Suppliers, purchasers and social auditors have difficulty in acknowledging homeworkers, often denying they are part of the textile supply chain. In Delhi, there are approximately 75,000 womenembroidery homeworkers dependent on exploitative middle men for poorly paid piece work. Ignoring these workers at the bottom of the chain means they are unprotected and easy to exploit.
In 2009, TRAID funded a ground breaking project with the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) to help women homeworkers improve their lives and wages. TRAID funding established two embroidery centres to help women secure fairly paid work directly from suppliers, typically doubling wages, and an informal education centre for their children.
The project made tangible progress in addressing the complex problems faced by women homeworkers in extremely poor areas of Delhi. The centres established relationships with suppliers and secured contracts from export houses supplying many high street brands. Over 500 women are now working regularly and are paid fair wages on time. 200 children of women workers are receiving continuous high quality education.
In 2010, TRAID funded the project for two more years to scale the project up, consolidate operations and become completely sustainable by the end of 2012. Phase Two of the project provided over 3,000 women with regular work, and to influence more suppliers to shorten supply chains by dealing directly with homeworkers.
The embroidery centres continued to produce clothes for UK and international brands. At the same time, the project established a company, owned and managed as a cooperative by women homeworkers who will deal directly with, and negotiate piece rates with suppliers. With a shift in entrenched purchasing patterns, and at no extra cost to suppliers, this model of best practice shows that homeworking can lift women and their families out of poverty, rather than consigning them to it.