Blog: Sophie reports from India

FWF’s Sophie Koers travelled to Chennai, Tamil Nadu, to meet up with FWF’s India coordinator Stefanie Karl and the rather diverse India team.

‘Today the FWF India team is having its annual meeting, led by Stefanie Karl. The common language is English, as the team members come from places as far apart as Delhi, Goa, Bangalore, Tirupur and Chennai and between them speak at least eight different languages.

Saris and jeans

As India is also one of the countries where FWF is implementing its Workplace Education Programme with a special focus on workplace harassment and violence against women, there are two FWF country representatives. Suhasini Singh, based in Bangalore, is responsible for Projects and Training, while dr. Rituparna Majumdar coordinates Audits and Research from Delhi.

The rest of the team is as diverse a group as you’ll find: one older team member used to be a general manager at a factory. Some others used to be garment workers themselves. Some have academic backgrounds, others are specialised in occupational health and safety or in women’s rights. There are men, women, dressed in traditional sari or in jeans and shirt.

No maternity leave

As the team is sharing stories, there is a lot of laughter about the sometimes bizarre situations the auditors find themselves in. During one recent audit, for example, the North India team noticed that there had been not a single instance of a worker taking maternity leave in the past year.
When asked about this, the factory manager insisted that this was not proof of a violation: there simply hadn’t been a pregnant worker – not a very credible position in a factory with hundreds of young, female workers. When pressed, the manager exclaimed: ‘so what do you want me to do? Do you want me to get the workers pregnant myself?’

But despite the laughter that ensues, it is clear from the stories that are shared and the questions that are asked, that this is a team consisting solely of people who are completely committed to improving the lives of garment workers in India.’

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