The University of Nottingham’s (UoN) ‘Stop The Traffik’ society is set to hold a clothes swap on 11th March to raise awareness for the Sumangali Scheme in Tamil Nadu, India.

Organisers of the UoN campaign hope that students will donate their unwanted clothes and in return swap these for new clothes, or use the tokens they will be given for their donations prior to the event.

President of the University of Nottingham’s ‘Stop The Traffik’ society, Elliot Emery, told Impact: “Students should care about this campaign because it affects every one of us. Right now we could all be wearing clothes tainted by trafficking, yet we have no idea”.

On an international level, ‘Stop The Traffik’ is a campaigning organisation in partnership with the UN that aims to prevent the sale of people, protect the victims of trafficking and prosecute the traffickers.

As part of their campaign, ‘Stop The Traffik’ want retailers to sign up to their ‘Make Fashion Traffik-Free’ protocol, committing them to ensuring transparency, protection of labour rights and effective monitoring throughout their supply chain.

“I think we as consumers have a powerful voice and together we can make fashion traffik-free”

Third year Psychology student Maddi Seeley said: “I think we as consumers have a powerful voice and together we can make fashion traffik-free.”

The ‘Make Fashion Traffik-Free’ campaign also seeks to raise awareness of trafficking in the cotton industry through the ‘Sumangali Scheme’.

According to the ‘Make Fashion Traffik-Free’ report, under this apprenticeship scheme in Tamil Nadu, India, unmarried girls aged 14 – 23 are persuaded by recruitment brokers to work in cotton factories.

Their parents are reported to have been coerced into signing their daughters up in return for a lump sum payment, necessary as a ‘dowry’ for their child, at the end of the workers’ 3 – 5 year term. However, less than 35% of workers receive this.

The victims are said to live in “guarded”, factory-run hostels, severely limiting their freedom of movement and are often not allowed to leave these premises unattended. Workers can rarely access outside help due to “limited contact” with families.

Employees are forced to work illegal hours – 12 or more – with compulsory overtime and even restrictions on toilet breaks.

“We hope this campaign will make people take notice and most critically, take action”

Harassment is common as workers are managed by male supervisors who choose their own method of exerting control. There have also been reports of verbal, physical and sexual abuse.

Ruth Dearnley, CEO of ‘Stop The Traffik’, said: “We hope this campaign will make people take notice and most critically, take action. We want to bolster consumer awareness and change the lives of those working in these factories in India”.

Emma Hancox

Image: manhhai via Flickr

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