Thunderstorm and the onslaught of rains didnt deter women workers from various sectors from celebrating the release of their Journal Penn Sakthi (Women Power) and to share their experiences in the State Seminar on Women Workers on November 16th in Chennai. Coming from various parts of the city from Tambaram to Avadi and representing domestic workers and garment industry workers, the women workers shared their experiences at work place and unionization. Speaking on the occasion, garment worker and Vice President of Garment and Fashion Workers Union shared the respect and the distrust by the management since becoming an active union organizer at her factory.
With the garment industry’s minimum wages still yet to be revised even after 8 years and the previous minimum wage still not implemented, economic demands such as living wage, ESI and PF were at the forefront of the demand of the garment workers. The union members also talked about several successes including a sexual harassment against one of the women workers.
Muniamma, ex garment worker reminisced on the issues that the union had taken up in her long standing association with the sangam. Working as a housekeeper in SIPCOT, she discussed about long hours and insufficient breaks as issues that needed to be addressed.
Speaking at the seminar, coordinator of Initiatives: Women in Development, Chennai Based NGO, Ms. Buella asked the women workers to step up from being viewers or passive receivers of information to active parcipants in generating news. Reminding them that a picture is thousand words, she asked women workers find different ways to contribute to newsletter. To make the news worthwhile, its important that not only individual reading is important but also to encourage collective reading in the workers’ groups.
Devi, a domestic worker and active union member from Choolai Medu acknowledged that newsletter can be a good tool in sharing information saying that ‘If we forget to share complete information, it is there for workers’.
Josephine the editor of the newsletter said that today’s mainstream magazines targetted towards women emphasized patriarchical idealogy boxing women into care givers and consumers. ‘They hardly acknowledge women as producers of wealth even though women contribute to the GDP of the nation’ she said. Saying there is a need for newsletter to provide feminist perspective on today’s news, she encouraged the workers to take ownership of the newsletter.
Ms. Sujata Modi, co editor of Penn Sakthi and coordinator of Penn Thozhilalar Sangam and Esther, Action AID also addressed the workers.