The lack of transparency and traceability in complex fashion supply chains means forced labour can go unseen and unpunished. This has to change. And it can.
We're working with partners across the industry to tackle the root causes of forced labour. At the same time, we're supporting victims, giving them the help they need to recover and go on to thrive.
Hidden out of sight and often out of reach, the Global Slavery Index estimates that 45.8 million people are trapped in situations of modern-day slavery. In apparel, as in many other industries, children and adults are forced to work at all levels of the supply chain, from cotton fields and spinning mills to workshops and factories.
Forced labour thrives in areas where there are severe social and economic inequalities, opaque business practices, weak rule of law, and high demand for cheap labour. We all want to put an end to this, but to do so, we must challenge deep-seated cultural and social norms, and improve transparency within the apparel supply chain. To tackle forced labour, we have to shine a light on it.
Forced labour is a silent and hidden crime. We need to make the challenges, as well as the solutions visible. To everyone who has a role in eradicating it, from policymakers and businesses, to consumers and communities.
In communities most affected by forced labour, we are supporting local efforts to increase rights awareness and prevention. With Freedom Fund, for example, we provide training to girls and women in vulnerable communities, and are working with partners to improve worker well-being and empowerment in textile spinning mills.
We're also shining a light on forced labour at a national and international scale. In some regions, media coverage has brought forced labour and human trafficking to the forefront of public attention. In India and South Asia, where over two thirds of the world's slave population resides, we're hoping to do the same by supporting training for local journalists and investigative reporting to increase attention to the issue.
Tackling forced labour demands multi-faceted solutions. We work with a 'hotspot approach', which means we concentrate our efforts in discrete regions where we work with NGOs, businesses and governments, fostering knowledge sharing and collaboration.
Right now, we work with Terre des Hommes and the Freedom Fund in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. With limited access to education and few employment options, young girls and women from this region are exploited in bonded labour at cotton spinning mills through a scheme called Sumangali.
We're also setting up our second hotspot in Sao Paulo, Brazil where tens of thousands of Bolivian immigrants work in small sewing shops in sub-standard conditions for meagre pay.
Eradicating forced labour is a long and arduous fight. Despite the progress we've made in the fashion industry, there is much more to do. Migrants, women and children from marginalized communities are particularly vulnerable, and need assistance to escape situations of forced labour and break cycles of exploitation.
We work with several organisations to identify and rehabilitate survivors of forced and child labour. Thanks to our partnerships in Tamil Nadu, India, “Sumangali” survivors have hope of a better life. Women and young girls receive counselling, as well as education and training so that they can earn a living that supports their freedom.
26-10-16 Despite global efforts, forced labour still persists in the fashion supply chain. In a series of articles, Triple Pundit examines this practice and what is being done to stop ...
09-03-16 Triple Pundit’s Jan Lee examines forced and child labour in the garment industry in the sixth article of the cotton series, sponsored by C&A Foundation
05-03-15 The Freedom Fund partners with retail industry to tackle forced labour in southern India.