In October 2020, SAI allocated COVID-19 relief funds to Vizhuthugal, a small nonprofit in India that supports migrant workers and their families in the garment sector. With SAI’s help, Vizhuthugal was able to reach over 2,000 people in fifteen mills through mental and physical health pop-ups, OSH awareness programs, skill and capacity-building trainings, youth workshops, and an emergency relief distribution reaching hundreds who live in and around the Erode District, benefitting mainly migrant workers and vulnerable populations.
Scroll down to learn how you can help support this and similar relief efforts for workers affected by the pandemic.
Health and safety awareness for worker well-being and security
Following a spike in COVID-19 cases in September 2020, migrant workers struggled to access healthcare and faced acute poverty due to their inability to work during the partial statewide lockdowns. In early October, Vizhuthugal stepped in to help by hosting a mental health program for affected young migrant workers, reaching 580 workers at Krishan Poultry Tex Mill (New Tiruppur), Vel Tex Garment Unit (Avinashi) and Krishna Garments (Avinashi). The organization also hosted a physical health pop-up, providing general checkups to 440 workers in the Erode and Tirupur districts.
Vizhuthugal also conducted occupational health and safety awareness programs geared toward women garment and textile mill workers in the Tirupur district, during which over 100 women learned how to wear PPE and meet other COVID safety measures. Moreover, employers and young women workers who participated began an Occupational Health and Safety Committee to monitor the health and safety of workers in the workplace, with 15 committees now operating in the mills.
“This project assisted women workers to improve their lifestyle. It also provided timely livelihood support to the workers who lost their jobs due to the first and second waves of COVID,” says Program Director Maren Thangavel.
Voluntary trainings build skills and emergency relief reaches hundreds
To address the safety and security-related concerns of the workers they serve, the organization hosted safety and security trainings for 135 migrant workers, parents and their children in Tirupur. Led by Vizhuthugal’s Director and Legal Coordinator, the program highlighted the safety and security measures available for the migrant workers and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic, including how to access social security benefits.
Vizhuthugal also undertook a mapping exercise to better understand skills and identify additional livelihood opportunities for the migrant workers. Vizhuthugal found that workers had the most interest in tailoring and cutting, allowing them to better tailor their skill building trainings.
Youth outreach and continuing support
To address the needs of young people during the pandemic, Vizhuthugal organized a life skill training for over 1000 adolescent boys and girls in the Tirupur and Erode districts. The training focused on growing the decision-making, problem-solving, critical thinking, communication and interpersonal skills of the teenagers who participated. Similarly, the organization held Legal Awareness Program for Adolescent girls in the Tirupur and Erode districts with the support of India’s District Legal Service Authorities (DLSA). Over 300 young women participated in this training on safety, security and maintaining good health.
In the Anganwadi village, Vizhuthugal collaborated with the Anganwadi Centre to hold an awareness-raising program focused on health and nutrition for adolescent girls and antenatal and postnatal care for mothers. The main objective of the program was to bring awareness to children, adolescent girls, and mothers about decent antenatal and postnatal care and maintaining good health through nutrition. In total, 287 migrant workers children, adolescent girls, and mothers attended and benefitted from this effort.
Finally, the organization held an Emergency Relief Material distribution, providing food and other essentials to over 100 migrant workers and other vulnerable populations in the Erode District and impacting hundreds more. While Vizhuthugal had a rather modest award amount to work with, they achieved an outsized impact on migrant workers in the Tirupur district.
“Because of [SAI’s] generosity, we can further our mission in bettering the lives of the Children, Young Women Workers, Migrant Workers working in textile and garment units across the Tirupur and Erode Districts,” said Thangavel. While the outcomes of this relief effort have positively impacted migrant workers in Tirupur, our work continues. Migrant workers still deal with some of the greatest impacts of the pandemic, with as many as 40 percent still reporting food insecurity and diminished wages.
Donate to support COVID-19 relief for workers
If you want to support COVID-19 relief efforts for workers, visit SAI’s donation page and use the “Apply My Donation To…” option to select “COVID-19 Worker Relief Fund”. 100% of donations with that designation will be allocated to COVID-related relief efforts.
All photos courtesy of Vizhuthugal.