Executive Briefings

Brands Lace-Up to Map 'Invisible' Shoemakers in South India

When the 55-year-old woman stood up to speak at a meeting of shoemakers in south India last month, she was seeing her employers for the first time.

She told them about the decades she had spent hunched up in her home, repeatedly pulling a needle through tough leather as she sewed shoe uppers, the meager income she earned, her failing eyesight and the wounds on her hands.

For manufacturers and brands, her story was a revelation.

The meeting brought women workers, manufacturers, charities and brands face-to-face for the first time in a bid to map the role of homeworkers — an “invisible workforce” in a global supply chain making high-end shoes — and improve conditions.

“It was a historical meeting in that sense,” said Annie Delaney of the Australian RMIT School of Management, who has documented the condition of homeworkers and attended the meeting a fortnight ago in Vellore in Tamil Nadu. “Homeworkers described their reality. It was a powerful experience for not just the women but also for the manufacturers and brands who were meeting them for the first time.”

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She told them about the decades she had spent hunched up in her home, repeatedly pulling a needle through tough leather as she sewed shoe uppers, the meager income she earned, her failing eyesight and the wounds on her hands.

For manufacturers and brands, her story was a revelation.

The meeting brought women workers, manufacturers, charities and brands face-to-face for the first time in a bid to map the role of homeworkers — an “invisible workforce” in a global supply chain making high-end shoes — and improve conditions.

“It was a historical meeting in that sense,” said Annie Delaney of the Australian RMIT School of Management, who has documented the condition of homeworkers and attended the meeting a fortnight ago in Vellore in Tamil Nadu. “Homeworkers described their reality. It was a powerful experience for not just the women but also for the manufacturers and brands who were meeting them for the first time.”

Read Full Article