'Girmit' is derived from the English word 'agreement'. It refers to the contract between people, mainly from South Asia, who signed an agreement written in a language they didn't understand, to undertake 'indentured labour' in the 19th and 20th century. The people who took on these contracts came to be known as 'Girmityas'.
Most people have heard of slavery. But the term ‘indentured labour’ is widely unknown. When slavery was abolished in 1833, the indentured labour system was created by the British and other European powers as a way to source cheap labour. Between 1828 and 1917 the indentured labour system facilitated the movement of 1.2 million Indians from their homes to Fiji and other colonies, thousands of miles away. Here they cultivated sugar, cocoa, rubber and other products. This was a legitimate but enforced mass migration of people to work on behalf of others.
Surprisingly, the word 'Girmit' does not exist in the Dictionary. The story of the Girmityas has become an untold story, one that despite affecting tens of thousands of people over the 90 years it was enforced, is not commonly known.