Ending the Sumangali Scheme
DSN-UK is delighted to partner READ- Rights Education and Development Centre In Tamil Nadu, South India,...
DSN-UK is delighted to partner READ- Rights Education and Development Centre
In Tamil Nadu, South India, textile and garment products for big brands and retailers are being made by girls and young women from low caste backgrounds under exploitative working conditions. Workers are recruited from poverty-stricken areas within as well as outside of the state of Tamil Nadu. They are recruited under the so-called ‘Sumangali Thittam’ or ‘Marriage Scheme’ whereby workers are recruited with the promise that they will receive a considerable amount of money after completion of three to five years of employment. This exploitative scheme is tantamount to bonded labour because employers withhold part oof the workers’ wages until the end of the ‘contract’. Workers are severely restricted in their freedom of movement and privacy. The majority of the workers are dalit (outcaste) girls younger than 18 from poor families who are lured in with the promises of a decent wage and the lump sum payment upon completion of the contract that may be used for their dowry.
Inspired by the work of grassroot organisation READ – Rights Development and Education Centre – we applied for funding to TRAID and I am pleased to announce the application was successful. And so in October 2013 we started a programme to last over 3 years to address the forced labour of girls and young women in mills.
Here is the publication of a Baseline Study on the Status of Young Women and Girls working under Sumangali Scheme at textile industries in Erode District issued in 2014.
Meet Manju, an ex-sumangali worker. She was still only 13 at the time of her rescue. She had been working at a mill for over two years but ‘escaped’ in October 2013 and, with READ’s help, she and others are now back at regular school.
Please read a report of the National Consultation: ‘End all forms of forced labour in the garment sector’ here.