NON DISCRIMINATION: Supporting Young Female Workers in South India

BSCI collaborates with the Tamil Nadu Multi-Stakeholder (TNMS) project, launched by the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), to bring long-term improvements in the working conditions of young women workers employed under the Sumangali scheme. Sumangali is a worker employment practice mainly found in the textile and garment industries in Tamil Nadu, a major textile production hub in the South of India.

Despite being recognised as a practice that supports women as a way out of rural poverty, Sumangali has also been reported by several local and international NGOs as frequently exploitative. As part of it, young women work in Indian textile mills for a number of years to earn a dowry, sometimes in restrictive and unfair labour conditions. A number of labour abuses are associated with this practice, notably  of compensation, excessive working hours and even forced labour. BSCI explicitly rejects such schemes for this reason and works with participants to raise awareness and support change.

What is the TNMS project?

The TNMS project has a three-pronged approach:

  • Grassroots outreach: TNMS is working with local businesses and civil society organisations to coordinate and scale up exciting projects to improve the poor awareness of the risks for young women and increases awareness of their rights before they are employed
  • Supplier engagement and leadership: Working with international brands and retailers, TNMS foresees various capacity building activities at producer level to address the rights of young women in the workplace, improving their ability to be properly represented and have their rights respected
  • Supporting a regulation, inspection and services model: Liaising with local governments and ILO, TNMS  seeks to support the development of models of inspection, as well as making counselling services available to vulnerable women.

Benefits

  • Address a difficult to identify and address labour issue typical of the lower tiers of India's garment supply chains
  • Leverage efforts and resources with other initiatives and systems
  • Develop coherent policies and best practice aligned with other systems

Resources

www.ethicaltrade.org

Additional Measures to Support Female Workers

During 2014 BSCI reinforced its Position Paper on Sumangali, based on consultation with the BSCI Stakeholder Council. Auditors are now required to follow guidance on Sumangali issued by Social Accountability International (SAI) and to list all sub-suppliers a factory uses as well as to verify that a functioning management system is in place.

To further build good labour conditions, on 15 October 2014, BSCI convened a Round Table on “Industry & Labour Conditions in the South Indian Textile Sector”, focusing on current challenges affecting workers in the textile industry including remuneration, working conditions and eradication of Sumangali. It included discussions on ways to improve industry communications and the role of stakeholders and culminated in a call for the formation of a platform including domestic and international support to improve the perception of the industry.

More information - BSCI Position Paper on Sumangali