A one day training programme on gender and labour rights for homeworkers in the leather sector was organised in Ambur on 10th January 2016, by Cividep India. The objective of the training programme was to create awareness among the homeworkers on labour rights and on gender related issues faced by them. 47 women homeworkers from three villages – Thuthipattu, Navidhampatti and Melpatti participated in the programme.
The event began with a welcome address and introduction by Ms. Brinda Devi of Cividep India. The programme consisted of two sessions, each focusing on gender rights and labour rights respectively.
Session 1: Gender rights, facilitated by Ms. Mary of Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective
The facilitator gave a detailed overview of the rights of women and the statutory provisions available to enforce the rights and check its violations. When the facilitator asked whether women get equal opportunity in their families in decision making, the participants replied that their views are often not taken seriously. Some of the participants mentioned that whenever they raised voice against the decisions made by their husbands, they were either threatened or beaten. One of the participants said that her husband did not even consult while arranging for the wedding of her 19 year old daughter. The facilitator in response said that the women are often ignorant of their rights and it is high time that they become aware of it and the legal provisions which protect these rights. The following were the rights of women that the facilitator explained to the participants.
Right to life
Right to education
Right to equal opportunity
Right to equal pay
Right to property
The facilitator spoke on the importance of women joining politics and informed the participants that 50 per cent of seats in local bodies have been reserved for women in Tamil Nadu. She stressed that women like them should come out of the shadow of men and take part in politics. The facilitator also expressed her anguish at elected women panchayat members being represented by their spouses in many villages. When the facilitator spoke about the women’s right to property, a participant intervened and stated that even though she was aware of the right, she had to give up her claim on her maternal property just to save the good relationship with her brother. The facilitator replied that emotional weakness of women is often exploited by men and cited her own example in which she had fight a court case with her brothers to get a share of her mother’s property. The participants were also informed about the importance of ‘Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act’ and were urged to show zero tolerance towards violence in any form – physical or psychological. The facilitator said that the society by default is patriarchal and it is up to the women to become aware of their rights and assert it.
The participants were divided into five groups and each group was asked to engage in a discussion and write about the rights of women and its relevance to them. The facilitator and Cividep staff helped the groups to initiate the discussions and write down the points on charts. After the discussion the groups made presentations.
Session 2: Labour rights, facilitated by Mr. Pradeepan of Cividep
The facilitator began the session by explaining to the workers the difference between formal and informal working. In order to gauge the participants’ understanding about their work, the facilitator asked them to list the differences between factory workers and homeworkers. The participants stated that the regular workers are entitled to fixed wage, leave, bonus, ESI and PF whereas homeworkers like them get nothing above the piece rate wage. The facilitator explained to the participants that homeworking is a form of employment and that the homeworkers should also be treated on par with the factory workers. The facilitator then explained to the homeworkers the value which they create for the factories and the indispensability of their work in the entire supply chain. The facilitator highlighted the need for the homeworkers to come together as groups so as to address the work related issues and to draw a better bargain with the agents and factories.
Pradeepan of Cividep, spoke to the participants on the importance of them joining the Self-help groups promoted by the organization. The participants were told that unlike other SHGs being promoted by Government and other agencies, these ones are specific to women homeworkers and it focuses more on protecting their rights as workers. One of the participants said that most of them have already joined SHGs formed by ‘Pudhu Vaazhvu Thittam’ of the Government of Tamil Nadu and Micro Finance
Institutions like Equitas. Pradeepan, requested the participants to share information about Cividep and its initiatives with other homeworkers in their villages. Ms. Brinda of Cividep presented the vote of thanks and concluded the programme.