Day 3 – Final Day in Delhi, India
On our final full day in Delhi, the Movement Makers split into groups based on their interests and connections.
One group met with Manisha Gupte and Dr. Ramesh Aswathi, co-founders of MASUM (Mahila Sarvangeen Utkarsh Mandal) to hear their story and reflections on social change. In the 1970s, these two had moved to a rural village in hopes of gaining a greater understanding of how social change happens. MASUM was founded out of their experience in the drought-prone Purandar block of Pune district. MASUM fosters an integrated community approach, with the core belief that people can resolve their own problems collectively with some external support.
Contemporaneously, others in our group met with labor organizing movement leaders Sonia George, Self-Employed Women’s Association Union Secretary, Madhu Birmale of Alliance for Waste-Pickers in Mumbai, and Savita Kambale, a domestic worker. With translation assistance, these three shared powerful stories of their leadership in action.
Madhu shared about the Hard Working People’s Organization, which is organizing for respect for domestic workers. They help domestic workers take pride in their work and to demand respect and recognition from their employers and their government. This vibrant community organization’s model involves one community member supporting 25 others, serving as their advocate, problem solver, and mediator as needed.
Madhu also shared the story of a powerful and symbolic protest against the lack of action by the government to protect domestic worker, activist domestic workers declared the government “dead to them” and prepared symbolic funeral rites, including having some women ritually shave their heads to publicly mark them as widows. This proved quite strategic—the targeted government official pleaded with the activists not to take such dramatic action and the act was passed!
Movement Makers talk to domestic workers rights organizers.
Sonia from SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association) offered a theoretical framework that complicates the notion of the so-called informal sector as a mirror of the formal sector. She described initial resistance from domestic workers to identify as workers in the context of complex, intimate and sometimes intergenerational relationships between employers and employees. The pivot towards seeing the home, whether one’s own or another’s, as a workplace proved to be powerful. SEWA began offering skills training to domestic workers, effectively treating their labor—whether housekeeping, childcare, elder care, nursing—as skills that could be practiced and taught. This was another powerful pivot, from “women’s work” to “work that women do.”
Jaya Jaitly, Founder of Dilli Haat
In the afternoon, the Movement Makers gathered together to meet with Jaya Jaitly, the founder of Dilli Haat. Jaya shared the story of founding Dilli Haat which provides a way for individuals to create sustainable livelihoods through the sale of handicrafts in Delhi. [The first cohort of Movement Makers also met with Jaya Jaitly. Read more about their experience and watch video clips of Jaya Jaitly.]
Before leaving Dilli Haat, Movement Makers had time to do some shopping. They loaded the bus with bundles and packages–lots of scarves, some children’s toys, purses, art, and a bottle opener for an avid collector on our trip.
Debbie Lee (Futures Without Violence) expresses appreciation to Jaya Jaitly
Scene from Dilli Haat
It was a full day and our experiences are feeling rich, challenging, and enlightening. As we go into the next chapter of our trip in West Bengal tomorrow, many of us are filled to the brim. We’ll be checking back in again soon.
Movement Makers in front of Dilli Haat
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