Making a Difference in India: UnionAID project building better work and better lives
Everyday Senhol Mary starts out before dawn, walking for nearly an hour through the streets of Madurai to get to the house of the family she works for.
Like millions of women around the world Senhol Mary is a domestic worker, spending the day cleaning, cooking, shopping and doing laundry.
She will earn little more than 50 rupees ($1). Senhol Mary is one of more than ninety women who have formed a domestic workers union in Madurai over the past year.
With UnionAID funding, the Tamil Nadu Labour Union (TNLU) has provided vocational training and education about labour rights and the role of a union.
TNLU President Manohari Doss sees this as a vital step.
“Domestic work is often not seen as real work. Once they see themselves as workers and society sees them as workers then they can start to stand up for their rights, for better pay and respect.”
Across town Saraswathi is putting the final touches on a dress she is making for her neighbour. The sewing machine whirs against the backdrop of a busy kitchen.
Saraswathi works from home, sewing clothes for her neighbours to supplement her family’s income.
It’s skilled work and she enjoys it but jobs are infrequent meaning some months can be tough for her family.
Saraswathi has now become the first President of the Women Home Tailors Co-operative formed by the TNLU.
By working as a cooperative, the 110 members can now bid for contracts to provide uniforms to local schools and hospitals, growing their income and building a better life for themselves and their families.