This study is dedicated to and is an act of solidarity with the collective struggle of the choultry workers for their basic rights and dignity as women and as workers.
Invisibility, informality, drudgery and extreme vulnerability characterise the world of work for women. Even when paid, the conditions of employment and remuneration are oppressive and exploitative, contravening international and national labour standards. Patriarchal values and structures that dominate society further impact the status of women workers. Their presence in the labour market is in addition to the unpaid care work forced on them by social and family norms. Thus, the expectation of women workers is that they will perform multiple activities.
The participation of women in the workforce in India, which was low, to begin with, has been declining. In the last decade, 21 million women have exited the workforce in India. There is a need to spread knowledge on issues faced by women across the realms of unpaid, underpaid and forced work. There is a need to resist the invisibilisation of women’s work, campaign for the recognition of women’s work, and celebrate them as workers. We need to support the efforts of women workers to hold the State accountable and demand their rights as workers. We need to strengthen the agency and capacities of women farmers, MGNREGA workers, street hawkers, home-based women workers and domestic workers and support the formation of workers’ collectives, farmers’ collectives, cooperatives and networks of women workers. While there are universal themes to be found across these sectors, each sector has specific vulnerabilities caused by the nature of the operations and the historical vulnerabilities faced by the workers. In this context, we present this report: Shadow Work: Ensuring Dignity and Security in the Lives of Choultry Workers.
The report presents the challenges faced by women workers working in choultries in and around the city of Bengaluru in Karnataka. Traditionally choultries were resting places for travellers, pilgrims or visitors to a site, most often a religious place. Over time these have come to mean workers hired for various events, including marriages, celebrations of a new home and other functions.
The report presents the way forward as voiced by the women workers and a collective vision of a future where the rights of informal workers in this sector are protected and promoted.
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