With stories of Women workers from Chennai, Kancheepuram and Thiruvallur celebration of women’s day in Pen Thozhilalargal Sangam (PTS) was a day of fun, laughter and serious discussion. Sujata Mody President and R. Sumathi General Secretary of PTS inaugurated the meeting with discussion on labour policy and government’s indifference to women workers issue. The failure of Tamil Nadu Government to notify and implement minimum wages for women workers in garment export companies, of domestic work, and closure of industries laying off thousands of workers such as Nokia showed that the government was ‘supplicant to big business and gave only lip service to women’s rights’.
Madhumitta Dutta, an independent researcher, shared her conversations with former Nokia workers, for whom the short period of economic independence did not secure them social and economic advancement in the future. About 85 women worker leaders and activists from villages and slum communities from three districts actively participated in the discussions.
Women leaders spoke on the need to present their demands to political parties, and educate their membership to actively dialogue with candidates standing for elections.
It was decided to put forth the demands of women workers from each district in the coming election by taking it to the notice of election campaign of various parties. D Sumathi, joint secretary of the union spoke of the importance of participation of women workers in local body elections, and for the members in each area. Women need to be in decision making positions and they must actively participate in all democratic processes, she said. . R. Sumathi PTS Scretary added, “Other than courage, women need clarity and consciousness. And there needs a firmness on the same”
Nagamma from Madurvoyil put forth the demand to declare Women’s Day as National Holiday to help women workers to take off from their routine work. She adds, “Like an ocean, we are behind the leadership of PTS”.
Rathnavalli from Pudhur recollected how she was laughed at by her own family for not stepping out of house. Now her family is confident enough that she will return home safe from anywhere and everywhere and union is the reason behind it.
Victoria from Ponpadi said she was proud of the union, the union was like a friend which supports women during crisis. Earlier women were afraid to enter a police station, but now she was respected as a union leader taking up women’s issues with local authorities. Arunvani from Thiruporur, Padma from Ponpadi, Sarthy from Ambattur spoke on their personal experiences and need to strengthen the union in every village and town, in every slum and hamlet to ensure all women workers could live a secure life with respect and dignity. The meeting ended with revolutionary songs and slogans celebrating womanhood and equality of all communities and women and girls in particular.