Working Women’s Manifesto Demands Fair Wages, Paid Leave, End to Manual Scavenging and More
”Despite our hard work within and outside homes, we are denied our fundamental rights and denied the status of a worker."
A day before International Women’s Day, hundreds of women gathered at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on Thursday to air their issues and make their demands known. Organised by two communist bodies — the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) and the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) — they discussed the Working Women’s Manifesto.
While issues like unemployment and agrarian distress have been recognised by political parties, media and other stakeholders as the focal issues for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the manifesto aims to bring to the limelight, the issues of specifically working women which are often not given adequate attention on political and development agendas.
The sunny spring morning saw working women from many professions — most of them from vulnerable social and economic groups — air their grievances. Rita Bharadwaj, an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) worker from Sangam Vihar tells NewsCentral24x7 that when she started working in 2006, she received a modest salary of Rs 500 a month. Thirteen years later, her salary can no longer be called even that. Despite having to look after 500-600 families in her area — a lot of primary healthcare is often dependent on ASHA workers — Rita earns no more than Rs 3,000 per month.
Vibha from East Vinod Nagar, who works as a cook in residential areas, has similar woes and more. The sole breadwinner in her family, she complains about not receiving a single day’s paid-leave all year. Her neighbourhood has huge sanitation issues, and her pay is not enough to support her family that includes a sick husband. Mala from Kondli speaks about wage-discrimination and untimely payment. And Rasheedan, a widow from Narela, no longer receives her widow’s pension and old age pension because she was unable to provide Aadhaar details.
The Working Women’s Manifesto plans to address all of this. It says, “Nothing is possible in this world without our labour, however, despite our hard work within and outside homes, we are denied our fundamental rights and denied the status of a worker.”
The manifesto adds, “Even today the society and the government refuse to recognise the labour performed by women inside the home as anything more than ‘service’ or ‘duty’.” It highlights that ASHA-Anganwadi workers are not adequately compensated. The manifesto, however, has a scope broader than just asking for women workers’ rights.
ASHA, Anganwadi workers and rasoiyas have been on strike for months, raising their voices against the unfair working conditions and unfulfilled promises.
It demands an end to government-sanctioned warmongering and communal violence. An end to ignoring the voices of women, labour groups, Dalits, Adivasis and other marginalised voices while writing policy. An end to the sway of billionaire capitalists like the Ambanis and the Adanis over national policy. An end to rising unemployment, inflation and discrimination. Reduction of increasing prices on food items, LPG, petrol, etc. Ensuring unemployment allowance for all unemployed. An end to skewed gender-ratios in workplaces. An end to wage discrimination based on gender. Implementation of better workplace harassment and sexual harassment guidelines and rules. A minimum monthly wage of Rs 26,000 to be guaranteed with immediate effect. A guarantee for this minimum income and provision to take strict action against those not complying with this.
The current Bharatiya Janata Party regime, in the last five years, has witnessed multiple labour and farmer protests. Recently, on March 3, the Mazdoor Adhikar Sangharsh Abhiyan (MASA) organised a workers’ march from Ramlila Maidan to Parliament Street, against the Narendra Modi government’s attempts to weaken the labour laws and privatise the public sector. The demand there too were similar — the abolition of the contract system and creation of permanent jobs; action against privatisation of the public sector; setting a minimum wage of Rs 25,000 for all workers; social security for unorganised sector workers; right to unionise.
The manifesto further demands that ASHA-Anganwadi-Rasoiya scheme workers be given the status of government employees and till then guarantee of a minimum monthly wage of Rs 26,000 for them. It also requires an end to attacks on trade unions. Create laws to make it mandatory for corporations to recognise trade unions and guarantee the registration of unions within 45 days. An end to contractualisation of labour and the creation of separate laws for providing permanent employment for women contract workers.
It also demands the immediate rollback of schemes like National Employability Enhancement Mission (NEEM), National Employability Through Apprenticeship Program (NETAP) and fixed-term employment and the reversal of reforms to labour protest laws. Stricter laws to eradicate manual scavenging and an end to economic, gendered and caste-based oppression of sanitation workers, especially women workers. And finally, an end to all gendered discrimination that women workers face.