Sadly, fire in factories, child labor and inhuman working conditions are an everyday occurance in the textile industry. An important question is: How do these people who make clothes for us in India, Bangladesh, etc, live and work?
We can hardly imagine what risks people are exposed to in the so-called low-wage countries just to offer us consumers in the western world one t-shirt at low prieces…fortunately, through their revealing reporting media and organisations call attention to the abuses in the production and processing of textiles in low-wage countries – we as society can and should no longer close our eyes to the facts.
An example of inhuman working conditions in low-wage countries is the Sumangali system in India … Sumangali means „happy bride“. Young girls (15 years and older) are deployed and exploited as cheap labor in factories. They are hired as „apprentices“, thus they receive a low wage and the promise to be paid out a fixed sum (about 400-800€) after three to five years. This money can serve as a dowry for the marriage. The problem with this system is that many girls do not persevere, but dropped out after one to two years and did not even receive a part of the promised wage bill. The girls are treated as slaves and have been systematically sealed-off, and frequently work for 10 to 12 hours per day. They are overtired due to night shift and overtime, they have not a day off and are not allowed to leave the factory premises. Generally, these girls do not get holiday and may return home to their families only twice a year for one to two days. While working they are under constant pressure, each working step is noted and who is late for work, gets the daily wage deducted.
These women are at the mercy of the (arbitrariness of) male supervisor. One speaks of verbal abuse and sexual harassment…also rape! No rights, the constant pressure and the slave-like conditions drive the girls commiting suicide… – these are just some examples of how the conditions for women working under the Sumangali system in india look like. Sumangali is a form of debt bondage or slavery…for us in the western world it is difficult to imagine, but for indian women it is cruel reality.
An exemplary organization campaigning for the economic, social and cultural rights of women is the non-profit association FEMNET e.V. : www.femnet-ev.de