For 43-year-old Naseem, a bead worker from Old Delhi, business still means trading in loose change: she gets 50 paisa for every double-stringed necklace that she makes. And earning even 20 rupees after a whole day’s work is something of an achievement.
“Everywhere prices are rising, but women’s wages in the home-based handicrafts industry like ours have remained the same for ages,” says Naseem, who’s been doing this work since her husband abandoned her about 20 years ago.
At the AIDWA’s 800-strong National Convention of Muslim Women held in the capital, several voices like Naseem’s from across 14 states, found a common platform. Participants raised concerns regarding women’s work, citizenship rights, justice for riot victims, violence and negotiating the public sphere. So even as zardozi worker Malka from Uttar Pradesh — who gets paid a rupee for a chikan kurta — and Naseem demanded fair wages, Assam’s Manwara Ahmed spoke of those five lakh beedi workers like her, who aren’t still registered and hence don’t possess BPL cards.
Besides this, the convention also focused on the issues of justice for women like Shakeela, a riot victim from Gujarat, who was shot at along with her seven-year-old son by the police party.
Other participants demanded the abolition of triple talaq that had left many Muslim women stranded, with no maintenance. “We are going to take these demands to various political parties and request them to include them in their manifestos. The meet is a part of the broader women’s movement and unity to raise specific issues faced by different sections of women, in this case Muslims,” said Brinda Karat, Vice president, AIDWA.
What also came through during the event were stories of women, who were fighting against discrimination and injustice, recognition of inter-religious marriages and dowry-related issues.