Women in India represent 29 percent of the labour force today. More than half of the work done by women in India is not paid for, and almost all of it is informal and unprotected. At present, the overall unemployment rate in India is 7%, but it is as high as 18% among women.
Meet 27-year-old Sapna, based in the suburbs of Kolkata. Sapna, like 1100 other women in her village, packs tiffin for her family members early in the morning, and rushes out of her home to catch the bus. She works at the HP Cotton Casuals factory. Like 95% of her colleagues, this is her first job. She strives for a better life for herself and her family – an unfulfilled dream that she sees everyday. Sapna underwent a 2 week training process, where she learned how to operate machines with the latest technologies. Not only did she acquire these hard skills, but also learnt the relevance of a growth mindset and the value of persistence, preparing herself for 21st century India.
Today she works at HP Cotton Casuals Pvt. Ltd., an enterprise that aims to create a sustainable supply chain of apparel products, while empowering women. While HP Cotton Casuals embraces technology and employs mechanized processes on one hand, it offers a safe, hygienic, clean and comfortable environment at its state of the art facilities for its women workers. Sapna and the others like her earn INR 8,000 monthly compared to the monthly minimum wage of INR 4,000. On days when she stitches some extra sleeves, collars and buttons, she garners upto INR 11,000 that month. Once Sapna becomes more experienced and trained to handle heavy cutting machines, she will be able to earn a monthly minimum of INR 15000. Moreover, she will also be able to become a floor team leader where she oversees 20 of her colleagues and gets an opportunity to put her leadership skills to practice. It will also give her a chance to grow and motivate her to stick around longer. This will place her in the 8% of female workers in India, who earn more than INR 10,000 a month according to ‘State of Working India’.
Like Sapna, 200 other women at HP Cotton Casuals are being trained to knit, dye, spread or stitch baby clothes, that are sold both online and offline. They are dreaming of higher positions in the factory, where they can learn more soft and hard skills. This makes them dream, and then realize their dreams too – a dream of a better life for themselves and their families. India lives in hope and organizations like HP Cotton Casuals are helping our women folk earn with dignity and an equal opportunity.