Behind the Label: Garment Workers Hemavathi and Jayashree Speak with RJ Asha

Garment Worker Poster- RJ Asha

Hemavathi was born in a village and was married early. She later discovered that her husband is an irresponsible man and that his own parents didn’t treat him well. She decided to move to Bangalore along with him and their children, hoping for a better life.

 In Bangalore, however, her life was full of ups and downs; from finding a house and getting a job, to taking care of the children, life was constantly stressful. Her parents helped her with money and helped take care of her children. She joined a garment factory while her husband found a job as a construction worker, but their income was still not enough to support the family.

In time, her husband left his job and started to work only intermittently. This just meant that Hemavathi was overwhelmed with responsibilities, forcing her to find another role in a different garment factory. Here, in the packing department, her salary was INR 1,000 higher than at her previous job. She was happy about this new work, but the happiness didn’t last long as her husband took ill suddenly and she had to borrow money for his treatment.

 Hemavathi later struggled to pay back the huge amount she had borrowed and became so desperate that she was even considering suicide. This is when a colleague informed her about the Garment Labour Union (GLU). This moment truly changed her life. Through the union, she learned about monthly payments and loans that are available to workers like her. She joined the GLU and availed loans in small packages to pay back her huge debt.

 Today, Hemavathi is happy and is leading a confident life.

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Jayashree was married off when she was just a child. The man whom she married was visually-challenged. Two years into her marriage, she reached puberty and was sent to live at her in-laws’ home. She faced abuse from the first day she entered that house. Her life continued this way for many years with some minimal level of help received from her grandmother.

Later, when she moved to Bangalore and started working at a garment factory, her husband began to get suspicious of her. She joined work first as a tailor and faced many challenges in its course, but strong support from her colleagues kept her going. It was relatively smoother going when she was learning on the job, but once she was done, her supervisors began to question and reject her work at whim, and they also started assigning her more and more work. “I am so tired of my life, I have faced so much struggle,” she sighs during this conversation with RJ Asha. “I am putting up with it all only because of my children. I will never let go of them and for them, I will try to live as positively as possible.”

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