FASH455 Discussion: Trade and Development


#1 Why do you think the Indian girls from rural villages chose to leave their home for the new garment factory jobs in the city? Overall, was it a right choice for them?

#2 Were the Indian girls happy about their jobs in the garment factory? Why or why not?

#3 How do you compare your life to the Indian girls in the article? And please just imagine: ten years later, what will the life of these Indian girls look like? How about yours?

#4 How do you think these young girls feel about giving up their old lives for a shot at a new one? Do you believe that it would be hard to give up your customs and ways of life to try and give yourself a different future than the people you are used to? Do you think it’s hard for many families in Prabhati and Sashi’s village to accept the path they have taken instead of a traditional one?

#5 Do you think owners of the garment factory treated the Indian girls “fairly” according to the article? Why or why not? Please also briefly explain your benchmark for fairness.

Please mention the question # in your comment.



Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

59 thoughts on “FASH455 Discussion: Trade and Development”

  1. #1 These woman have a hard choice, to be married off at a young age to someone they don’t know, or to leave their families to go work in a factory for little page and bad working conditions. I think many girls choose to go to the factory because they are not ready to be handed off to a man. Their whole lives they are protected, and are shielded from any male attention and so that makes them want freedom from that, therefore they go to work in a factory to get away from this, even if it is only for a little while.

    1. Agree, it was a very hard choice. I hope from the reading & discussion, students can see the social economic impact of apparel trade and sourcing. To many people in the developing world, the apparel industry offers far more than just a job, but an opportunity to make a change of their destiny.

  2. 1. I think it is the right choice for these women to get out of their comfort zones and to steer away from their conservative religious traditions and cultures. It allows them to gain independence and view the world from a different standpoint. It will be difficult for them at first, but they will return with new knowledge and will be more self-sufficient.

    1. I agree, I find it very interesting that these girls are willing and able to remove themselves from their typically gender roles and choose their destiny in a way. I think this will give them a different view of the world that they might not have had if they were to stay within the rules of their culture.

  3. #2 I think that they were happy with their new factory jobs because it was giving them a newfound sense of freedom that they hadn’t already known. Being able to manage themselves, and not be put into an arranged marriage by their parents and be stuck in their rural towns forever gave them more opportunities that they did not have before.

  4. #1
    These girls when they’re born already know their future. It put into their mind at a young age that they would have an arrange marriage and become a wife and a mom. Going to work for 6 months in a factory is a some sort of freedom for them that gives them a chance to taste a bit of independence. It seemed that in the article the girls wanted to go to the factory for that reason as well as find a husband for themselves rather than having an arrange marriage. I think for them this was the right decision for them, but my views are Westernized and the opposite of what their culture is.

  5. #5
    I don’t think these girls are treated fairly. One of the factory managers talks about how he has little patience for the girls’ homesickness and treats their requests to return home with skepticism. While I can understand that he must constantly be worried about losing workers who go home and just don’t come back, it’s unkind to pull these girls in from the country and pay them low wages, pay them late, not provide them with beds, ban them from leaving the hostel, and not set up some kind of support for girls who are leaving their homes for the very first time. It must be a traumatizing transition for some of these young women, and not having access to their parents, siblings, or even a decent standard of living must make it very difficult to deal with.

  6. #1 I think these women leave their homes for the freedom that comes with working in the factory. They come from a home with traditions and culture that might not match the way they are feeling, or the way the want to live. I think for some women this is the right choice for learning about themselves apart from their family and their traditions, and to becoming open minded and learning about a world outside of their communities.

    1. I agree! These girls wished to experience a life outside of their villages and have a chance to work a job and gain more independence.

  7. #2 I’m not sure if I can say that they were necessarily happy are not. I think the girls were very excited to see something new with the freedom of not having their parents around. I know one of the girls said that she wanted to see things she had never seen before, and that’s exactly what is happening here. I believe that the excitement eventually faded and reality set in, but as it does with everything. I can compare this to going away to college. You’re finally on your own, in a new place with nothing but freedom and expectations to eventually find out it’s not exactly what you thought it was going to be. Overall, I think these girls were happy to contribute to their families and feel like “boys” and were exciting for a new experience but then realized that their life was now working.

    1. I agree with this. I think it is definitely hard to say if they were happy or not, and while working in a factory with harsh conditions and strict rules it is not the easiest place to find happiness. I think that for these girls, it was necessary for them to get out of their rural village and explore and see what they haven’t seen before, even if it wasn’t 100% what they expected. It will help prepare them to make hard choices later in life as well.

  8. #1 I think this women decide to go to the city and work in the factories because it gives them independence. In addition to this, I don’t think that at such a young age they are ready to have an arranged marriage and start a family. Having the opportunity to make their own income and learn how to be on their own is an important part of life, and I think that they chose this path because they wanted that as well, even if they are to return. They need to figure out for themselves which is the right path for their lives, even if it is not necessarily what their family is used to.

  9. #1 The Indian girls from rural villages chose to leave their homes for the new garment factory jobs in the city because they wanted to live a different life than the one they have been used to living, which encompasses living in seclusion until they are wed by an arranged marriage. These girls wanted a chance to have a job and make money, in essence, to have more autonomy. They left their villages to discover a new way of life with more opportunities.

  10. #2 Were the Indian girls happy about their jobs in the garment factory? Why or why not?

    I think that for the most part the Indian girls were happy about their jobs in the garment factory. Considering most girls are only there for six months to one year, it is a short amount of time in the grand scheme of their lives. Most girls viewed this as an “adventure” and an opportunity to meet someone they could eventually marry. The work is exhausting and difficult, however, I think most girls still feel like they want the opportunity to be at this factory. If the girls were not at the factory, they would be back in their villages longing for the opportunity to live in the city. Due to the fact that this job does not become a career for most girls at the factory, I think that contributes to whether or not girls enjoy their jobs. They are able to see a light at the end of the tunnel and always have the option to return home to their respective villages.

    1. From your comment, I am thinking why did the Indian government set 6 months as the length of the program? Particularly, these girls after the 6-month on the job training, should be much more productive in their work…

  11. #3 There are very little similarities between my life and the life of the Indian girls from the article. The only similarity is that I aspire to work in the fashion industry, and they are working in a textile factory, which has to do with fashion. I am lucky enough that I get the opportunity to learn more skills and strengthen my current ones in college. I am doing this in an attempt to gain skills for a future job. The Indian girls were simply thrown into the factory with no prior training.

    In ten years I hope to have an established career in the fashion industry and have made a name for myself. However, I see these girls either going back home and being married off, or for the 40% that stayed in the factory I see still working there. The girls that stay in the factory will most likely still be working at the same factory for about the same wage, maybe a little more.

    1. So cherish what you have! And working in the fashion industry means you’ll have the opportunity to change many people’s destiny~

  12. #1 I think they are looking for a better opportunity to have a better quality of life. When they arrived to the city, they can gain more control to their own life instead of being controlled by our people or those traditional rule in the village.
    #2 I think their are definitely happier now then staying at village even though they need to work for long working hour, but still they can enjoy leisure time that they are not able to have it back in the village.

  13. 1. I think that the Indian girls from the rural villages chose to leave their homes for the new garment factory jobs in the city in hopes of achieving a better life. These women have grown up knowing that arranged marriages are a part of their culture, so I think they went to the factories to move away from their cultural norms. I think it was a good idea for the girls to do this because they got to experience a new way of life. These women want to experience a new way of living and want to make a better life for themselves, so it was a smart idea for them to try out working in the factories, especially since their jobs were in a big city. These women now know what it’s like to experience freedom and independence without having to have their parents control their lives for them.

  14. 4. I think it is extremely hard to make the decision to leave home. Especially when going to the conditions that these young girls are going into. However, I do think that this might be exciting for the girls at first. Before they know the conditions they are going to the factories, they might be excited for change and a start at a new life. The traditional life set up for them leaves them no freedom and very little say in their own future. The choice to leave home and their culture says a lot about their character and their need to change and get away from the arranged marriages and other customs that limits their free will. I think it would be very hard for me to leave home and the comfort of knowing where I am and my role in my family. However, I think I would also choose to leave in order to experience some freedom from the constraints of this culture.

  15. #1 I agree with Lauren Possi-Moses. These girls have a tough decision to make at such an early age. This decision with two outcomes that they might not be thrilled about. The first option is to stay in the village and get an arranged marriage. Since they have such a religious and traditional lifestyle, this might be appealing to some women. Other woman who chose not to participate in this, are forced to work for the factories. These factories which might not have the best working conditions and may not compensate them as well as they should be. Another factor that should be considered is that when these woman go work for the factories there is nowhere for them to be promoted or make any progress in their work career. This is why I don’t think that these women would stay long at the factories and end up returning to their villages.

  16. I feel the women in India will prefer to stay in the factory than in the village even though the working condition is bad, but at least they have freedom. I think it is better for the India government to provide a good working environment for them and encourage them because they help with the GDP.

  17. #1 and #2 : Overall I think that these girls believed that the choice to go work in the factory was the right choice for them. These women did not want to be married off by there parents and return to a life of housewife duties. For these women, getting a pay check, no matter how small, is something that they value so much and makes them feel independent and like they are a real human being who are worth something. These girls came from small rural villages and saw what kind of lives the women there live, and they made the decision that that is not the type of life they wanted to pursue.
    #4: These girls were probably very scared about giving up their old lives at a shot for a new one. Naturally anyone would. But the other component is that they lived in small rural areas for their whole lives and have not been exposed to anything else. So fear of the unknown was probably bigger then their fear of changing their lives. Coming from a different culture and having the ability to be exposed to different walks of life I believe that I wouldn’t be as scared as these women to change my life. But with any change there is always a fear component. I believe that it was hard for many families in Prabhati and Sashi’s village to accept the path that they have taken just because it is not what they are used too. It is not like they were from a large city such as New Delhi and had been exposed to girls going to work in factories before. This was simply something that was not done in the culture and society of their village.

  18. #3 How do you compare your life to the Indian girls in the article? And please just imagine: ten years later, what will the life of these Indian girls look like? How about yours?

    Growing up in a small village, the Indian girls in the article do not actively strive for much more than normal. They are traditionally taught the lessons and values of the generation before them and it is expected that they follow in their parents footsteps. By these two girls striving for something bigger, and going to work in the factory it shows determination and desire for something more. Our lives are similar, yet different in many ways. I followed and listened to my parents, and like the girls, followed my own instincts and desires as I grew older. Both the Indian girls and I have strived for something more than what our parents expected. However, our jobs differ dramatically. In addition, as I work at a job, I expect to grow in the company in order to become more successful and challenge myself. For young girls like these, there is not much they can grow from their factory work, unless they completely change their direction.

    1. I forgot you visited India! I should invite you to share your first-hand observations with your classmates! but very interesting comment! thanks

  19. #1. I think it was the right choice for these girls to leave home. They are living such sheltered lives that they really don’t know what other options life has in store for them. In the article, they talk about discovering the unknown and how exciting that is for them. The only other option presented to these girls thus far is being married off to a husband of their parents choosing. I also think that it’s important because of the strict cultural influence that tells them not to do it. If these girls follow their dreams, they will serve as an inspiration for girls younger than them and show them that they have more choices in their lives.

    1. Agree. Although working as a garment worker is not enjoyable, staying in the rural village could be much worse… we have to put this reality into consideration when evaluating the issue of social responsibility.

  20. #2 I believe the Indian girls were happy about their jobs in the garment factory. Although, I personally would not be happy about this kind of job, the Indian girls did not have much choice. For them, it was either stay at home with their parents and wait to be married off, or go to the city and work. The girls were very excited to move to the city and be on their own, away from their parents and the strict societal norms that were upon them in the small villages. Although these girls worked long hours in somewhat difficult conditions, they were able to be responsible for themselves, make money for their family and have their own lives! These girls were able to meet and have secret boyfriends which would never have been allowed back home. Working in the garment factory gave the girls’ lives more meaning as they could contribute to their families and have the opportunity to mature and do as they pleased in the city.

  21. #1 I think it’s definitely the right choice for the rural Indian girls. I know the working condition for those rural Indian gir is terrible. This is kind of borderline slavery rather than a motivational story of pity country girls trying to succeed in the modern world. The women are paid less than one cent per item and locked in the dorms except Sundays, it is kind of like “sweat factory” for us. However, for those Indian girls, without these opportunities of becoming staffs in a ‘sweat factory’, their lives might be even worse. This phenomenon is closely related to the political situation in Indian society which cannot be changed easily. In the city, even their working condition is terrible, but at least the girls have opportunities to strive freedom and the rights they deserve but cannot get when they stay at home. Therefore, i think it’s totally the right choice for those rural India girls.

  22. #2. Some girls were happy about their jobs in the garment industry, but some preferred their old lifestyle. Upon finally receiving their pay, the girls were elated. They have never been given the opportunity to be independent, and were never given the chance to earn money by themselves. While the girls may not like the actual work they have to do in the factory, they all seem to like the idea of earning money and breaking social and gender norms.

  23. #1 Why do you think the Indian girls from rural villages chose to leave their home for the new garment factory jobs in the city? Overall, was it a right choice for them?
    I think that the Indian girls chose to leave their home to go work in the garment factory because it was a way to except the rural life that they were trapped in. Furthermore, it allowed them to become independent, because they were very sheltered by their families before, and were going to be married off. Another reason I think they left their rural village is because it gave them an opportunity that they never were given before and that was exciting because it allowed them to live a new and different life. Overall I feel that for some it was the right choice because they enjoyed the feeling of working, getting paid, and being independent.

  24. #2 Some of the girls were happy about their jobs in the garment factory and some were not. The feelings differed from the girls personal preferences about their futures. Some of the girls did not want to leave their villages and others wanted to get away. The girls that were happy about their jobs were most excited about the idea of getting paid. They felt more independent and free after they started receiving their own money. I think these girls deserve to make decisions about their futures. Working in the factories definitely has its downfalls, these women are not treated as fairly as they should be, but based on the article it made some of them feel more independent and overall more valued.

    1. great comment and agree! I hope from the reading & discussion, students can see the social economic impact of apparel trade and sourcing. To many people in the developing world, the apparel industry offers far more than just a job, but an opportunity to make a change of their destiny.

  25. #2 I think that they were under a lot of pressure from their culture and religion, not just economically to stick with their jobs at the factory and be treated the way they were. Many of them may have wanted to leave the factory, but it was just what they were used to.

  26. #1 I think these rural girls leaving their village to work for the factories in the city is a good idea for them. I think these girls are eager to make a life for themselves rather than having to rely on their parents to find them a husband and cater towards their every need. Understanding that arranged marriage is part of their culture and tradition, for many girls, getting a chance to make their own money and work is not only a great experience for them to learn new skills but also to learn about the world outside of their village. This choice to work has given them the option for freedom, confidence, and self-sufficent life skills.

  27. FASH 455

    3. I compare my life to the girls in the article as being very different. These girls do not have as many opportunities that women have here in America, like being able to go to school and further their education and professional career. 10 years in t the future i expect to have a stable career and maybe a family, earning a nice income. For these girls, I see them probably doing the same thing they are doing now, or maybe even taking on more jobs in order to support their families and themselves.

    4. These girls were very scared to give up their lives in their villages in order to pursue a better one in the city, but at the same time they knew it was necessary. They knew that if they did not take the opportunity to leave, they may have never left their old life behind. I believe that this is a very hard thing to do especially being so young and not used to the life and faster pace of the big city and what it has to offer.

  28. #2 I believe the Indian girls were happy about exploring new territory and entering something they have only heard about. So many, if not all of them have never left their villages, let alone even plan to leave their village. Their lives have been set up for them with no other option insight – until the opportunity to go to the garment factory arose. These girls could have been leaving to go work in a corn field, but it would have gotten them away from their village and their “already planned out for them life”. The nature of the job isn’t a factor in my opinion. I don’t think it was the job in the garment factory that made the girls happy. It was the taste of independence, the appearance of a new city and feeling like they had control of their lives.

  29. #1 I believe that the girls chose to leave their homes for jobs in the factory because they saw the potential of opportunities they could experience. They wanted a change from their norms and what they were used to. Their culture is very strong in their values and beliefs and it is frowned upon for young girls to leave their homes. The women are expected to cater to the household and make sure that their homes are well taken care of, so most of the families were unhappy that these girls decided to leave home. I do think that it was the right choice for them to make just because in a sense they are now able to better provide for themselves and they are also able to help their families by giving them money and making things a little easier on the household.

    #3 I do not believe that our lives are similar in many aspects. I think that because of their strong culture, their lives are basically set and planned for them whereas in the U.S we have the freedom to make our own decisions. I think that in ten years the lives of these girls may be better than what they are now, but not significantly and I think this because these girls do not have the skill set needed to be able to progress in the workforce and gain better jobs whereas in the U.S we have the opportunity to gain more education in order to gain better jobs.

  30. #3
    I think as someone who grew up in the United States you have more opportunities and options to choose what you want your life to be like, whereas the girls in India had only two options- either to be married off or work in a factory. When the girls moved to work in the factory that was their first chance of independence and freedom. For my real chance of freedom was when I went to college. In ten years I would hope that I would have a stable career and for the girls with most of them returning home, will probably be married off to the men that their parents arranged for them or for the ones who stayed, will probably have the same job.

  31. #4) I think these young girls feel anxious yet ready to take a risk in giving up their old lives for a shot at a new one. It is scary because of the unknown for girls like them yet could be filled with opportunity. I believe it would be hard to give up customs and ways of life to try and give yourself a different future than the people you are used to. Daily life is routine and habitual. I think it’s very hard for families like theirs to accept the path they have taken instead of the traditional one. Any parent would want what’s best for their children and I’m sure their culture believes that traditional is best.

  32. #2: I do not think the young Indian women were happy about their jobs working the garment industry. I think that for some of the women, they feel the path they had chosen to leave their home village was the right choice, but it’s questionable whether they were entering into a life where they were better or worse off. Many of the women were very happy to escape leading a life of a homemaker and of an arranged marriage, but unfortunately, about 40% of them returned home within one year. It truly depends on the individual, because although some felt the work was strenuous, the reward of earning a paycheck and having the freedom to spend it on whatever they liked was far greater than going back home to a life of rules and restrictions.

  33. #3 My life is very different than that of the Indian girls. The Indian girls have arranged marriages, are hidden from men and their lives are deeply rooted based on religion. Their parents even felt the need to get permission from their village to send their daughters away to work! My parents have not even seriously brought up marriage to me yet, they let me have my freedom, and they let me choose my faith. Regarding my work, I do not need my parents permission to work, let alone my town’s permission.

    Ten years from now the lives of these Indian girls are unclear. Because India is deeply rooted in religion it is hard to tell how much their lives will change because of all the different social factors. But for those girls who were able to go out and work in the factories, their lives will be much different than those girls who were not able to go out and work. The girls who were able to go out and work will have more freedom, will be making their own money, and maybe will be able to marry someone they love rather than someone they have been arranged with. However, they still won’t be able to make as much money as they will want because they are only trained to a certain extent and there is not much room for growth for them in the workplace. My life ten years from now, unlike the Indian girls, I will have hopefully moved up in the workplace and have worked at a couple different companies. I will be able to negotiate my pay and my benefits and will have options as to where I want to work.

  34. #4 How do you think these young girls feel about giving up their old lives for a shot at a new one? Do you believe that it would be hard to give up your customs and ways of life to try and give yourself a different future than the people you are used to? Do you think it’s hard for many families in Prabhati and Sashi’s village to accept the path they have taken instead of a traditional one?

    Based on the article, religion is a huge aspect of people’s lives in India. Growing up, they are taught to stay at home, do housework and get married to someone your parents believe are a good fit for them. I cannot imagine putting myself in the shoes of these girls making a new life for myself on my own. Deciding to be the first person in their family to go against the norm and work in the city cannot be easy. They are changing the way they live, moving to a strange city and adapting to the city way of life rather than what they are taught at home. These girls are young and naive, not knowing what their future holds for them. Some were scared due to the fact that they have never left their home village, yet also excited to start something new. Some wanted this new life for themselves like Prabhati and Baby, while others were disinterested like Shashi.

    Throughout the article, they touch upon how certain parents, like Minati Das, were against their daughters going to work in factories. “Not everyone wants a daughter-in-law who is a working women, they think she has lost her chastity.” This is just a mere example of how some of these families felt when watching their children leave to start a different way of life. On the other hand, Prabhati and Shashi’s dad was eager for them to have new experiences in the city and to not be scared to move on. It isn’t easy to see your young children go off to a city on their own to work in a factory, straining from religion and customs they would normally live by. Overall, this article did a good job helping us readers put ourselves in the shoes of these young girls starting a new experience for themselves. We hear about these factories and working conditions in the news, but to read this personal experience puts it all in perspective.

  35. #3: My life compared to the lives of the Indian girls in the article are polar opposites. When the word independence is brought up I think of living alone without my parents, buying my own clothes, and supporting myself financially. In the eyes of the Indian girls, independence is considered working long exhausting hours in unsafe working conditions for less money than I would spend on a coffee. Living in the United States, I am given to opportunity to receive an education and chose which aspect of the fashion industry I want to be apart of. The Indian girls are presented with the option to marry a stranger or work in a textile factory. They are not given to option to go into merchandising, design, or retail. In ten years I see myself having a career working in the fashion industry. I will most likely be able to support myself and be in a long term committed relationship. In ten years, the Indian girls will probably still be working in the factories working for a little bit higher wage or married to a man that they did not chose to marry.

    1. great comment! I hope from the reading & the discussion, you can see the social economic impact of apparel trade and sourcing. No matter as a consumer or a professional working in the fashion industry, we can affect many people’s destiny across the ocean.

  36. #2 I think the girls were happy to leave home and have the freedom that their new job provided, but did not like the job itself. The job was grueling, the hours were long, and the girls were often tired, but they were free. So, I think there is a strange dynamic because they disliked the job, but their job provided all the things that made them happy. I think they feel that the downsides of their job do not outweigh the benefits of freedom.

    1. Good thinking! I do remember a comment from my advisor when I took her global trade class. She said that despite the poor working conditions, working in the garment factory still provides a precious opportunity for these girls to improve their lives and change their destiny. In many parts of the world, people are struggling with extreme poverty and they often don’t have many options…

  37. #1 I think it was the right choice for the girls to leave home and pursue a job in the factory. I think that in the end they needed to take control of their own lives and not succumb to living in the same village for the rest of their lives. Staying back in the village would have meant that the girls would have to follow the strict traditions of being a young housewives that were married off by her family to usually an older male in the village and then practically become slaves to the new family. Leaving the village meant leaving behind that kind of future and exploring new possibilities and opportunities. Although they were treated unfairly in their work environment, the girls were able to have a new experience and gain independence which is still more valuable to them.

  38. The girls are leaving home to pursue jobs in the factory because if they did not do that then they would not be making money or getting any sort of other experience. They need to step outside of their comfort zone and not follow what every other member of their society has done because they will not grow from that. This will allow them to be more independent.

  39. #3: I choose to compare my life to the one of the Indian girl. A moment in class where this stuck with me was when we watched a video about the collapsing of a factory in Bangladesh. A little girl got on and spoke about how she didn’t want to go to work that day because she knew something bad was going to happen. These girls wake up after only getting three hours of sleep and force themselves to work no matter how long it takes because it is for SURVIVAL. Its not to have a little extra cash at the end of the month. It is for food, water, and a shelter. When I work it is to for the extra cash and its being paid above minimum wage with a 40 hour week. These girls don’t know life anyway else and will never complain. These girls have the choice of supporting themselves in the factories or marrying a stranger. In 10 years there future is unknown. For me, I was able to go to school and have the connections to get a good job in the fashion industry. I have no guarantees, but I have a whole lot of hope. For them the entire thing is a blur and they can’t even guarantee they will have that job at a factory.

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