Tag Archives: problem clothing

Inhuman working conditions , continuation of the story about the Sumangali girls

In our last post we have already dealt with the Sumangali system in India. Nevertheless we need to look at it more closely, so we thought this topic is worth another blog!

As already mentioned, girls in the Sumangali system are living and working in inhuman conditions. They are treated as slaves and are at the mercy of this exploitative system. An initiative in the state of Tamil Nadu has proposed standards for Sumangali girls: In an area of about ten by ten feet should not live more than twelve girls and share a toilet, a sink, a bucket and a mug!

Maybe you should read this sentense a second time…after all this should be a suggested improvement! This enables us to see how the circumstances might be for this girls. As women of the western world it´s hard to imagine that other women have to abandon themselves in such humiliation.

The so-called ILO labor and social standards defined by the International Labor Organization can provide for certain contitions, in terms of working conditions. Since 1919, this organization have been campaining for the rights of workers around the world – the aim is the indroduction of  minimum social standards worldwide.

These standards can be classified into four basic principles:

  • Freedom of association and right to collective bargaining
  • Elimination of forced labor
  • Abolition of child labor
  • Elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation

These principles are embodied concretely in further conventions, the outcome of this are the ILO core labor standards. They are regarded as so-called universal human rights…but the question is now: if there are such conventions, how then is it possible that despite everything people still are exploited!? These ILO standards are only legally binding if they are ratified by the member states.

It is sad to see that this organization has been trying for what felt like eternity to enforce these standards for a social and fair interpretation and implementation of globalization, as well as the creation of decent work – important standards as prerequisite for poverty reduction. This should actually be in the interests of all, but unfortunately many nations and major corporations still shirk from it, they don´t want to face up to this responsibility and ignore such standards skillfully. This may explain why, for example, conditions such as in India can prevail

More information about the ILO labor standards can be found:


Inhuman working conditions

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

Toxic substances used for the cultivation of fabrics – detrimental effects on people and the environment

Why go for organic materials instead of, for example, conventionally grown cotton?

The basic question to be answered here is… how is the cotton for our clothing actually grown?

Cotton is grown in monocultures, meaning that nothing but cotton is grown in a particular area. About 2,000 litres of water are needed to produce a regular T-shirt, leaving out the amount of water used to dye the fabric later. Due to its long ripening period the cotton plant attracts pests and therefore has to be sprayed on with pesticides 20 to 25 times before the harvest. 24% of all insecticides and 11% of all pesticides are released then. As a result 150g of toxic substance per cotton T-shirt end up seeping into the field. The toxic substances do not only kill off the pests but also the useful insects. A vicious circle is created as consequently more pesticides are spread. The consequences are disastrous to humans and the environment.

  • The use of pesticides puts cotton farmers in high danger… Most agricultural workers are not informed about the risks involved in the use of pesticides and are exposed to them without escape. They work with toxic substances without any protective equipment… Accidents involving these toxic sprays lead to poisoning and even death. Since farmers need to spend more than half their proceeds on further pesticides or fertilisers, they are very reliant on their yield… Without any money no seed can be bought for the next season, interest cannot be paid back – as a last desperate resort many farmers decide to commit suicide!
  • Another dramatic effect concerns our environment: The Aral Sea in Uzbekistan, formerly 66,900 km2 large, serves as an example of this. The heavy cotton cultivation and the consequently high water consumption as well as the tremendous use of fertilisers and pesticides has led the lake to decrease in size which is now less than 20,000 km2. This means the lake has lost more than 80% of its original water volume! Biologically the lake is practically dead. The consequences for the regions around the lake are: Salinised and spoiled soils, the population suffers due to polluted drinking water and poisoned food as well as from epidemic diseases, cancer and physical deformities of newborn babies.



Is it fair that people and our environment make such sacrifices for mass-produced fashion? EARTHBACK says NO!