By Rajyasree Sen
Sanjay Gandhi would have been proud of the good work done in Hyderabad over the last few weeks. Suddenly you couldn’t spot a stray dog. Because they were mysteriously removed. Or, for that matter, a beggar. The Charminar market was spruced up and bridges were painted in sudden gaiety.
This was all done in honour of the three-day Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) 2017, which kicked off on Tuesday and is being co-hosted by India and the US. And which had a US delegation led by that business womanextraordinaire, US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump.
Ivanka is the official adviser to her father. She even filled in for Trump Sr during the G20 summit in Hamburg, seated between China’s Xi Jinping and Britain’s Theresa May. And now, owner of her fashion brand and Wharton School graduate, Ivanka Trump is in Hyderabad to talk about women’s entrepreneurship, thanks to a personal invitation from PM Narendra Modi. Well, there’s good dynasties, and there’s bad dynasties.
Now, I’m all for equal opportunity. But one would hope that when you invite someone to headline a summit, they should deserve the role they’ve been picked for. Trump Jr doesn’t quite cut it.
The theme of this year’s GES is ‘Women First, Prosperity for All’ — slightly ironic, considering that hasn’t really ensured prosperity for the women who work for her in her clothesline. In her book Women Who Work, Ivanka states that “improving the lives of working women is my life’s mission”. But according to an investigation by The Washington Post, her company does not monitor the treatment of the largely female workforce employed in the factories stitching her clothes and bags around the world.
Also, Ivanka Trump — the company and the person — has not followed industry norms of publishing names and locations of factories that producetheir goods. It has, in fact, declined to provide a list of the facilities, some of which are in India. Many of the countries where her merchandise is made in are known for their lax labour laws and pathetic working conditions. Bangladeshi garment workers toil for one of the world’s lowest minimum wages.
Workers at three garment factories that make Trump products have said they work long hours with subsistence pay. China Labour Watch found evidence at one factory, of labourers working 18-hour days at less than minimum pay. Also, since her father became president, public information about the companies importing Ivanka Trump goods to the US, which earlier appeared in private trade tracking data, has vanished. Much like the strays of Hyderabad.
All of which makes Ivanka Trump’s Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative’s (We-Fi) claims to work towards boosting access to business capital for women in the developing world sounds a bit rich.
It’s absolutely halal to curry favour with the US. But if we must invite a successful, famous female entrepreneur from the US, surely Kim Kardashian would have made more sense. She even has a ‘good family name’.