Programs Led with and by
Women Domestic Workers
Domestic workers in India, numbering roughly 4.2 million, as per official data (unofficial estimates by ILO place them at up to 80 million), form one of the most vulnerable worker groups in the country. Inequalities of gender, coupled with various other challenges they face in the world of work, including a lack of recognition as workers, lack of access to social security benefits and their status as migrants, makes them more vulnerable to sexual harassment in the workplace.
The Martha Farrell Foundation has been closely engaged with domestic workers of Haryana and Delhi for the last five years, leading efforts in partnership with them, to counter sexual and gender-based violence in their lives and their world of work. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal), 2013 is one of the few laws in India that recognises them as workers, and expands its purview to include their rights to a safe and conducive workplace.
The initiatives leveraged participatory methodologies to capacitate domestic worker partners with leadership and advocacy skills to begin seeking justice under the Act. Discussions with domestic workers led to the realisation that to tackle the issue of lack of safety in their workplaces, domestic workers would need to be able to access their rights as citizens and women, first. Labour rights, recognition by the state and equal treatment in society are paramount to enhancing domestic workers' ability to bargain in the workplace and prioritise their safety.
The exacerbated challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic in the lives of domestic workers further underscored the need to secure their rights in every sphere. Loss of jobs and dwindling income pushed domestic workers and their families to the brink of starvation, to such an extent, that the Martha Farrell Foundation and women domestic workers of Delhi and Haryana led a COVID-19 Relief Kit Drive for and by women domestic workers during the Second Wave of the pandemic. A parallel study was conducted with and by 4500+ women domestic workers, the only study at such scale in India on the experiences of domestic workers in the pandemic:
In response to the exacerbated challenges highlighted by women domestic workers during the first and second waves of COVID in India, the Martha Farrell Foundation is engaged in and has been leading the following programs with, for and by women domestic workers: