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Understanding the Sumangali Scheme in Tamil Nadu's garment and textile industry

Issues Nondiscrimination

Kavitha, a 17-year-old girl who had been working in an Indian textile mill for nearly three years, died from injuries sustained at work. She was just 14 when she agreed to work at the mill, yet her family never received the money their daughter worked so hard to earn. Many women like Kavitha are caught up in a dangerous but prevalent system called the Sumangali Scheme, which targets young women and their families by promising a lump sum payment of about US $500-1,000 for three years of work. The money is intended for use by the family to pay the girl’s dowry and enable her to get married. However, a lack of regulation in the region can lead to the exploitation of these women, who often work and live in dangerous conditions and sometimes receive much less money than initially promised.

In May 2012, the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and Solidaridad-South & South East Asia released a research report on the Sumangali Scheme. Written by Solidaridad with support from the FLA, this report provides an overview of the Sumangali Scheme, presents stakeholder views, and offers the perspectives of some of the women and their families who are affected by this practice. The report also presents a set of recommendations for improvements including raising awareness of the Sumangali Scheme at the community level; strengthening government support, and involving stakeholders of the overall supply chain.

SEPTEMBER 25, 2013 UPDATE: Listen to a report from “The World” about young girls caught up in the Sumangali Scheme in India, including an interview with H&M’s Linda Johanssen.

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