The small village of Thumalapatti in southern India used to rely on agriculture for livelihoods among its 310 families, but with failing crops, many families now rely on the young women going to work in the spinning mills. There are few other opportunities for women because it is frowned upon for them to travel independently to nearby towns. Young women rarely get the chance to go to college, and child marriage is also common because parents worry about their girls if they are not quickly married.
Child Voice, a local NGO working in the village, is committed to expanding opportunities for children. They are especially concerned to help with the recovery of adolescent girls who have worked under exploitative conditions in some of the textile mills. Last year, with support from the Freedom Fund, Child Voice engaged with parents, village leaders and others in the village to create support groups for the girls who are working in spinning mills. Even creating the groups was a challenging feat, since the group’s members belong to different castes who don’t usually talk to each other.
During these group meetings, Child Voice staff and community members discussed solutions to the community’s issues that could help protect the young working girls and generate alternatives for those facing the greatest risks. Since most families would rather not send their daughters to existing training centers in other areas, the community came together and decided to establish a training center in Thumalappati itself. Child Voice supplied the machines, the community sponsored the venue, and together they raised funds to hire an instructor. With the community’s assistance, a tailoring training centre was established, with an initial 19 working girls attending the training in two shifts to learn about garment making. With tailoring skills, the girls might either be able to work for themselves independently or apply for higher paying and potentially better jobs in garment factories.
The training centre was welcomed in by the community, and currently 27 girls including from three nearby villages have enrolled for classes. The community is now paying attention to the general welfare of girls, and the girls themselves are building self-confidence and thinking about their future possibilities, including employment options outside of working in the mills.
The Freedom Fund’s hotspot in southern India aims to reduce bonded labour in textiles, especially affecting girls and young women in spinning mills. Find out more about our Southern India Hotspot here.
Photo credit: Ginny Baumann