Suppression is commonplace for women in informal sector
“I was not allowed to work despite having financial troubles at home only because I am a woman,” Hirawati Devi, a former home-based worker, said on Thursday. “If I managed find some tailoring work some days, I had to hide it from my husband.”
Hirawati was among the eight women, working in informal sectors, who had gathered at India Habitat Centre on the eve of International Women’s Day to talk about the struggles they face owing to their gender identities. From waste-pickers to street vendors, home-based workers and construction workers, all women present at the event shared similar tales of suppression, domestic violence and caste-based oppression that they had to face.
“Our employers are not bad people. They give us tea when we go, but there is a separate cup for me,” said Geeta, a 50-year-old domestic worker who has to commute three hours every day to earn a sum of ₹4,000 per month. “Some people do not allow their maids to use toilets. They forget they are can go to work because we take care of their houses.”
Jarring class distinctions and the apathy arising out of it were not the only things afflicting these women workers. Savitaben, a resident of Savda Ghevra resettlement colony, said threats of sexual harassment were a serious concern when it came to women who step out to earn for their families.
“Since we had to cross a jungle to reach around Tikri border to find work, we mostly travelled in groups. Three-four years ago, a group of men attacked four women. Three of them manage to flee but the one left behind was gang-raped,” Savita said, while her teenage daughter added “the body was thrown into a canal”.
Organised by Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), which works to empower workers of the informal sector, the event sought to change how people think about informal workers and initiate a dialogue between them and their employers.