Women workers release manifesto demanding changes at workplace

Women from different sectors come together to demand change in the current workplace environment to ensure no discrimination against women

By Sudeshna Mallick
Published: Friday 08 March 2019
Photo: Sudeshna Mallick

On March 7, 2019, a day before International Working Women’s Day, women workers from different sectors came together in capital Delhi to release a manifesto. Their demands include ensuring no gender-based discrimination at workplace, permanent jobs and timely payment of wages and salaries.

The manifesto mandates:

  1. End of gender discrimination and sexual violence. Implementation of special guidelines at all workplaces should be ensured
  1. Stop ignoring women related schemes and stop favouring rich persons
  1. Increase participation of women labourers in all workplaces
  1. Guarantee monthly salary up to Rs 26,000 for ASHA, Anganwadi workers and helpers.
  1. Abolish contractual work; draft separate laws for the welfare of workers, make their jobs permanent, take back anti-worker labour laws such as National Employment Through Apprenticeship Program (NETAP)
  1. Immediately stop the exploitation of the financially backward, racial and gender-based harassment, especially of women sanitation workers

“They discriminate us by treating us like untouchables. We don’t get our salaries in time. We work to make a living just like them, but whenever we raise our voice to demand our rights they ask us to leave as they have other options. It is very difficult for anybody to make ends meet with a monthly salary of Rs 5,000 in Delhi. It is, hence, crucial to discuss the problems, rights, equality at workplace, as well as demand the implementation of sexual harassment laws,” says Mala from AICCTU.

“Asha worker put in a lot of effort — from getting kids vaccinated to taking care of pregnant women. Yet, the government says that we don’t do anything. We are only paid Rs 1,500 rupees per month, sometimes we don’t even get the entire amount. These claims of increasing our salary and paying us Rs 5,000 are mostly false. This time, my family has decided not to vote in the upcoming 2019 elections in protest. There are eight lakh Asha workers in India. If we come together to vote we can replace the government,” says Asha worker Rita Bharadwaj from Sangam Vihar.

As reported by Down To Earth, “according to the guidelines framed when the workforce of ASHA was conceptualised under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), a total of 43 different functions are assigned to them along with specific remuneration for each of them.”

The maximum they can get for an activity is Rs 5,000 for administering medicines to drug-resistant tuberculosis patients to just Re 1 for distributing an ORS (oral rehydration solution) packet. But ASHA workers say they normally earn through antenatal care (Rs 300), institutional delivery (Rs 300), family planning (Rs 150) and immunisation rounds (Rs 100) as cases of other diseases are not many in number. Hence, their monthly remuneration is directly dependent on the type of activities they do in a given month.

The manifesto questioned the efforts of the current government and blamed it for negligence towards issues of working women. The women workers decided to boycott all news channels till the election to decrease the influence of political parties through media.

The protest was jointly organised by All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) and All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA) at Jantar Mantar.

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