Unionizing for domestic workers rights in India

Tuesday, November 27, 2018 - 12:19

Pushpa is a champion. The eyes of the 40‐year‐old domestic worker from Chennai, Tamil Nadu, in the far south of India, shine when she talks about her advocacy work for women's rights.

My focus at the moment is to mobilize domestic workers to set up a cooperative model strengthening their economic empowerment and self‐reliance

Pushpa is the youngest of five siblings and is the only daughter of the family. From a very young age, she not only supported her mother with household chores but also worked as a maid for other families. The lack of time to study made her give up school early. She later got married to a physically abusive man. When she had a baby, because of financial difficulties, she was forced to return to work, since she received no maternity benefits.

In 2007, Pushpa contacted a community activist from the National Movement of Domestic Workers (NDWM), an ally of ActionAid India. She also joined the Tamil Nadu Domestic Workers Union, knowing that it is a powerful forum for domestic workers to campaign for their rights. Pushpa took part in NDWM's leadership development and legal awareness programmes, which are designed to develop women leaders and build awareness of their rights as domestic workers. Gradually, her confidence grew and she is now a strong defender of women’s labour rights.

Today, Pushpa is treasurer at the Tamil Nadu Domestic Workers' Union and a part‐time field mobilizer at NDWM. She addresses public meetings and accompanies groups of domestic workers to meetings with government departments, supporting union members to access the various State social benefits that they are entitled to.

Pushpa is a leader and is making a difference for her own and other women’s lives, many of whom suffer from the huge gender inequalities at work and who we want to honor during this year’s #16days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence in the World of Work.

The 16 Days of Activism campaign is coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership and brings together over 6000 organizations in 187 countries to call for the elimination of all forms of gender-based violence. Read more about it: www.16dayscampaign.org