Ethical Enterprises Initiative for Young Women
Panighatta Sewing Project and Sukna Jute Products
Partner | Darjeeling Mary Ward Social Centre
Location | West Bengal, India
The objective of the Ethical Enterprise Initiative is to provide at-risk young women with the education, skills, and tools required to become strong, independent, and financially self-sufficient.
Ethical Enterprises is an ongoing program. The two initiatives, Panighatta Sewing and Sukna Jute Products, operate across many tea plantations in West Bengal. They both began as classes to teach young women the skills to produce paper products, and over time have progressed to sewing and jute making skills to meet the demand for these products.
Women are at risk of exploitative work practices at the tea plantations and, should they travel further afield to find other work, risk human trafficking and sexual abuse. Girls are lured to large cities under the pretext of lucrative employment, only to find themselves trafficked.
Learning skills in making jute products and sewing allows women to seek local employment and microenterprise while providing them with opportunities to meet, socialise, network, and learn about laws relating to rights, employment, health and protection.
The pandemic has meant many tea plantations have been forced to close to reduce the spread of COVID-19. When this occurs, traditional workers have no access to food or money to support themselves. During these times, the Loreto Sisters provide hundreds of food parcels for these families, along with health support and home visits.
The goal of the Ethical Enterprises Initiative is to stop the unsafe migration of girls and young women. This is achieved by supporting them to complete their education or create income-generating opportunities within the community, thus reducing the need for girls to travel outside the area for work. This further minimises their risk of being trafficked, which is still a significant issue in the north of West Bengal.
The initiative also provides vocational training for participants and develops skills that are useful for future employment. Participants can also explore microenterprise opportunities, enhancing the confidence and self-reliance of the women.
Like Collective Voices, the initiative creates a network amongst the women, acting as a safety net against human trafficking and abuse and ensuring that the girls are educated about their rights and how to access their entitlements.
- Conduct open space sewing and jute making workshops for approximately six hours each weekend.
- Support participants to return to education or continue their education by supplying them with basic educational materials.
- Identify participants to join a permanent sewing and jute making group.
- Deliver business skills and microenterprise training.
- Conduct women’s leadership seminars.
- Provide career guidance.
- Support participants to pursue higher education opportunities such as nursing or teaching college.