In the western world, the only garment factory news we hear is bad news. It’s factory collapses and fires, unlivable wages, and child labor. Without meaning to, it results in us pitying the entire workforce for the conditions they appear subject to. There’s no doubt we have a ways to go until every factory is run ethically, but between our recent trip to India and some great articles by the New York Times here and here, we felt encouraged to offer you an alternate point of view of the garment workers themselves. So, here’s some hurdles rural Indian women face to earn factory jobs and why you should be inspired by them, not view them as charity.
1 | The Freedom to Choose Work
A study from the International Labour Organization found that working women in India has slipped to only 27% of the workforce, placing them 17th to the bottom in a study of 189 countries. A big contributing factor to these numbers is how big city factory jobs clash harshly with village morals, as we learn from The New York Times:
And in trying to convince the parents to allow their daughters to go learn a skill and provide income for the families they got push back and concern that looked like this:
2 | The Freedom to Stay
Even if the girls get the opportunity to try out working, many do not stay. The girls themselves face normal fears we all face with journeying to a new land; fear and the urge to return to the comforts of home. But also, the fear and skepticism sits right under the surface of their families back home, and any word of illness or concern sends them straight back. As does the summoning to be married.
3 | Leaving Their Family
The fact that they have to journey across India to get these jobs in the first place is already facing an uphill battle. Can you imagine if your only options were to live in poverty (or close to it) or journey halfway across the country by yourself to work in a land that was terrifying and strange? These girls are incredibly brave and should be given an award for the advancement they’re making in women’s rights in their communities and their country.
4 | Becoming the Breadwinner
Many factory jobs may offer the legal minimum wage of 7,187 rupees per month (approximately $108) to start. This may not seem like a lot but to the girls this is huge, more than most of their fathers make back home where many men work as field hands for lack of job options. As you can imagine this is very degrading culturally to the men in their family and these societal pressures will often keep girls from being allowed to work unless they are in absolute abject poverty and have no other choice. Upon receiving their first paychecks, many girls rush to send money home, charge up minutes on their family’s cell phones, and buy a little something for themselves. They are so elated to be given a wage they cannot wait to keep working and make more.
Our team is very passionate about advocating for both women and men by providing more accessible ethical job opportunities that support them, their families, and their future. If you are interested in learning more about how you can begin responsibly manufacturing through us and providing opportunity in the developing world please reach out to us today.