The fashion industry is big business. Most of us are on the lookout for the perfect summer outfit. However, weaved throughout the fashion supply chain there is the exploitation of the most vulnerable. STOP THE TRAFFIK has been campaigning to raise awareness of this exploitation and give a voice to those who go unheard.
STOP THE TRAFFIK’s Make Fashion #TraffikFree campaign is concentrating on the beginning stages of the fashion supply chain, with a focus on the Tamil Nadu region in India. This region accounts for over 65% of India’s spinning units and 60% of India’s knitted products. Many young women and girls end up working within the Tamil Nadu region as they are employed under the Sumangali Scheme. This is an attractive scheme for those in rural communities, and struggle to cope with the oppression of poverty and the practice of dowry.
The Sumangali scheme exploits the poorest and most vulnerable. Many of the young girls within the scheme are recruited and given a small allowance, with the promise of a lump sum at the end of their scheme, or at the time of their marriage. However, according to research less than 35% ever receive their payment.
The Scheme is marketed to be very appealing. Often the recruiters will travel to rural communities and present families with colourful brochures with decorative words. They make promises of a steady wage and employment. But in reality, once these girls are part of the scheme they are subjected to the worst forms of abuse. Including chronic illness due to poor health and safety, one woman has described having over 4kg of cotton fibre removed from her stomach. The girls are often victims to harassment and physical abuse. This often leaves them physiologically traumatised.
Yet, the Sumangali scheme continues to thrive as it offers young women from the poorest communities the opportunity to earn a dowry and get married. The practice of dowry although illegal since 1961, still persists within India. Due to the difficulties for young women and their families to escape this system, the employers exploit this social requirement, and offer them money to pay for a dowry. This is ultimately exploiting the strong cultural desire for young women to have an investment for marriage.
There has been an increase in demand for younger workers, as many employers believe them to be more submissive, and therefore easier to control. These girls begin the scheme with the expectation that they will be working and living in safe conditions. Yet, in reality these girls are forced to work 12 hour days (the legal limit is 8). They have to stay in hostels within the factory premises, and are often guarded. This enables the factories to force them to work unrealistic hours for little or no pay. Many of the young women’s families believe that they are being well looked after, and are living in a safe environment; however this could not be further from the case.
These girls’ stories often go unheard.
We must listen.
YOU must listen.
Together we can put an end to schemes like this.
Together we can STOP THE TRAFFIK!
Show your support, and join our Make Fashion #TraffikFree campaign!
Check out our cotton campaign here