Kohima: With the theme ‘Recognise decent work for domestic workers for their social protection and sustainable development’, the Domestic Workers’ Week began in Kohima on Saturday to empower and uplift those in the profession.
Organised by the Ferrando Domestic Workers’ Alliance (FDWA), the inaugural ceremony was held at Savio KG School, Kohima where women domestic workers from the city attended the event.
“Most of our domestic workers are illiterate and come from vulnerable communities and backward areas. A good number of them are migrants. Their work is undervalued, underpaid, and poorly regulated. Lack of decent wages, proper working conditions, definite work time, abuse and sexual harassment at the workplace are some of their major issues,” Sr Rincy Kamei, FDWA co-ordinator said.
The NGO functions under the Centre for Development Initiatives (CDI), a social development wing of the Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Christians (MSMHC), an indigenous congregation of North East India.
“At present in Kohima City alone, a total number of 927 domestic workers have been identified and registered, and 209 children in domestic workplaces with FDWA. However, it has been a challenging task for us to identify the domestic workers as many of them are not willing to come out and register themselves, even though it is for their own benefit,” the nun said.
Supervisor of the Nagaland State Social Welfare Board (NSSWB), Juliana Medom, who graced the event as the resource person, encouraged women to know about their rights. She said that the lack of confidence among domestic workers deprives them of speaking up for their own rights.
“You need to respect yourself and your workplace. The work that you do is valuable. Domestic workers work hard and earn honestly with dignity. As domestic workers, have confidence and respect for the work you do because you are contributing to the local economy,” she told the women domestic workers in attendance.
The officer then goes on to say that as domestic workers take care of the households, many families, especially those who are working parents, are able to pursue their careers as they get a helping hand at their homes.
As a working mother herself, she thanked the domestic workers for their contributions. She then challenged the domestic workers to upgrade their skills in their profession. While it is important to stand up for their rights, she said that it is equally important to perform their duties diligently.
Joysee, a domestic worker, shared how her life has changed after the intervention of FDWA. She said that the NGO has educated and facilitated domestic workers like her to make documents and avail of governmental schemes as most of them are illiterate.
“I also got a lot of friends in the same profession through the organisation. They trained us in basket making, stitching clothes, and helped us find ways to upgrade our skills and earn a livelihood, while also educating us about our rights,” she said.
The female domestic worker then expressed concern saying that domestic workers are in need of a regulation that can fix the minimum wage for people in the profession.
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Member of Nagaland State Commission for Women, Khrienuo Meyase, said the country has no legislation to regulate the wages of domestic workers. While the demand for domestic workers is increasing, she said that as the profession is categorized under the unorganized sector, the wages remain low.
Domestic workers, she observed, are vulnerable to exploitation, including sexual exploitation. She said that the state government should also make regulations to protect the rights of domestic workers. From regulating work duration, wages, and rights, she said that these issues must be addressed collectively by the government and all stakeholders.
She also encouraged domestic workers to equip themselves with modern knowledge of housekeeping to enhance the quality of work, which in turn will give better rewards.
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