“My name is Christina Jessica.
My mother raised me on her own. We lived in a mudbrick house and life was difficult. My mother could not work and struggled to provide for me. Then, when I was 15 years old, a labour broker came to my village and offered me a job in a fabric mill.
I was to spin the fabric used for making clothes – clothes made in other countries that I’d probably never visit and worn by people I’d likely never meet. They promised me a wage large enough to keep my family afloat.
So, I made my decision.
I felt the right choice was to leave school and begin working. I had no reason not to trust what he said.
Now I know that decision changed my life forever.
A daily wage of 100 rupees ($2) and an eight-hour workday, that was the deal I agreed to. But it was a lie. My new reality was nothing like the promised life my family and I had hoped for. I found myself working brutal, 12-hour days in unsafe conditions, only to earn 40 rupees (not even $1).
There was nothing in place to protect my health or my safety. And none of my supervisors seemed to care. They kept on demanding long hours of my work, regardless.
Even though I was just a young girl of 15, I knew that this was not right. So, I went to my one of my supervisors and asked him to increase my pay. He agreed, but with the condition that I would make it worth his while in other ways.
We had no one to speak to but our supervisors, who were often the very cause of our concerns. The only way for us to keep our jobs was to stay quiet and tolerate the poor conditions, harassment, and abuse.
I felt forgotten. I felt unheard.
Before I started, the labour broker told me that if I worked for five years at the mill, I would receive a bonus of 50,000 rupees. In these conditions, I began to wonder if this was even possible.
But it was too late. My hope in that bonus drove me – the light at the end of this awful tunnel. I was as good as trapped.
After two years of 12-hour days in that awful spinning mill, my health had deteriorated so badly that I could no longer work. I was still a young girl, only 17.
And so, I left that place. Three years short of my promised 50,000 rupees. I now understand that was another lie that the labour broker sold me.
As a direct result of my constant inhalation of cotton fibers, I have ongoing respiratory issues and problems with my heart. I was never compensated for these injuries, though they make it impossible for me to work. Even to this day.
For two years, they exploited me. And I have nothing but sickness to show for it. I fear for my family’s future.
I need you to know that I don’t like telling this story. I hate having to re-live those terrible years. I hate when I am reminded of everything that I’ve lost. But I am compelled to share it, nonetheless.
It is my hope that you will pass my story on to others and that, finally, change will come. It is my hope my story can save other young girls from this same fate.
My greatest hope is that other young girls will never have to live the life that I have lived.”
* Baptist World Aid wrote this story, based on an interview with Christina Jessica about real experience. We have changed Christina Jessica’s name for protection reasons.