Labour activism and women in the unorganised sector: garment export industry in Bangalore

Labour activism and women in the unorganised sector: garment export industry in Bangalore

NGO activism for increased rights for women in the garment industry, Bangalore, India

This paper explores the forms of NGO activism and empowerment programmes that are being implemented to help women in Bangalore’s garments export sector gain increased rights. A number of NGOs and new trade unions are acting in the apathetic vacuum left by government and trade union apathy to the problem. However, NGO activism often focuses on developmentalism of a certain kind, including credit associations, slum or neighbourhood development, internationalising the issue of workers’ rights. They do not focus on encouraging confrontational struggles over wages and working conditions. The NGOs' genre of activism is based on a broad understanding of the informal sector, where a large number are self-employed, as one in which the employer-employee or capital-labour relationship is opaque, if not absent. However, this understanding and activism may indeed be limited in a context where capital is internationalised and labour is recast, into contractual, casualised, and in this case, feminised, workforce.

The authors provide a background of women and the garment industry in Bangalore, as well as an overview of the evolution of labour activism among women in the garment industry.

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