Tag Archives: textile industry

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:


Toxics in dyes and in textile finishing

In China they say you can tell what the colour trends of the season are by looking at the colours of the rivers.

Textile processors are those who finish the textile, clean it, bleach it, dye it or treat it until they achieve the fabric handle intended, a fluid structure of the material, a soft gloss or a bright white as well as easy ways to take care of the piece. The specific finishing of a piece of clothing determines whether our pullover feels soft, whether our blouse is wrinkle-free or whether our T-shirt is machine washable. Again and again tests have detected harmful substances in our clothes, which continue to have a toxic effect even after several machine washes… and we wear these clothes every day!

It’s shocking but it’s true – the textile industry uses 250,000 tonnes of dye per year to process textiles as well as 4 million tonnes of textile auxiliaries, lye and salts for the textile finishing. After this process 20% of the dye and 80% of the chemicals used are led into the sewage.

Cancer-causing dyes, plasticisers that lead to infertility or diabetes, or chemicals which can cause allergic reactions… they all are used during the finishing process and eventually come into contact with us, the consumers. We are not aware of this… because these hazardous chemicals are not listed on the clothing label. Even if wearing these clothes might not damage the health directly, these chemicals enter the sewage at the very latest when we wash the clothes and then they accumulate in the environment and consequently find their way into our food chain. As a result they can be found in human blood and tissue!

“Detox” is a Greenpeace campaign that calls producers around the world to use safe substances instead of toxic ones which can harm the human body. Meanwhile fourteen companies have committed to avoid all hazardous chemicals and to change their production practices until 2020. This might be a drop in the ocean… but we at EARTHBACK hope that far more companies will follow suit!

Video about the detox campaign: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxFWo4sCzCs

The new textile guide by Greenpeace shows which textile labels really offer toxic-free clothing: