11 Creating space for Domestic Workers

posted Apr 25, 2018, 8:42 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Apr 25, 2018, 8:42 AM ]
Married at 20, Mary was widowed at 22, with a year-old daughter to look after. Rejected by her in-laws, she went to live with her mother, where too she was ill-treated by her brothers and their wives. Finally, after about four years of hardship, in desperation, she took the offer of a job as a domestic worker in Mumbai. Mary’s employer is a bar owner, whose wife is also employed. Mary was left to do all the household work for 14 to 15 hours a day. She had to sleep under the stairs, and was frequently scolded. In addition, she had to endure the frequent sexual advances of her employer, a situation which she finds intolerable, but has no respite from, because she has no alternative. (CBCI survey)

Indeed, Mary doesn’t have an alternative—a plight similar to thousands of domestic workers, as they struggle for their rights and their dignity.

Domestic workers are:

• the most vulnerable women in our slums and on pavements; often single parents, since their husbands are alcoholics or have abandoned them. Besides their work in their own homes, for the survival of their children, they work in other people’s house/houses.

• young girls (and some boys) who leave their villages and tribal areas in the hope of finding a better future in cities and towns.

• small girls (sometimes boys) brought along from villages, who are obliged to do all the housework, without an opportunity to study, or even to play.

Domestic workers as human persons:

• A majority of domestic workers are recruited from villages, especially from tribal areas.

• Nearly 90% of them are women, girls or children.

• As migrants, they are totally uprooted from their own culture, their accustomed food, traditions and language, contributing to a life of fear and isolation.

• A majority of the domestic workers are illiterate, unable to read or write; they are thus unable to communicate with their families.