“RAGS: Improving Social Standards in the Indian Ready-Made Garment Sector” is a program of SAI to improve working conditions of workers by reducing gender discrimination and improving factory level processes of engagement with homeworkers in supply chain. Activities focus on classroom and onsite trainings of suppliers and subcontractors on gender discrimination issues.
Mona Gupta is one of SAI's locally-based trainers in India that is engaged in the RAGS Project. SAI Communications Manager Joleen Ong met with Ms. Gupta to discuss theDESCRIPTION: Joleen Ong: Can you describe your role in the RAGS Project, and how you became acquainted with it?Mona Gupta: I have worked in the ready-made garment (RMG) and textile industry for almost two and a half decades. About a year and a half ago, I was involved in the development of SAI and UN Women's Gender Equity Seal, where I gave input about gender issues from an Indian perspective. This was useful for the draft document. My involvement was followed by a presentation on gender in the Indian garment sector, and subsequently Sutradhara - a voluntary initiative - of which I am an Honorary Founding Director - became a partner to SAI's RAGS Project. With Sutradhara, we work on other issue areas that are relevant to India, such as gender and development, market access & micro enterprise development, child labor, home workers, human rights, poverty and sustainable development.
JO: From your experience, what are some of the biggest challenges for workers that you've witnessed in the Indian RMG sector, and how might the RAG Project help to improve some of these conditions?MG: Challenges range from issues such as wages, health and safety, contract workers, migrant workers, to home-based workers. The RAGS Project seeks to address some of these realities and I believe we can help bring about a change.
JO: Over 500 factory managers have participated in the RAGS Project trainings in India - can you describe the impact of this project as seen from your own eyes?MG: Although there has been a growth of awareness in India over the last decade, I think that Indian society has been rather conservative in addressing several areas, including women's rights and equality, understanding workplace harassment and gender discrimination. This is what the RAGS Project seeks to address and to help facilitate understanding with garment factory managers.
As an observer of the RAGS Project, I saw how the core concepts of the project on gender discrimination were initially met with hesitation and surprise by participants. These issues had never been addressed in their own homes or workplaces. Some participants realized that certain actions that were considered 'normal' in the workplace could actually be seen as offensive to women and lead to harassment. This awareness was appreciated.
JO: What do you think is the most challenging part of conducting gender discrimination trainings for this project, and how might this project uniquely/successfully address this?MG: The topic itself - gender discrimination - is a challenge as this is a sensitive issue. It requires sensitivity from the trainer, maturity and experience.
JO: Can you describe the most memorable moment that you've experienced during your time on this project? (e.g. what is a great piece of feedback you've heard from workers, manager, etc?). MG: The most touching moment took place at a training last year. A factory manager that participated in the trainings said that he better understood gender-related rights and workplace harassment resolutions, and talked passionately about how he can guide his daughter to work with dignity.
JO: What are you working on now?MG: I continue to work on initiatives that pertain to sustainable development, compliance and market access for the textile & garment sector, as well as for Indian Textiles & Crafts. View photos from SAI's Facebook page from the RAGS Project: www.facebook.com/socialaccountabilityinternational To learn more about SAI's RAGS Project in the Indian garment sector, visit www.sa-intl.org/indiarags. For more information, please contact SAI Communications Manager Joleen Ong- JOng@sa-intl.org.
Social Accountability International
KEYWORDS: Fashion & Apparel, garment sector, Apparel, gender discrimination, Gender, womens rights, Gender equity, rags project, India, new delhi, bangalore, dfid
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