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Year: 2013 Type: Book Chapter Language: English

Organizing domestic workers has been tried in many ways, in large part because there is so much heterogeneity within the sector. It is a sector where employer-employee relationships are very dynamic, flexible and arbitrary; domestic workers are often hard to reach, spending most of their time in the ‘private’ sphere of the home; and in some contexts, the non-monetary aspects of agreements between employers and workers may have particular significance. These are some of the many challenges to organizing. This chapter discusses the situation of domestic workers in Bangalore and the experience of Stree Jagruti Samiti, a women’s organization inspired by the women’s movement of the 1970s, in initiating and building the Karnataka Domestic Workers’ Union (KDWU), including the many challenges it has faced. Stree Jagruti Samiti observed in their work of mobilizing, organizing and awareness-raising amongst women in slums in Bangalore that the majority of slum women worked as domestic workers, and the slums were not just a place where poor people live, but were in fact labour colonies; places from where various employers sourced their workers. The KDWU was set up in 2004 in order to concentrate efforts with this group of women. The goals of the union were to achieve basic rights for domestic workers; to change the widespread perception of domestic workers from being ‘servants’ to being ‘workers’; and to ensure that employers and governments recognize them as workers with entitlements to social security.

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