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Victoria's Secret helps 'boost' the assets of cash-rich women around the world, with its bust-enhancing bras.  But according to reports the lingerie company is also improving the lives of thousands of rural Indian women who are responsible for creating the garments.
  Traditionally confined to the house, spending their days doing chores, making meals, cleaning and looking after the family, an increasing number are said to be realising the benefits of economic freedom.  Indian villager Jaya, 22, who has recently been making up one of Victoria's Secrets most popular innovations - the padded 'Very Sexy' push-up bra, said: 'I knew nothing but the village before.

Workers produce Victoria's Secret bras at the Intimate Fashions factory in Kanchipuram district, 30 km (18 miles) south of India's southern city of Chennai'My parents just wanted me married as quickly as possible.  'They never saw me as an asset, just a burden. They did not think a woman could earn money, but look at me.'  On Intimate Fashion's massive factory floor, in India's Tamil Nadu state hundreds of women can be seen wearing aprons and headscarves, in the Victoria's Secret signature pink.  The firm - which also produces bras for Victoria's Secret brand 'Pink' and the La Senza brand - is one of thousands of companies that have cropped up in the area over recent years.  And Mamandur village, just a 30 minutes drive away, provides a steady pool of young women for the factory which employs around 2,500 workers.
 'Thousands of companies have mushroomed here and there has been increasing competition to get good employees,' says Prasad Narayan Rege, Intimate Fashions' general manager.  'So when the World Bank and the Tamil Nadu government came to us with the idea of employing women from some of the poorest communities and give them training, we saw a good opportunity.

 If it wasn't for this project, we would be in big trouble.'  The World Bank provided a $350 million loan to fund the Pudhu Vaazhvu (meaning 'New Life' in Tamil) project, helping to identify jobless youths in local village committees.  Firms are then connected with individuals and hold rural job fairs at least once a month - giving presentations, answering questions on qualifications, training and salaries - in particular focusing recruiting on young female employees.

Officials say firms have to adopt 'culturally sensitive' approaches such as bringing parents to see their manufacturing units to show them the environment their daughters will be working and living in as some girls must stay in hotels set up by employers.  'Initially, it was strange to see rural women working. Our society has kept women at homes in their traditional roles as homemakers,' says Shajeevana R.V. from Tamil Nadu's Rural Development Department.  'But now, these young women are breadwinners. Not only that, we are seeing positive social changes taking place due to these jobs.

Girls, who were married off straight out of school are now delaying their marriages by three or four years.'  Since this public-private partnership which began in 2005, 143,709 young people in Kanchipuram and 25 other districts, have got jobs with 421 companies, which include Intel, Nike, Samsung and Nokia, say government officials.  'Before I struggled to send my children to school, even food was a problem,' says Latta Gubendran, mother of three, whose 19-year-old daughter, Divya, works at Intimate Fashions and earns a monthly salary of 7,000 rupees ($130).

 'Divya earns more than I thought possible. My two younger girls can go to school and we have bought a fridge, a television and even tiled our floors in our house. She is like the son I never had. She brings me and my family respect.'  Most villagers in the region are dependent on manual labour, working on farms for a daily wage of 100 rupees ($2).  The U.S. lingerie giant is currently racing to open its first UK stores before July 28 in a bid to capitilise on tourism driven by the London Olympics.
 It is set to open its 16,500 sq ft, three-floor Bond Street store on July 25, two days before the start of the sporting spectacular, while its Westfield Stratford City store is expected to open a day later, sources told Retail Week.  The retailer, which has 1,000 stores globally, is likely to attract thousands of shoppers, who are expected to spend an extra £16.6m in the West End as a direct result of the Games.


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