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Experts Weigh In On The Most Efficient Methods To Make Mobile Crèches A Possibility On Construction Sites

  • IWB Post
  •  November 14, 2019

Today, India is on the path to becoming ‘an empowered nation’ but in all this we often forget the people from the informal sector, who make up 93% of the workforce that our country boasts of. In an attempt to bring to the forefront the struggles of at least one faction of this sector, IWBon April 3 this year, filed a petition to make the lives of migrant women laborers a bit easier.

As per the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 (MB Act), for a female employee to get maternity leave, childcare facility, and other benefits, she has to provide proof of continuous employment for a period of 80 days in the 12 months preceding the date of delivery. But the migrant women laborers work for 2-3 weeks in a single place and then shift to another location because the absence of good pay and proper facilities. How can the government expect them to avail these benefits when they can’t fulfill the basic requirements?

Taking the much-needed step towards the betterment of women laborers, Indian Women Blog had initiated a petition to the Ministry of Women & Child Development, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Prime Minister’s Office, which addresses the need of installing Mobile Crèches for children at the work sites.

Our petition was also aimed at:

  1.  Involving builders to take up the initiative for Mobile Crèche facilities at their building       sites
  2.  Addressing gender inequality and discrimination in the unorganized sector
  3.  Sensitizing the contractors, who would stand up to make available basic amenities like clean drinking water, separate restrooms, and bathing and washing places
  4.  Reaching out to local regional NGOs to be involved at a supervisory level for Mobile Crèche facilities
  5.  Making this petition into a movement for a safe work environment for women workers on construction sites

To know women laborers closely and understand their issues better, IWB engaged with women labourers working at different sites in Jaipur city.

“We are migrant laborers, madam. Yaha se waha karte rehte hain, we don’t have a fixed home. No school allows a kid to study nor does my income allow me to put her in a school,” one of the women had shared when we inquired about her daughter’s education.

Arey madam, every woman does it. I am 67 and my daughter is in another state, and she too is carrying her child to the construction site, no matter the pollution or the danger of injury in such places. It is either living with the fear that my kid is all alone at home or the relief that he is at least in front of my eyes. Even if we are pregnant or have to look after our sick child, we have to work to survive,” another elderly woman laborer shared.

These are the issues that women laborers everywhere face on a daily basis but it is the moral duty of the contractor who employs them to provide them with basic necessities, something which labor rights’ activist Chandan Kumar vehemently agreed with in our Twitter chat with him.   

chandan kumar on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @BJP4India @LabourMinistry @MinistryWCD I feel primarily it should be responsibility of employer and govt role is for strict enforcement. But an irony is – govt itself don’t implement it. Employers never enforce it, as it suits to their profits.

chandan kumar on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @BJP4India @LabourMinistry @MinistryWCD Today worker is mobile as as capital. But most of us get away by excuse of complexities of mobility of labour market. Govt must bridge the gap between them and union, & engage as part of labour governance mechanism. The responsibility lies with employer (1)

Continuing our mission to spread awareness about the struggles of women laborers, we engaged in a chat with SEWA Federation, an organization that aims for “the holistic empowerment of the poor self-employed women within the co-operative structure.” Reflecting on the urgent need for crèche facilities at the work sites, the organization said:

https://twitter.com/SEWAFederation/status/1115517609053704192

SEWA Federation on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @MinistryWCD @HRDMinistry We suggest a tripartite board for the informal sector, which takes up universal childcare as a major issue.

Further on their suggested tripartite model, SEWA said:

SEWA Federation on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @MinistryWCD @HRDMinistry Ofcourse! A tripartite model sees involvement from unions and other organisations. We want childcare to become a peoples’ movement, since it has the potential for so much impact – healthcare, labour welfare, gender equality

SEWA Federation on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @MinistryWCD @HRDMinistry The co-op is a member-owned workers’ platform – it amplifies the voices of the workers. Women demand from us what they want; unless the demand comes from the workers, the law will not be enforced.

SEWA Federation on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @MinistryWCD @HRDMinistry We have also been abIe to influence policy makers, since we have the strength in numbers. More than 300 workers’ organizations in our childcare campaign have demanded have come together in a national campaign to ask for quality childcare as a right.

 

In our next chat with NIRMANA, an organization that works with construction workers to help them get their basic entitlements such as health care, children’s education, we shed more light on the previously suggested tripartite model.

 

NIRMANA on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @MinistryWCD @HRDMinistry We believe that a tripartite board model would help in providing social security and regulation of employment for unorganised sector workers. This model has been tried out successfully for the construction workers. We believe that such boards could be replicated in other sect.

NGO Aajeevika Bureau, an NGO working towards ensuring secure and dignified lives for migrant laborers, shared with IWB the solution for smaller and informal construction sites to have mobile creches.

@Aajeevika Bureau on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @MinistryWCD @HRDMinistry The state should subsidize and provide options for childcare in migrant dense geographical clusters in urban areas – close to the work sites of women is a potential solution.

@Aajeevika Bureau on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @MinistryWCD @HRDMinistry Alternatively, the NREGA model, where one woman is employed to take care of the children of other women workers, with provision basic facilities and training can be experimented with. We need to work on iterative solutions, while we think about comprehensive childcare facilities

@Aajeevika Bureau on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @MinistryWCD @HRDMinistry As discussed earlier, bigger builders r legally mandated to provide housing including creches, which acc to our experience are less than 1% of costs in large projects. Agencies that fill the gap in running and managing these r reqd as builder reluctant to take on this burden

Working for the welfare of migrant workers as well, NGO Diya Ghar also shared its thoughts on making mobile crèches mandatory at construction sites.

“By lobbying the law and exposing the magnitude of the issue. It is the only way that we can get the attention of the government as we know that the law about the same already exists. The law already says the presence of crèches is mandatory, it is the implementation part that needs to be strengthened. As rarely any builder follows the law of mandatory crèches at the site, children of laborers die every year due to lack of childcare facilities that exist only on paper,” shared the NGO’s founder, Saraswathi.

Seconding Saraswathi’s opinion, NGO Learn India Organization said: “We agree that having a crèche on the construction site is much more important as women construction workers keep moving from one place to another, so having a crèche at some particular place in the city won’t do. What the government and builders don’t understand is that mobile crèches will only increase the work efficiency of these women as they would quit worrying about their child, as they know that they are being looked after.”

The conclusion we arrived at after our extensive chats with experts, NGOs and women laborers is that the presence of mobile crèches at construction sites is crucial and the duty falls upon the employer, the state, and the central government. The best solution was to apply the tripartite model (employees, employers, government) and employ other methods like the NREGA model, where one woman is employed to take care of the children of other women workers.

As we close this petition and prepare for the next step in our mission to get women laborers their rights, we thank all those who came forward and expressed their solidarity for this cause. 

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