Best wishes for the New Year from all at Homeworkers Worldwide.
In December, Jane Tate of HWW visited two of our partners working in Tamil Nadu, India see how work is progressing to support women workers in the textile and garment industry.
READ Foundation are working in the rural area of Pudukkottai. Many young women and girls from this area are recruited to work in the large factories and mills around Tiripur.
International competition for cheap prices and fast production is leading to major exploitation and human rights abuses in the industry. Young women, living on-site in hostels, are subject to forced overtime, low wages, poor living conditions and the denial of basic freedoms.
READ is working in the rural villages to organise these women, help them access social security schemes and educate them about their rights as workers. This is challenging work, as the women can only be contacted if they leave the factories or come home for rare holidays, such as for Diwali. READ is also pursuing legal cases for over 100 women who have not received their proper pay from their employer.
Jane also visited SAVE in Tiripur, who are working with homeworkers and informal workshop workers. Over 500 women have been organised into 37 Self Help Groups to date, estimated at around 1% of the homeworker population of Tirupur.
Most of the women are working in small homebased workshops or in their own homes on work subcontracted by the large factories. Some of this work is for national markets, some for export to high street retailers in the UK and elsewhere.
Whilst the majority of the groups were only formed in 2012, already the women are experiencing real benefits from their involvement in the Self Help Groups. The groups often act as a savings scheme, help women access government social security programmes and also enable some women to come together to negotiate better pay from the companies they work for.
In particular the women talk about the impact on their sense of strength, unity and confidence. “Before we didn’t talk to each other. Now we have a spirit of unity and help each other.”