Fashion victim?

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Indian girls hands Image courtesy of STOP THE TRAFFIK

Are the garments you're wearing today free from human trafficking, or is a heartbreaking story woven through their fabric?

Carolyn Kitto, Co-Director STOP THE TRAFFIK Australia Coalition, highlights the challenges facing fashion consumers, retailers and manufacturers:

"About 16 young women had been waiting for us to arrive in a small and stiflingly hot room. They were in their late teens and early 20s. They were all eager to tell their stories of being in the Sumangali Scheme. This Scheme is a form of bonded labour and human trafficking which targets the poorest families of India.

The stories included working back to back shifts of 12-16 hours, ongoing health issues from the physical damage caused by working with hot machinery, friends who died from accidents or suicide. No one would want to wear an item of clothing with these women’s stories woven through the fabric.

For Western consumers, the complexity of the garment industry means it is difficult to know the true provenance of an article of clothing. Millions of poor families and entire economies are dependent on manufacturing which is why they are so easily abused.

When someone in London, Paris, Milan or New York decides the fashionable colour or style or design needs to change, these women become expendable victims of the fast fashion cycle.

Consumers and Western brands need to ensure clothes are ethically sourced and made. That's the difficulty with a garment, there are so many people who have touched it along the supply chain that could have been abused and exploited in the process. At the moment you can't make a perfect choice, but you can make a better choice.

Most retailers and fashion labels either don’t know where they buy their cotton from, or choose not to make that information public. This isn’t good enough. We believe that as consumers we have the right to know how, where and under what conditions the clothes we buy were made. We want to be able to choose Traffik-Free and help change the lives of the women and girls trapped in this scheme. We want to ensure that suppliers who treat their workers well are on a level playing field.

Together we can STOP THE TRAFFIK."

The free talk Make Fashion Traffik Free with STOP THE TRAFFIK, on Saturday 19 September at 1pm at the International Slavery Museum, is one of a series of talks supporting our contemporary slavery exhibition Broken Lives - Slavery in modern India which is open until 24 April 2016. For more details of this event and others in the calendar please visit the What's On section of our website.