// Shop Direct and Next work together to improve conditions for young women in South India’s fabric mills
// Textile firm Varner is also involved in the partnership with non-governmental organisation SAVE
// The first phase partnership has engaged 9500 people and they are gearing up for a second phase
Shop Direct and Next have engaged almost 9500 people in the first phase of a project to improve employment conditions for young women in South India’s fabric mills.
The project, done in partnership with textile firm Varner and non-governmental organisation SAVE, now gearing up for a second phase that’s due to launch later this year.
Phase one began in July 2018 and focused on two mills and five villages in the state of Tamil Nadu.
Approximately 950 workers have since received training and support to boost life skills, confidence and awareness of employment rights, with the aim of enhancing peer interaction, improving relationships between workers and managers and establishing better policies, procedures and grievance handling systems.
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This was supported by village-based outreach to more than 8500 people, designed to raise awareness of issues affecting female mill workers among potential employees, their families and local communities.
Village committees were established to ensure the protection of child rights and observance of labour laws, while families with young children took part in interactive sessions on personal development, health and life skills as well as to learn about issues related to underage employment.
Other community and school activity included mass awareness days on gender equality, child rights and labour welfare, using digital content and actor performances.
The project also worked with mill recruitment agents to ensure fair, ethical recruitment practices, create a pool of preferred agents and establish a code of conduct, regulated by a committee.
The second phase, to launch before the end of 2019, will involve working with an additional mill as well as the mills and villages from phase one.
This will include an education programme for children aged six to 15, the launch of an app for workers to provide feedback and setting up community centres and resource groups.
“The feedback we’ve received from mill workers and local communities involved with our programme has been very positive and we’re now working hard to finalise plans for the next phase,” Shop Direct head of CSR Carly Bilsbrough said.
“In the longer term, we’re keen to work with other retailers, mills and communities in Tamil Nadu to improve the lives of young women and their families on an even greater scale.”
Next head of CSR Chris Grayer said: “As part of our commitment to protect human rights in our supply chain, Next continues to work in collaboration with other retailers to further research and establish best practice for worker recruitment in South India’s fabric mills.
“The success already achieved from the first year’s work has provided benefits, underlining the value of collaboration and recognising the efforts of all stakeholders who have worked together on this programme.”