‘Your Home is My Workplace’: Empowering Domestic Workers

Vishü Rita Krocha
Kohima | June 10

 

Domestic Workers constitute one of the most vulnerable groups in the society despite no comprehensive regulatory mechanism for this sector. In North East India, it has roughly been estimated that there are around 5 to 6 lakh domestic workers engaged in household works, and belong to this unorganized sector.

 

According to data provided by the Ferrando Domestic Workers Alliance, women constitute 71% of this sector, making it the largest female occupation in urban areas. Also owing to the fact that a large number of domestic workers are migrant women belonging to lower caste or from ethnic minority communities, they are more vulnerable to all kinds of exploitation. It is also estimated that Delhi alone has about 8 lakh domestic workers in the city, half of which is largely contributed by the North East.

 

Rights, dignity, solidarity
Recognizing the various issues faced by domestic workers, the Ferrando Domestic Workers Alliance formed under the Centre for Development Initiatives (CDI), the social development branch of the Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Christians (MSMHC), has been working to bring about the realization of the rights, dignity and solidarity of domestic workers in North East India. With the formation of domestic workers union structures in 12 cities spread across different states in the North East region, the Alliance has so far been able to identify and register about 12,000 domestic workers and organise them into 600 plus groups, building their capacity, training them on their rights, creating platforms to voice themselves through campaigns, advocacy and public awareness.

 

In Kohima, it was learnt that so far a total number of 374 domestic workers, including children, have been identified out of which 95 of them have registered. Speaking to The Morung Express, Sr. Theresa, Coordinator of the Ferrando Domestic Workers Alliance, Kohima city, said that it has been a challenging task identifying the domestic workers as many of them are also not willing to come out and register themselves.

 

She said, “We are only working for their welfare, and both the owners and the domestic workers need to understand that.” Since ‘domestic work’ is not considered as ‘work’ by many people, she also stated that they are conducting awareness programmes in this regard in different schools and colleges so they can empower students who have domestic help at home.

 

She also informed that June 11-16 is North East International Domestic Workers’ Week while June 16 will be observed as North East International Domestic Workers’ Day by Ferrando Domestic Workers Alliance at Catholic Association of Nagaland (CAN) Building in Kohima.

 

Mention may be made here that some of the issues being addressed by the Alliance include Recognition of domestic workers as workers, Decent working conditions, Regulation of recruitment and placement agencies and Introduction and enforcement of Minimum Wages for the Domestic workers. It emphasizes that decent work for domestic workers begins at home and the need to treat them with respect, recognize their work, pay a decent wage, guarantee sufficient rest and provide living conditions.