examine the economic, environmental and human impacts of tanneries in Hazaribagh. Before reading the article, make a prediction about what you think the author’s purpose of the article will be? Use evidence from the opening image to justify your prediction.

As you review the article, write your responses to the comprehension questions attached. Be prepared to discuss the following when you finish reading:

  1. How do the authors balance arguments for and against closing the tanneries in Hazaribagh? (Use the table below to help keep track of evidence.)

  2. What do you think is the intended purpose for the article? How do the authors balance text and photos to communicate their purpose?

Factor impacting the tanneries

Reasons to close the tanneries

Reasons to keep the tanneries open

Economic

   

Environmental

   

Human

   
 

Discussion Questions:
 

  1. What is sticking with you from the article? What lines from the article made the biggest impact on you and why? Which photo made the biggest impact on you and why?

  2. What do you think the authors want the reader to think about after reading the article? Use evidence from the article to support your arguments.

  3. How do the images contribute to the author’s purpose?

  4. What are the biggest challenges facing workers in the tanneries? What do you see as potential solutions, and who would need to be involved to make those solutions happen? What are potential barriers to the solutions you identified?

Extension exercises:

  1. Billboard Design Pitch

What part of the investigation into tanneries is sticking with you most? Identify one piece of the reporting that you would most like to share with your community and design a billboard that incorporates one photo and one quote from the article. The billboard should clearly communicate the aspect of the article that you want your community to know about. Write a short paragraph pitching the idea of this billboard to a leader in your community. Explain to the community leader why you think this billboard would benefit your community.

  1. Postcard Campaigns:

You have been assigned the job of communicating with a variety of audiences using information from the article. Select an image and quote that could be used to design postcards for each of the following purposes:

  • Inform people in Bangladesh about the impact of tanneries on water

  • Inform your local community about the process of creating leather

  • Advocate to keep the tanneries in Hazaribagh open for one more year

  • Advocate for the immediate closing of the tanneries in Hazaribagh

  • Persuade your local community to donate to organizations that advocate for more labor restrictions in tanneries.

  • Persuade your local community to purchase leather products from Bangladesh

  1. Policy Proposal

Imagine you have been hired as an advocate for the workers at the tannery in Hazaribagh. Identify at least three challenges from the article/photos that the workers face. Use evidence from the article, as well as your own research, to identify potential solutions for each challenge. Research government and non-government organizations that might be able to support one or more of the solutions you have researched. Craft your solutions into a short proposal for that organization.

4) Leather Hunt revisited:

Go back to the items you identified at the start of the lesson. Select at least three items and investigate the origin of the leather for these items. Devise a list of questions you would like to ask the companies that produced the products you’ve selected. Do you want to know about the working conditions for workers? The wages for workers? The amount of leather the company gets from Bangladesh? Identify a representative for the company and call to ask your questions. Be prepared to share your responses with the class.

Educator Notes: 

This lesson asks students to evaluate how journalists Debbie M. Price and Larry C. Price structure details in order to analyze the human and environmental impacts of leather tanneries in Bangladesh. The lesson is designed for students to explore independently, but also suggests opportunities for discussion and collaboration. By the end of this lesson, students will be able to investigate arguments for and against closing tanneries in Bangladesh. They will also be able to analyze how authors structured text and images to achieve specific purposes. Extension activities ask students to use evidence from the article for a variety of different objectives. The lesson is aligned with the following Common Core standards: 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6

Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7

Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

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