8th March, 2021: Through the Feminist Week of Resistance and Reflections (7th to 14th March), marking International Women’s Day and remembering Savitribai Phule, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) is committed to amplifying the voices of women and persons of marginalized genders, speaking from the intersections of other diverse identities and social locations as well.
On Day 1, we reflect on the farming and unorganized labour sectors, which overwhelmingly employ most people and form the backbone of our economy. The state and powerful sections in society invisibilize the labour of the working classes. Attempts are made to bring in sweeping legislative changes that would further jeopardize the already fragile situation of farmers and workers. In this context we show our full solidarity for the labour and organizing efforts of those who are often unacknowledged. We endorse their demands that seek to dismantle these inequitable systems of capitalism, resource loot and labour exploitation.
While a large number of people in the farm and work sectors face systemic socio-economic exploitation, what often goes unnoticed is the labour of women as well as other persons marginalized on account of their gender and sexuality, especially when they at the same time marginalized and oppressed on grounds of their caste, indigeneity, ethnicity, class, ability, geographic, religious, professional and other identities. We see this in agriculture (agri labour, livestock rearing, fisheries, forest etc), manufacturing, mining and mineral industries, construction, as well as in associated ‘informal’ economies and other unorganized sectors like ‘migrant work’, domestic work, hawking, sex work as well as in the entire spectrum of ‘service sector’. Patriarchal and caste-based division of labour, as well as violence, systemic discriminations and barriers against working women and persons of marginalized genders have resulted in the significant labour of these neglected and minoritized identities not being valued.
Women farmers are often not even acknowledged by their families or the state; the land they work on often belongs to savarna landowners, or belongs to the men of the households, and they constantly have to do additional domestic, cultural and societal work almost entirely devalued. Most women farmers belong to the small, marginal, tenant, share-cropper or landless categories. Women farmers’ groups which have been pushing for policy changes for close to a decade now as well as the historic farmers’ resistance, with the able leadership of women farmers has been sharply bringing many of these issues into the public domain. Women in the fisheries sector as well as adivasi and other women, organized through forest rights unions and coalitions have been asserting their livelihood rights, in the face of corporate assault on coasts and forests.
People have been rising to demand their rights every day, especially in this year, when the pandemic has impacted them disproportionately, putting many at risk and not providing adequate support and livelihood means. Sanitation workers, most of whom belong to historically oppressed Dalit communities have been asking for an end to centuries-long discriminatory practices that compel them into unsanitary, unsafe work and kill them.
Anganwadi and Asha workers, whose labour is necessary and yet not acknowledged financially by the state even in a budget that comes right after one year of lockdown and pandemic, have been asking for recognition and appropriate fund allocations to remunerate their work. The large workforce of women in state-sponsored schemes like NREGA also get less work and insufficient pay, despite hard labour.
Construction workers and urban daily-wage workers were left without any source of income in the beginning of the pandemic. Many are women whose daily wages are lower than men’s (which is also low), who are compelled to migrate to the cities for work with whole families and children to additionally look after. Finding work for them also means an increased risk of sexual harassment, as it does also for all gender non-conforming people, and for people living with disabilities.
Domestic workers, many of whom come from Dalit and Adivasi communities, who are sometimes part of inter-state migrations, were similarly left without income, with their wages at the mercy of their oppressive employers, and their struggle has been ongoing as well. Trans* and gender non-conforming people are discriminated against across the nation, and are often not hired for work in most organized sectors. Professions ranging from teaching to nursing to sex-work, are underpaid, underserved, underrated, and in the case of sex work, even indirectly criminalized. This is based in deep histories of labour discrimination.
Large numbers of women, trangender, and gender non-conforming comrades who are often also Dalit, Bahujan, Adivasi, Vimukta Muslim / other oppressed minority within many collectives, unions and organizations are spearheading emancipatory battles for equity against violence, discrimination and oppression. In the face of intense state repression, they are continuing their struggles against unjust laws and state withdrawal from crucial livelihood – sustaining sectors and are seeking enabling policy measures that secure their livelihoods, with dignity.
NAPM remains committed to amplifying the voices and vision of all the above sections of people fighting for justice. On this occasion in particular, we stand in solidarity with the farmers’ and workers’ movements and women therein, seeking complete withdrawal of the three farm laws and the labour codes, both of which are meant to strike a death blow to the tilling – toiling classes. We support the demand for secure incomes, legalized guarantees for MSP for all crops, formal recognition of women farmers, and support systems, strong social security net, including pensions, food security, state-sponsored health care, education, social justice and protection of the rights to organize and unionize, for all those oppressed and marginalized on grounds of gender, sexuality, caste, ethnicity, religion, disability, etc.