Three radio stations set up in Tamil Nadu became the voice of a garment factory worker when she broke into tears while narrating her story. The factory she works in has only two washrooms for 200 workers. While wait in queue for her turn, she was forced to use a corner of the mill where waste cotton is discarded. Her turn to use the washroom didn’t turn up.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation in collaboration with the World Economic Forum has contributed to this revelation. The above mentioned worker was so humiliated and angry that she decided to share her experience with a local radio station. The listeners of the program include those from the labour union and other labourers as well. The woman burst out in tears while sharing her experience. Post this, work has now begun of adding more washrooms on the factory campus.

The three radio stations set up at Dindigul, Chennai, and Tirupur attract more than 200 daily listeners and have become a source of voicing the plight of factory workers.

The three radio stations set up at Dindigul, Chennai, and Tirupur which attract more than 200 daily callers and have become a source of voicing the plight of factory workers. Their problems have been constantly ignored by the manufacturers. Those who call during the shows discuss harassment, long working hours, poor wages and other working conditions.

Tamil Nadu is the largest hub of India’s $40 billion-a-year textile and garment industry. Sadly, there are no proper grievance mechanisms for the workers and hence they end up suffering. Though there are certain systems like anonymous mailboxes, workers usually refrain from addressing their grievance there, as they fear losing their jobs. “What they cannot openly say for fear of losing their jobs, they say here. These are first-hand reports of what goes on inside the factories. And they reflect everyday abuse and hardship,” said Thivyarakhini Sesuraj, president of the all-women Tamilnadu Textile and Common Labour Union (TTCU), which runs the Voice of TTCU station in Dindigul.

The phone show not only helps the workers to bring forward their problems but also helps them with important information related to their work. One of them is their rights as a worker.

The phone shows not only help the workers to bring forward their problems but also helps them with important information related to their work. One of them being their rights as a worker, which Padma, a Chennai based garment worker, describes as an addiction that empowers her. A radio station powered by technology company Gram Vaani, the Voice of Tirupur station is the third interactive platform which empowers many of the factory workers. One of them, Paul Kaani says, who listens to Voice of Rights station says, “I love talking about various issues on the show, So many people can hear me and I don’t feel alone in my struggles.”

Last month, the Reuters Foundation had exposed illegal pills being given to the garment factory workers. While the women working in the factory couldn’t afford to lose on wages because of periods, they were given medicines, which were without any name or expiry dates. The real problem, however, came forward when many of them reported negative side effects of the medicine on their menstruation cycle. Women usually sought medicine from the factory supervisor. The Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI), a group of trade unions, charities and companies including top brands such as H&M, Mothercare, and Gap Inc. said that they have been investigating the matter after they came to know about the pills being given to the workers.

Read More: Authorities Inspect Garment Factories Post Reuters Exposé Of Illegal Pills

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