Journey towards ‘domestic women workers forum’

Domestic work is not considered as work neither from community level nor from state level and the workers are not getting any sort of services like contract paper, leave facilities, social security schemes which is generally provided to other works. Likewise, Nepal’s patriarchal society often treats domestic workers as disposable commodities. Domestic work is often undervalued, informal and invisible, mainly carried out by women and mostly adolescent girls. Violence and harassment against domestic workers, very often seen as normal, part of life or part of culture. The common types of violence and harassment experienced by domestic workers in their workplaces includes economic abuse, psychological abuse, physical and sexual abuse, verbal abuse and lack of access to appropriate food.

With a high level of dependence on their employer, domestic workers are more likely to tolerate violence and harassment, with no voice to fight back. Lack of access to complaint mechanisms, lack of clarity in legislation regarding their access to justice and opportunities to organize and exercise freedom of association also increase their vulnerabilities. In addition to this, poor understanding of what constitutes violence and harassment, low awareness of rights, and a lack of training in occupational safety and health standards contribute to the vulnerability of domestic workers. Moreover, loss of jobs or uncertainty of jobs and fear of losing jobs during pandemic/ disaster/ emergency period causing psychological impact in the women domestic workers.

The problems faced by domestic working women range from physical to socio- economic impacts. To begin with, there is no provision of contract letter and minimum salary or working hours separated for domestic workers due to which they are deprived of getting salary according to their work and time input. According to Goal 8 of SDG, there should be provision of decent work and economic growth which contradicts in this matter. In addition to this, the workers go through physical violence in the workplace, mental torture, discrimination, untouchability in their workplace. Furthermore, due to their work, the workers have no respect and dignity in their family and community. According to WEIGO, in Nepal there are three million women in labor’s market with 90.5% in informal employment. The data also shows that more than 80% of the domestic workers have no contract letter and any kinds of social security provision. Although 90 percent of the employed women are working in informal sector, the informal work sector is yet to be recognized and identified as work by the government of Nepal. The Government of Nepal has introduced social security policy and has amended the Labor Act 2017 to take on the formalization of informal work. However, despite of all of these positive steps, there still is no clarity on how women’s work can get identified, recognized and valued.
Tarangini Foundation has been working with the women and girls who have been working as domestic workers in household level. A journey of making a domestic women worker’s forum with the together initiative and support from community, ward and Tarangini;s joint effort has been started. Tarangini’s experience tells that, there exists intersectionality within the working arena of these working women. To specify, there are workers in domestic sector who are also involved in other informal sectors like entertainment sectors or sex industry and vice versa. This signifies that working in one group of marginalized women widens the networking and reach to workers from other areas as a whole which enhances the solidarity and opportunities for change making and social transformation in a long run.