Every year, schemes known as ‘sumangali thittam’ (marriage plans) lure thousands of girls from poor rural communities into the garment industry with the promise of earning their own dowry (marriage payment) at the end of a three-year apprenticeship.
These schemes claim to enhance the welfare of girls by giving them the chance to get married. The reality is that they will work and live in terrible conditions in mills, with no legal protection or education, returning home years later empty-handed.
TRAID funded the International Childcare Trust to lobby government leaders and institutions in the Dindigul district of Tamil Nadu to end bonded labour schemes. The project established a network of local, regional and national organisations to campaign with one voice to outlaw ‘sumangali thittam’.
Alongside advocacy work and changes to the law to protect the rights of children, the project worked at village level to persuade families not to allow their children to enter contracts. It also worked to encourage local institutions, businesses, community leaders and families to help outlaw child labour in spinning mills.
The project also provided vital support to girls working in the textile mills, including healthcare, legal advice and skills training to enable them to find alternative employment opportunities.
Ultimately, this project worked to prevent children from joining these schemes in the first place, by improving education, providing alternative livelihood options and raising awareness about the reality of this work – enabling them to grow up in a safe, secure and nurturing environment.