Behind every successful man is a woman, and behind every successful woman is a woman; often that woman is her “maid”. Some call her didi, kaamwali, bai, tai, housekeeper, help or cook but only Shakespeare put it right, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” , therefore, a household help by any name will be equally helpful.
Nuclear families in urban India are defined by double income with kids and domestic help. For the lady of the house to step out and work, a lady needs to be in the house to take care of the domestic work. This is when migrant workers come in the picture. These domestic help, single or married, step out of their homes and help the urban working woman pursue her career and contribute to family income. Consciously or unconcisiously a class of working women emerged in urban India, which is a shadow of the urban working women.
If you are reading this article, hold your breath and express silent gratitude for the lady/ladies who help you. These women are “Maid of Honour” in our every day life. These migrant domestic workers not only settle in the nooks and crannies of our urban city scapes, but also in the aperture of our life.
Women who step in and help cook the first meal of the day, pack our lunches and send us off even before they have a morsel to eat are truly God sent. The housekeeper makes the bed, does laundry, dusting while supervising the cleaning lady. Ironing lady collects the clothes and by the time children return form school, order is restored in house. Immaculate home with lunch served. Women return in evening to hot cups of tea, which are as desirable as the freshly ironed clothes that return home, still smelling of burned charcoal. Along with fuel, burns the day of these ladies. Even though these women work 12- 16 hours a day, they hardly earn enough. High rentals in urban India, along with school fees and inflating food prices, leave them with no savings at the end of the month. Delhi Labour Organisation, there are over five crore domestic workers in India most of whom are women.
The plight of these women domestic workers is varied from not getting enough salary, working inhumanely long hours, eating at odd hours, not getting weekly off, to even struggling to find employment due to caste and religion biases.
The Centre has proposed a Draft National Policy for Domestic Workers in India, which will include the following
- Inclusion of Domestic Workers in the existing legislations.
- Registration of Domestic workers.
- Right to form their own associations, trade unions.
- Right to have minimum wages, access to social security, protection from abuse, harassment, violence.
- Right to enhance their professional skills.
- Protection of Domestic Workers from abuse and exploitation.
- Domestic Workers to have access to courts, tribunals, etc.
- Establishment of a mechanism for regulation of concerned placement agencies.
Before the policy is implemented by government at large, it is the responsibility of each one of us to take a step forward and implement it in our homes.
As Stephen Hawking said “We are very, very small, but we are profoundly capable of very, very big things.” Positively influencing the life of one person will cause the ripple effect of social change. Keep Believing!
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