According to official estimates, there were 41.3 lakh domestic workers in India (as per NSSO 2011-12 data) of which 27.9 lakh are women. But because of the invisible and informal nature of domestic work, it is quite likely that the official statistics underestimate the number of domestic workers in the country. Indeed, some estimates peg the number to be as high as 90 lakh. Despite their staggering numbers, domestic workers encounter a glaring lack of recognition by the state and administrative bodies. They may be indispensable to households, yet they are invisible when it comes to recognising their rights. Compounding these challenges is women’s own devaluation of their work and worth, having internalised generations of patriarchal norms and without the agency and awareness to challenge these unjust systems.
In the international arena, domestic work got recognition as work with the adoption of Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189) (C189) by the International Labour Organisation on June 16, 2011, and since then this date has been celebrated as the International Domestic Workers’ Day. Over the years, the International Domestic Workers’ Day has become an occasion where the workers make their presence felt in the public domain through public rallies, functions, cultural events and submission of charter of demands to officials.
YUVA’s work with domestic workers’ began in the 1990s with the formation of Mahila Mandals and Stree Manch in Mumbai in the 1990s, and since then the work has expanded to areas across Maharashtra and since 2017, in Guwahati and later Jorhat. Over the years, the work with domestic workers had involved organising them into collectives oriented towards attaining labour rights of the workers including social security protections. As part of these initiatives, we have been observing the International Domestic Workers’ Day for the last few years.
On 16th June 2023, YUVA marked the International Domestic Workers’ Day at Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Nagpur, Guwahati and Jorhat through public events, cultural events and submitting memorandums and charter of demands to the concerned authorities. Here are some glimpses into these events
In Mumbai, a joint representation was submitted to the Mumbai Suburban Labor Commissioner by various domestic workers organisations.
In Navi Mumbai, a charter of demands on social security and schemes of domestic workers was presented to the Deputy Commissioner of Labour, Mr. Balasaheb Wagh, at his office in Panvel (Raigad).
In Nagpur, YUVA and the workers’ collective, Kamgar Ekta Union, organised a public function on the occasion of International Domestic Workers’s Day The dignitaries shed light on various issues including domestic workers’ pension, bonus, insurance, scholarship for children’s education, health, paid holidays, worker’s status, health and social security through the establishment of a three-tier board. Also, 28 domestic workers were felicitated by the Union for having been selected under the Samman Dhan Yojana of the Maharashtra State Domestic Workers Welfare Board. Based on the resolution passed on the occasion, a representation was sent to the Chief Minister and Labour Minister through the District Collector and the Assistant Labour Commissioner.
Images: International Domestic Workers’ Day Celebrations at Nagpur
In Guwahati, the Grihokarmi Adhikar Suraksha Samiti (GASS) observed International Domestic Workers’ Day at Pragjyoti ITA Center, Machkhowa, Guwahati. Sr. Advocates and renowned social workers Santanu Borthakur, Krishna Gogoi, senior journalist Durba Ghosh, social worker and feminist rights activist Dr. Indranee Dutta presided over the function which saw participation of 200 domestic workers despite the continuous rains.
Images: International Domestic Workers’ Day Celebrations at Guwahati
The members of the worker collectives in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Nagpur and Guwahati renewed their resolve to continue their struggle for decent and dignified work.