The International Labor Organization (ILO) defines a Domestic Worker as “someone who carries out household work, in private households, in return for wages”.
The estimated number of domestic workers in India is 90 million, a workforce which does not have any international or national standards to regulate their employment, conditions of work, wages and social security. It is a fact that 90% – 95% of domestic workers are women and the ILO also estimates that worldwide, domestic work is the largest employment category for girls under the age of 16.
The acceptance of domestic workers starts by recognizing their work. The problems they face are many, beginning with ill treatment and physical, sexual and mental abuse at the workplace. Their working conditions are often similar to forced and bonded labor, thus making them contemporary slaves. Many women and children domestic workers reveal that they are trafficked, both within and outside the country, and exploited by the placement agencies, which operate openly without any form of government regulation.
The Karuna Domestic Workers Welfare Trust began in 2002 in Bangalore with Sister Nisha Mathew as it’s state coordinator which is engaged in advocacy programs in 10 districts of Karnataka State.
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Sr. Nisha Mathew, the managing Trustee is of 55 years old, born in Kerala, and had her education done up to PUC in her home town and joined the Congregation of Franciscan Servants of Mary, in the year 1981 at Bangalore. Completed the bachelor’s degree in social work from Mangalore University in the year 1993 and from then on involved in the field of social and developmental activities for women and young girls in different parts of Karnataka was fortunate to study Law from the University of Bangalore and enrolled as a member of BAR Council of Karnataka in the year 2002. She has also completed her master’s degree in social work in the year 2013 amidst her heavy schedule of work with the Movement. Now she is the Director of the Gowpyatha Makkala Kedndra which is established in the year 2007. Continuing the coordinators work in the state of Karnataka to empower Domestic Workers.
From 2002 Sr. Nisha got involved with the National Domestic Workers Movement and started in Karnataka this Movement for domestic workers. It was not an easy job even though qualification in social work highlighted. Organizing the domestic workers, who are scattered in different parts of the city, scatters the mind and heart of someone who wants to try to gather them for their rights and dignity. It was also for Sr. Nisha, there were times of desperation and struggles, but the Divine assistance and supports of many lead her through these 12 years of committed work and along with the Team that is built up in Karnataka, few visible successes that can be seen:
- Ø Creation of Trust in the State in the year 2006
- Ø Realization of Gowpyatha Makkala Kendra (Confidential Centre for Children)
- Ø Registration of Akhila Karnataka Domestic Workers Trade Union
- Ø Membership in the Unorganized Workers Welfare Board
- Ø Joint Secretory for the Commission for labour in the Karnataka Region Catholic Bishops’ Council
The 10 years of work with domestic workers has resulted in the formation of their union that has almost reached to 4000 paid members with two years of its registration.
In 2004, the Karnataka Labour department has included the domestic workers in the schedule of workers and notified the minimum wage for domestic work. Indeed it was a lift for our domestic workers from slavery to the status of workers. Every year it is the pleasure of our team to collaborate with LIC and enroll the domestic workers with the group insurance scheme and reaching the benefit for domestic workers and their children. In 2013-14, it benefitted for 1500 domestic workers and 228 children. Enrolling our domestic workers in to AAM ADMI BHIMA YOJANA is another interesting programme that now we are all involved with.
Registering the domestic workers in to the RSBY scheme has taken lot of our strength and in some of the districts in Karnataka, is benefited.
Thus, the Movement in Karnataka has brought rights and dignity to domestic workers to some extent. Empowering the domestic workers and struggling for their rights is an ongoing process. Day by day, the struggle is challenged due to various factors, especially the growing number of domestic workers in the cities and the expansion of city of Bangalore. The financial problems of paying the proper salary to personals who reach out to domestic workers are challenged. The generation of today are searching the job that are less risked and more paid, less struggle and more comfort, less primitive and more advanced, etc..
Jerson Cusher, the treasurer of the Trust is born in the year 1972 at Vasai, Mumbai. He did his basic education in the home town and joined the Congregation of passion in the year 1987. He chose to remain as a passionist brother and serve the people as best as he can. It was his pleasure to serve the congregation in different apostolates and he took his Master’s Degree in social work in the year 2005 from the Barkatullha University, Bhopal. He joined the Domestic Workers Movement in the year 2006 and was part of the formation of the Trust and is the treasurer of the Trust since then. He has taken special interest in counselling the children in trauma and attended special training in St. John’s medical College, hospital for three months and had also an exposure programme along with a congress in Belgium for 15 days. He also is the Director of our Trauma Counselling Centre at Bangalore for the past 12 years. Studied in COADY instituted in Canada and achieved his Diploma in Leadership. His commitment and selfless service for the Trust from the time of inception is highly appreciative.
Sr. Preethi Joseph, the Trustee is born in the year 1962 in Kerala and after her basic education, joined the Congregation of Franciscan Servants of Mary in the year 1979 at Bangalore. She is trained in lab technology and has served the institute in the same profession for 10 years. Later she shifted to involvement in social activities and took Master’s Degree in Counselling in the year 2013 in Bangalore. Even though she doesn’t involve in the activities of the Trust often, she assists the Trust and gives herself generously whenever it is possible and her valuable ideas are appreciated at the time of Trustees Meetings.