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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Review - Jungle Sisters

Director: Chloe Ruthven, UK

Young women from rural villages in India dream of independence. Orlanda, a long term resident of India who originates from Great Britain, has a solution. The young women can learn to sew. She travels to the villages and recruits women in their early twenties to work in factories that make clothing for large Western corporations. Orlanda’s sister Chloe, a filmmaker, visits her in India. She has a different perspective about what exactly Orlanda is doing.

The process of recruiting workers from the villages is part of an initiative by the government of India in 2008 to train 500 million of the rural poor to work in the industrial sector. This policy continues under Prime Minister Nerendra Modi. In the documentary, Chloe follows best friends Bhanu and Bhutu as they are guided by Orlanda into their new lives as seamstresses in Bangalore. These two “jungle sisters” live together with other women in a large apartment block where their rooms are bare of furnishings but the flush toilet is a real luxury. There are strict rules about when the women are permitted to leave their housing and for how long, as well as serious discussions about who has responsibility for young women alone on the streets. The work is tedious. Their entire day is regulated. They miss their families. Should they stay and work in the factories or marry? For most, these are their only choices. So when Orlanda helps these women to work in the factories, is it exploitation or opportunity? You decide. (Mary W.)

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