Domestic workers in Delhi, India, are demanding that they receive fair and dignified treatment, and the reclamation of their civic rights. As part of this, they are including appropriate wages, a day’s leave in a week, fixed hours of work in a day and the assurance of provident fund, pension, and workers’ social security.
Illustrations by Mrinalini Godara
The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns severely worsened domestic workers’ lives and working conditions. The workers, the vast majority of whom are women, faced significant wage cuts, 24-hour workdays, violent and hateful abuse, and non-existent job security.
‘Reversing Domestic Workers’ Rights: Stories of backlash and Resilience in Delhi’ is a timely and important new storybook produced by Gender at Work Consulting – India. It shares 12 stories from domestic workers living in Delhi NCR, and the often-tragic tales of their lives. Most often, the terrible way domestic workers are treated by their employers and society is shaped around gendered backlash, and the blocking or dismantling any social and/or legal gains they may have. This is particularly pronounced for domestic workers who are Muslim, who, on top of the existing discrimination, face intense Islamophobia.
‘10-20 saal peechche chale gaye’ (‘we have gone back 10-20 years’) in terms of rights, shares one domestic worker during our interviews for the story book.
The storybook also highlights the crucial support that domestic worker collectives and unions can provide, such as the Shahri Mahila Kaamgar Union (SMKU – an unregistered union working with domestic workers in the Delhi-NCR region). During the pandemic, they provided support with rations, e-ration cards, and access to government support schemes.
The storybook also shares original and beautiful illustrations that portray the life of domestic workers.