Welcome to the monthly digital newsletter of Arisa Foundation
Arisa is looking for a communications expert
Arisa’s activities are growing and expanding. An important part of the work is communication to the outside world, via reports, press releases, parliamentary questions, social media, the website and the newsletter. To streamline this even better, we will be creating a new post for a communications expert effective 1 July 2021. Do you know someone who could strengthen Arisa or are you interested yourself?
The vacancy can be found on our website. Spreading this vacancy is highly appreciated!
Website “40 years ICN/Arisa” live!
This year we are paying attention to the 40th anniversary of our organisation. We do this in the newsletter, but also on a special page on our website. For an overview of the history of ICN/Arisa, visit https://arisa.nl/40jaarliw-arisa/.
After 40 years, the India Committee of the Netherlands is still active, now under the name Arisa. We are supported through project funding and a number of loyal donors who have a warm hart for our work. We thank everyone who has supported us over the years. Our work is still badly needed in the coming years! That is why we urge readers to keep supporting us. Every gift to Arisa – no matter how big or small – is very welcome and will be used to improve the lives of marginalised groups in India and South Asia.
You can transfer your donation to bank account NL 81 TRIO 037 931 3200 of Arisa Foundation in Utrecht, with specification “Donation”. BIC-code is TRIONL2U.
India Committee of the Netherlands: the years 1985-1990
At the end of 1984, the association India Committee of the Netherlands moved from Voor Clarenburg 10 to the top floor of the Kargadoor building at Oudegracht 36. In the available rooms there, ICN organised information evenings and meetings. At the time, more than 125 people were active at the local level in one of the ICN groups, and the secretariat now had three paid staff members and a dozen volunteers.
In the early 1980s, two trends emerged within the ICN: one group wanted to further contribute to political awareness about India in the Netherlands, with solidarity actions on behalf of progressive groups in India; the other group wanted to focus more on criticizing the Indian government and political lobbying and making policy recommendations. At a general meeting in 1984, it was decided that ICN would focus more on the India-Netherlands relationship.
Shantha Sinha’s retrospective on her collaboration with ICN/Arisa…
After our call for stories related to 40 years of Arisa / ICN, we received several contributions. In the coming period we will share this with you via the special webpage and the newsletter. In this newsletter the story of Shantha Sinha, founder of MV Foundation, partner of Arisa/ICN for many years.
Gerard Oonk, project officer at – and later director of – the India Committee of the Netherlands, visited Mamidipudi Venkatarangaiya Foundation (MVF) more than three decades ago, when MVF was still a small NGO dedicated to the elimination of child labour in the remote villages of Ranga Reddy district, Andhra Pradesh (now Telangana). He was there as part of MVF’s non-negotiable agenda for the abolition of child labour. Since then, MVF has had a long-term partnership with the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN), now Arisa.
It seems like yesterday that we met – a little later – in the Netherlands. Gerard picked me up directly from the airport, lugging my suitcase, and took me, changing trains and buses, to the meeting location as if it were a usual daily routine. It was pure madness!
When my colleague Venkat Reddy and I first visited ICN in Utrecht, I saw a simple workplace, busy and full of books, posters and materials and an atmosphere of warmth and care instead of the huge, chic and well-endowed office I had imagined I would see.
From this precious little space, our journey together began…..
Caste discrimination, an invisible issue in the garment sector in South Asia
On February 25, Arisa, together with Rights Education and Development Center (READ), International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) and Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), organised a session on caste discrimination in the garment sector as part of the participant week of the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile. Over 40 participating companies and other interested parties took part in this (online) workshop.
Meena Varma from IDSN gave a brief introduction to the topic. Karuppusamy from READ presented the results of a survey among Dalit employees, which shows that over 75% of them regularly experience caste discrimination at work. The stories are harrowing, an example: Dalit workers have to sit in the back of the bus on their way to work, have separate food and beverage outlets in the workplace and regularly deal with bullying and sexual harassment. Glenn Bradley of the natural stone company Hardscape talked about his personal experience of making caste discrimination in his chain a subject of discussion. Finally, Peter McAllister of ETI once again pointed out the urgency of the problem: caste discrimination is an issue when you do business in South Asia and therefore you need to do something about it as a company. ETI has drawn up a so-called Base Code Guidance for companies to start the dialogue about the issue.
In the coming months, Arisa will follow up on this workshop together with the other partners to put the theme to the attention of companies and other stakeholders. A copy of the presentations is available on request through Arisa.
Consultation Arisa with Indian partners on stakeholder engagement
On February 18, Arisa organised a meeting with her partners in India on stakeholder engagement.
According to the OECD guidelines, companies must investigate the extent to which they are involved in violations of human rights, harm to the environment or harm to animal welfare. Such an investigation is known as due diligence. As part of this due diligence process, companies are expected to cooperate meaningfully with stakeholders, including NGOs and unions and rightsholders (workers) in producing countries. More and more companies, especially members of the natural stone and textile covenant, are seeking contact with Arisa for this purpose. Various dilemmas come up in this process; Arisa has discussed these with her Indian partners. It is clear that in order to conduct a meaningful stakeholder dialogue, knowledge, capacity and willingness are needed on the side of companies as well as on the side of civil society to be able to organise this properly. Also important are trust, self-reflection and a willingness to be open to different roles. Furthermore, it is clear that stakeholder engagement must be a continuous process in which patience is essential. All in all, a very useful meeting that will certainly be followed up.
Garment Labour Union receives “Bremen Solidarity Prize”
In early March, Rukmini, Chairperson of Arisa partner Garment Labour Union (GLU) in Bangalore, was awarded the prestigious Bremen Solidarity Prize for her boundless commitment and leadership in organising and inspiring female garment workers in Karnataka and beyond.
GLU is a women-led union engaged in organising garment workers and protecting their rights. Leaders of GLU have themselves worked in garment factories in the city for many years. This experience has made them knowledgeable about the industry and aware of the problems faced by women workers. GLU aims to build the collective strength of workers in the industry and ensure a dignified and safe life for them.
The Bremen Solidarity Prize has been awarded every two years since 1988 by the Senate of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen and is intended to honour the commitment of people and groups campaigning for freedom and self-determination and for overcoming injustice in the North-South relationship and the consequences of colonialism and racism. The award was first presented to Nelson and Winnie Mandela in 1988. Aung San Suu Kyi received the award in 1994.
Brochure with tips for socially responsible procurement
To stimulate socially responsible procurement, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management published a ‘National Plan for Socially Responsible Procurement (MVI) 2021-2025’ in January 2021. This encourages the national as well as municipal governments to use their purchasing power to achieve social goals in the physical and social domain. One of the six points that is central to this plan is compliance with the “International Social Conditions (ISV)”, also known as chain responsibility. The ISV contribute to ensuring labour standards, protecting human rights and preventing environmental pollution in international chains.
Because it is not always easy to get started with ISV and MVI, Fairtrade Netherlands, together with trade unions, NGOs and other sustainability initiatives, presented on March 30 the brochure Inkopen met respect voor mensenrechten, zo kan het ook! [in Dutch; “Public procurement with respect to human rights – this is how it can be done”] to support all (public) organisations and municipalities in their sustainable and fair procurement. It contains examples from the industrial clothes, catering, paper, ICT, natural stone, tropical wood and palm oil sectors.
You can download this Dutch brochure here.
German brochure on the procurement of sustainable natural stone
On September 15 and 16, 2020, WEED and Werkstatt Ökonomie organised the conference ‘Natural stone from responsible supply chains’ in Stuttgart, for procuring authorities in Germany. During the conference, topics such as human rights aspects and the exclusion of child labour in the production of tombstones were discussed in more detail. Arisa staff members Gine Zwart and Lizette Vosman participated in the conference and provided a workshop on the TruStone Initiative, together with Frank van Sloun from the municipality of Amsterdam and Varun Sharma from ARAVALI in India. All lectures and workshops of the conference are available on the Werkstatt Ökonomie website.
As a result of the conference, the brochure Natursteine aus globalen Lieferketten – so kann ihre Beschaffung nachhaltig gelingen (February 2021, in German) was also published. This brochure shows how natural stone can be procured in a socially responsible way.
You can download the brochure here.
Nearly 20,000 signatures in few weeks for petition “PayYourWorkers”
In recent weeks, the #PayYourWorkers petition has been signed some 19,000 times. With the petition, concerned consumers and an international coalition of more than 200 civil society organisations and trade unions are calling on garment companies to pay workers the wages they did not receive as a result of the Covid crisis. A year after the start of the pandemic, many brands are profitable again and some even made record profits, while workers in their supply chains are struggling to survive. In the Netherlands, Arisa, ASN bank, BothEnds, trade unions CNV and FNV and Clean Clothes Campagne, among others, support the campaign.
You can find more information about the petition [in Dutch] and (still) sign it here.
Follow Arisa on social media
Arisa is active on social media. Under the name ‘Arisa Foundation’ we share messages about human rights violations in South Asia, especially in relation to the global supply chains of garment and textile, natural stone and seed production. Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
With this newsletter, Arisa wants to keep you specifically informed about her own activities.