(Charity is not about giving money: it is about changing lives and improving the quality of living).
The overall impact of all the humanitarian activities taken up by Sports Goods Foundation of India has resulted in a steep rise in exports by most of its members and customers world over deserve a big THANK YOU who appreciated our efforts of not only confining our activities to child labour issue but also putting our best foot forward in the following activities under social protection programme.
WHEN TODAY’S CHILDREN COMPLETE THEIR EDUCATION AND SETTLE IN LIFE, THE HISTORY WILL JUDGE US FOR WHAT WE DID TO HELP THE WORLD’S NEEDY.
There was a time when our thinking was, keep the expertise to ourselves. But we have started sharing expertise, sharing knowhow, telling others what we did, why we did, how we did as this helps open our minds and when we go home, our thinking process starts and we also move towards that direction.
With the passage of time it has been established, that if we want development of social and environmental responsibility, we have to look to the entire supply chain. How can Indian suppliers and foreign importers create mutually beneficial partnerships in support of better practices. Our products are acceptable, I am talking of better practices. To achieve this the exporter must have one to one relationship with his entire supply chain, not for buying, not for data collection, but for being with them, knowing them, respecting them, understanding them and then, telling them what your foreign customer expects from the entire supply chain.
Then, it is at that point you enjoy the real flavour of your business. Sports Goods Foundation of India, is now recognized as a model program in India.
I am here to tell you how the SGFI was formed, how members took ownership of the issue of child labour and how we brought trust and business back to Jalandhar football industry.
Most difficult stage was, the acceptance of facts. That in the age old football industry yes, child labour was involved. Now thinking, how to minimise child labour as much as possible and for that applying best practices at our own sites, getting close cooperation from all members, keeping in mind, the general social acceptance of all our actions in this direction. We embarked upon this journey which was never tried or treaded upon. Now I go back to the history as to what made us think of all this.
Way back in 1998 a news was published in Holland that all the footballs made in India were stitched by children. Customers read it. They got upset, they got in touch with Indian consulate, they wrote to exporters also and this news travelled to local labour department. It was then we came to know that similar issue was raised in Pakistan in 1997 where international program on elimination of child labour had started with the help of ILO.
25 sports goods manufacturers in 1998 voluntarily decided to find out how many children are involved and we decided to have a monitoring system in place to ensure prevention and rehabilitation of child labour in sports goods industry.
So we decided to have a strong monitoring system. Starting with internal monitoring of all SGFI members work places including data base updating and scheduling of external monitoring and showing the reports to members, FIFA (Federation of International football Association) and WFSGI (World Federation of Sporting Goods Industry).
And as the reasons of children working came to light the glaring reasons were illiteracy and poverty so we started social protection program which included awareness raising and credibility building activities. In Jalandhar 27 transitional schools under NCLP (National Child Labour Project) were allotted, out of which we took over the management of 4 schools, 30 free tuition centers were started, 2 free adult education centers were started, a computer training program for grown up children of those families was started to supplement family income so that they don't depend upon small income from children.
In all these activities, as the time passed, we got all these partners involved, WFSGI, SGS, UNIDO, FIFA, UNICEF, NCLP, LIONS CLUBS, LIC.
Now to make it a success we had many brain storming sessions to decide as to what a member needs to do. Which covered undertaking by members and contactors, appointment of an internal monitor in every factory, prepare list of contractors and stitching locations and submit to sport goods foundation office, identify and register each household, standardized quality of balls and to disclose production, print ID codes on every ball, give awareness to all contractors and take necessary action where ever needed.
WFSGI and brands signed an agreement in Atlanta that they will not import anything made by child labour so we further strengthened our monitoring system which required random and unannounced visits, minimum 8 visits per year, name age and production capacity of each household, first aid kits distributed in every visit, check children found stitching, check further subcontracting by household, id codes, general hygiene and safety measures.
By then SGFI’s organization structure had become quite big with 8 projects by a team of 170 people and funded by the members.
Then in 2005 UNIDO appeared on the scene to tell us nice ways to do kind things and we started SERB project. SERB is Social and Environmental Responsibility of Businesses.
SERB activities and along with monitoring of child labour we started self help groups, health projects, tuition centers, distribution of clothes and necessary items and Life insurance projects and the organization which was committed to the prevention and rehabilitation of child labour became an organization committed to foster and energize social responsibility initiatives of the Indian sporting goods industry.
With a vision for empowering home based stitching locations we are so far running 73 self help groups with 1400 families involved.
Our health project is called Swasth Man Swasth Tan which means Health Mind Health Body.
Then our education project is known as Muskaan.
Seeing the success of 4 NCLP schools, Govt has entrusted the management of 6 schools in the hands of SGFI.
While expanding so much we never ignored our monitoring. Strength of our monitoring team doubled to have more frequent visits. Now a new Proforma was developed to include a column in the external monitoring report related to observations of monitors regarding general labour standards of stitching community.
The realty of the world is that the gap between saying and doing is widening. But to foster and energize social responsibility initiatives we are showing by doing and not by suggesting. To give service to a single heart by a single act is better than bowing our head in prayer and only suggesting. Along with our ongoing projects under education, monitoring, health, self help groups we added another program to improve labour's standards by providing life insurance and permanent disability cover to our home based workers under social compliance through LIC.
My friends ask me what are you doing in SGFI? I say, I am "ensuring children their childhood". They ask me what is the reward for all this? I say the highest reward that god gives us for good work is the ability to do better and I also remind them that it is always satisfying and rewarding to see lives change, because of an action you took.