Scarves for a brighter future

Bindy Taylor has seen first-hand the effects of modern day slavery on those working in India’s lucrative clothing production industry. She shares her story with Revive.

My first experience of travelling to India was with a group of 24 women on an eight-day human trafficking educational trip in August 2013. As a group, we travelled to the remote region of  Tamil Nadu, the hub of the estimated $115 billion textile industry in India’s central south region where approximately 2,000 spinning mills employ between 50 and 2,000 workers.

Whilst in  Tamil Nadu I met a group of factory workers who had been employed at local spinning mills. These girls and women shared stories of being coerced into one, two and three year, live-in  employment contracts which found them working in prisonlike conditions, earning less than $4 Australian a day. They were forced to work seven days a week, 16-hours a day with just three  meals, which often consisted of bland, semi-cooked rice.

Their breaks were timed and lateness was greeted with cuts to their already meagre wage. Daily abuse by supervisors, poor health and inhumane living conditions forced the workers to break  their contracts early. At least 80% of factory workers never meet the end of their contracts. This breach results in workers missing out on the lump sum payments promised to them at the  beginning of their employment. These girls and women face uncertain futures with few job options, no modes of transport and little money for basic needs.

What I experienced in India left me feeling consumed with sadness and empathy. The people I met were just like me but heavily disadvantaged because of their birthplace. Last year, a group of  volunteers and I started a not-for-profit organisation, My Sister’s Scarf. The organisation was established with a vision to sell scarves to generate income and employment opportunities for  girls and women affected by human trafficking within the textile industry. The organisation also raises awareness around modern day slavery in the clothing production industry.

My Sister’s Scarf is currently in the process of starting a retail website to sell ethically made scarves. Profits and donations will be channelled back into starting a sewing co-operative in Tamil Nadu, which will offer employment for girls and women who have been negatively affected by the clothing production industry.

For more information and to keep updated with the progress of My Sister’s Scarf sign up for the newsletter at http://mysistersscarf.org.au/.

Top Image: A woman working in a sewing co-operative in the Tamil Nadu region of India.

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