The Freedom Fund’s hotspot in Tamil Nadu, southern India, aims to reduce bonded labour in textiles, especially affecting girls and young women in spinning mills. This hotspot is made possible through funding from C & A Foundation.
The textile industry in the state of Tamil Nadu provides vital jobs and incomes, especially in poorer communities. However, parts of the industry are also a hotspot for various forms of bonded labour. Tens of thousands of girls and young women have been recruited into employment schemes in the textile industry that result in forced labour, excessive hours of work and extremely low pay – often with appalling effects on their mental and physical health.
To prepare for the program, the Freedom Fund commissioned ASK India to carry out a study of the textile industry in Tamil Nadu, consulting with a large number of organisations that are working to end bonded labour in the industry. The study found that spinning mills and power looms have a higher level of bonded labour than other parts of the garment supply chain. It also found that efforts by concerned retailers and brands to improve worker protections have generally not yet reached beyond their immediate suppliers, especially due to their limited influence further up the supply chain.
Through a comprehensive strategy, this three-year hotspot program will work closely with a wide range of organisations and businesses to reduce young workers’ vulnerability to exploitation, strengthen mechanisms for worker protection, and help survivors to emerge from abuse.
In each community: Working with approximately 13 NGO partners in four districts, the program will develop groups of the most vulnerable families in approximately 397 villages. These groups will take action against the causes of vulnerability, including gender and caste discrimination, the need for alternative incomes, and to access better sources of information about workplaces. They will work with village government to improve education and take action against fraudulent brokers. Adolescent groups will spread awareness of workplace rights, protect each other from risky recruitment, and promote increased access to vocational training. Survivors will be helped with recovery, legal aid, and new sources of income and education.
Working with government: At district and state level, the program will support NGOs, trade unions, and concerned businesses to liaise with officials, so that they implement worker rights and protections, for example, to inspect mill hostels and worksites, and enforce minimum wage laws.
Working with businesses: The program will work with local and international businesses to negotiate the development of worker support groups and supervisor and management training within spinning mills. We will work closely to reinforce international industry collaboration against bonded labour in the supply chain.
Opportunities for partnership in Tamil Nadu
The initiative in Tamil Nadu will support four districts, with an estimated cost of $3.8 million over three years. The C&A Foundation is the first industry partner to work with the Freedom Fund to specifically address a “hotspot” of bonded labour, providing an initial investment of $2.7 million. We seek partners to provide additional funding to scale-up the project beyond the four initial districts, as well as expand strategies and interventions to support survivors and increase the impact of the program.
In order to achieve this, the Freedom Fund is seeking additional partners interested in investing in this initiative.
The 2015 impact report for the Southern India hotspot can be viewed here.