Photographer Sharmistha Dutta, commissioned by C&A Foundation, sheds light on forced and child labour, as well as women’s inequality within the fashion industry in India. Here she shares with us the incredible personal stories of love, struggle and hope for the future from the individuals she has encountered.
The clothes that we wear often begin their journey, in the vast cotton fields of Madhya Pradesh, India. Cotton seeds are sown by tiny calloused hands belonging to children that should be in school.
Before the onset of the monsoon season, the cotton fields see a flurry of activity, as farmers prepare the fields. In the largest cotton producing state in India the majority of the farmers are extremely poor, and the cotton fields are a hotbed of forced and child labour as parents are forced to send their children to work at farms, alongside adults.
Children end up doing hard labour, like preparing the soil, sowing seeds, and grazing cattle throughout the day. In the village Nadipura, live Rakesh, Mukesh, Seema and Besri, who are all under 14 years old. Early in the morning, instead of attending school, they are responsible for grazing goats.
Child Protection Committees (CPCs) & Children’s Groups (CGs) have been formed in the villages to monitor & prevent child labour. Across this region, these groups and committees identify vulnerable children, like Rakesh, Mukesh, Semma and Besri and educate their families about child’s rights and the need to send them to schools. They also educate and link the affected families to various social security schemes.
The stories of Rakesh, Mukesh, Semma and Besri reminds us of the vulnerabilities that farmers and their families in the supply chain experience. C&A Foundation works together with Save The Children and Mahatma Gandhi Sewa to tackle this complex issue. To see more images from Sharmistha visit our Instagram account.