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    » 08/05/2010, 00.00

    INDIA

    Belgian nun helps two million domestic workers in India regain dignity and rights

    Santosh Digal

    In 1985, Sister Jeane Devos founded the National Domestic Workers Movement (NDWM), an organisation that now has 53 branches in 23 states. Domestic workers are often denied their rights, underpaid and treated like animals. A domestic worker in Tamil Nadu recounts how she was not treated as a human being but thanks to the NDWM, her situation improved.
    New Delhi (AsiaNews) – In India, the National Domestic Workers Movement (NDWM) has been able to improve the conditions of some two million domestic workers, whose rights have been traditionally denied. Founded in 1985 by Sister Jeane Devos, a Belgian nun with the Order of Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the NDWM is affiliated with the Labour Commission of the Bishops’ Conference of India.

    “We broke a wall of silence, slavery and exploitation,” Sr Jeane said. “Our movement has grown and we can change the situation of domestic workers through solidarity, dignity, justice and empowerment.”

    The NDWM operates 53 branches in 23 Indian states. Its goal is to secure the recognition and protection of domestic workers.

    Mgr William D’Souza, archbishop of Patna, said that steps have been taken in the right direction “to create a just society where domestic workers are treated as people with dignity, where their rights are defended, where their contribution to the economy and to development is recognised, where their voice is heard.”

    At present, the situation for many domestic workers is truly appalling, something that Seetha Lakshmi, a domestic worker in Dindigul (Tamil Nadu), knows all too well.

    “I was getting 50 rupees a month (US$ 1.1) and I was never treated like a human being,” she said. “I cried every day.”

    “In 1992, I heard about NDWM and so I turned to them. We talked about wages, hours, and days off. When I spoke to my employer about this movement, my situation improved,” she said.

    Over the years, the NDWM has carved a space for itself in Indian society and has found support among political leaders.  

    “Women and child domestic workers suffer exploitation and discrimination in various ways and forms,” said the former governor of Maharashtra state, Sanayangba Chubatoshi Jamir. “Together with migrant workers, they form the most vulnerable group of people in society who are often denied their basic rights as human beings,” he added. Therefore, “it is gratifying to note that NDWM has been lending its voice to the cause of women and child domestic workers.”

    Thanks to the NDWM, the International Labour Organisation has been developing labour standards for domestic workers.

    “Great things have happened to domestic workers,” Sr Jeane said. “We shall continue to move with faith in God and the Spirit that guides the movement.”

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    See also

    09/12/2015 BANGLADESH
    Dinajpur celebrates Sister Gaetanina, 50 years in the service of the Bengali Church
    The religious belongs to of Catechist Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Queen of Angels founded in 1951 by then Bishop Joseph Obert, PIME. For 16 years, she led the sisters, pushing for more education and a greater role in society. In a male-dominated society, she managed to hold fast to her vocation and boost the contribution of women to the Church and the country.

    19/02/2007 CHINA
    UN believes China might abolish forced labour
    International Labour Organisation says the Communist government is planning to abandon its ‘re-education through labour’ policy. But for a China Labour Bulletin official there is no real sign of change.

    24/11/2009 MYANMAR – INDIA
    Useless UN and ILO rituals bring no change, Burmese dissidents says
    Tint Swe, a member of Burma’s government-in-exile, says that reports on forced labour and non-binding resolutions against the junta are ineffective tools against Myanmar’s military leadership. The support of China, India and Russia guarantee impunity to country’s junta. The people of Burma are under no illusions.

    13/06/2006 VATICAN
    Globalisation should not undermine the right to 'decent work', says the Holy See
    Unfair financial and trade liberalisation are undercutting access to 'decent work' which can promote human dignity for all, immigrants included. Workers' exploitation today means 270 million work accidents.

    28/10/2005 MYANMAR
    Myanmar wants to quit ILO

    The ruling military junta in former Burma has said it wants to leave the ILO but no official letter of notice has been submitted as yet.





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