Fast fashion is a term that captures a reality of competitive capitalism, involving speed in bringing ramp fashion to stores. Simply meaning the company that brings the most forward fashion trends to their stores the fastest leads the market. Unethical practices in supply chain management (which plays the most critical roles in topping the game of fast fashion) in the textile industry is a reality pumped by the consumerist need for fast fashion. Children, especially girls(perhaps because they are seen as a liability) are trafficked from small villages by professional contractors who promise them fair wages, regular work, nutritious food and access to schools and play but at the time of delivering, fail miserably. [Feature Image Credit: Pinterest]
According to UNICEF reports, approximately 170 million children globally are engaged in child labour. Guardian reports about 135000 children are trafficked in India each year. This is not just for feeding their nimble fingers at cotton picking or cloth cutting, it also extends to working employed in flesh trade or hazardous jobs like factories of MICA mining.
Padma (name changed), a rescued victim of child trafficking tells ShethePeople:
Children are treated as bonded labor, forced labor and many even face sexual harassment. Girls who live in hostels provided by the factories are most affected, as they are abused by the supervisor, factory owners and even male staff members. None of the children get more than Rs.10 a day
Before you assume a moral high ground and blame the parents for selling their children off to these experiences, it would be pertinent to point out that an issue as complex as trafficking cannot be looked at in isolation. Things such as poverty, family displacement, alcoholism at home and so much more are at play for such families. In the words of senior journalist and social researcher Pamela Philipose, it is ‘their economic circumstances together with our social fabric.’ She also says:
Slavery is alive and kicking, it has only changed its form. It is not the supply pull, but demand push factor that is at play.
The solution? Complex as well. We can do with a starting point. Mona Gupta, officer on special duty at the Apparel exports promotion council suggests one:
Awareness and capacity building at all levels.
While Pamela reckons:
We need community based solutions. People need to own the process.
So the next time you feel like changing your wardrobe, it might be a good idea to read up about the brands you frequent and stay away from those that engage children as labour. It’s a small step, but might go a long way in making a difference.