Promotion of female entrepreneurship and their economic power would be the main focus in her official role for Ivanka Trump, U.S. President Donald Trump’s daughter, when she leads a U.S. delegation to India this week.
But the uncomfortable question about the working conditions that are faced by labours in India who toil to get together clothes for fashion line would loom over the visit.
While calling for increased support for working women all across the globe, Trump has virtually said nothing about the largely women powered garment manufacturing labor force in India and in some of the other Asian countries where clothes for her fashion line are made.
No list of the suppliers or the factories producing the goods or the working conditions there have been given by her brand – which she still owns but does not participate in its day to day functioning.
The president’s eldest daughter “has been a champion of women’s economic empowerment not just in words but in action,” adding that she helped launch a World Bank initiative to help female entrepreneurs gain better access to capital, “which will empower women across the developing world to start their own businesses,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Trump talked about “the administration’s commitment to the principle that when women are economically empowered, their communities and countries thrive”, in a telephone call with reporters on Tuesday to preview her trip. She is slated to deliver a keynote address at an entrepreneur women oriented summit in India.
“On the positive side, it’s a huge employer for women, but the systematic issue is that we don’t treat women properly, otherwise they would not be working in this kind of system,” said Anita Cheria, director of the social justice group Open Space, which works with garment workers in the southern city of Bangalore. “These industries can do much better for women.”
Some basic questions about Trump’s clothing company and about its practices matching up to her preaching of women empowerment and development in the developing world would be echoed.
On the issue of evaluating the working conditions in the supply chain, Trump’s company was found to lag behind others in the clothing industry, found a report in the Washington Post in July even as the report said that the company sourced all of its products from foreign suppliers – mostly in Asia.
In order to enhance oversight of the supply chain, Trump’s company was seeking to hire a nonprofit workers’ rights group which would enhance the working conditions at the factories, company executives had said at that time to the Washington Post. Facilities that produce the products for Ivanka Trump’s company were planned to be visited by the brand president Abigail Klem, she had said.
“We recognize that our brand name carries a special responsibility,” she said.
It is however not clear whether those measures have been followed through four months later. There were no comments from the company about the status of Klem’s trip or the workers’ rights group hiring.
“If Ivanka truly wants her legacy to include protecting working women,” said Judy Gearhart, executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum, “she needs to start with the women in her supply chain.”
Indian government data shows that the its textile industry generated revenues of $17 billion in the years 2016 and 2017 for ready-made garments and with its exports totaling 15 percent of total exports, it is amongst the largest employers.
(Adapted from The Washington Post)