Empowering migrant women in Mumbai shipyards

04.02.2010

Women self-help groups in Mumbai support efforts of IMF affiliate MPTDGWU to improve working and living conditions of the migrant workers' families around the ship breaking yards

INDIA: Women self-help groups met a delegation from the International Metalworkers' Federation in Mumbai, January 2010, to explore ways to improve working and living conditions at the ship breaking yards.

The situation of the workers' families settled around the ship breaking yards in very precarious conditions is completely disregarded by employers and local authorities. No housing  facilities, drinking water, sanitation or schooling  are provided for the families of the migrant workers who have followed  the men of the family engaged in the ship breaking yards. The women, in the minority among thousands of workers, are often harassed, cheated or abused by the local mafias. Small children roam around barefoot and in rags in an extremely hazardous environment.  No job opportunities or formal education are available for any members of the families.

The IMF discussed with its affiliate in Mumbai, the Mumbai Port Trust Dock and General Workers' Union (MPTDGWU) how to improve the living conditions of the workers and, in the framework of the current  organising  project for the ship breaking workers, how to support the women.

A group of over 40 women activists and unionists from self-help groups formed in residential communities near the ship breaking yards met with representatives of IMF and UK affiliate GMB on January 20, to speak about their own experiences and to jointly explore possibilities of creating women's groups among the ship breakers' families. The constituted self-help groups, supported by public funds, seek to build up women's self esteem, teach them basic skills in economic literacy, health, nutrition and childcare. These groups have gained access to micro-credits, thus the opportunity to set up small income generating activities such as preparing food for workers, selling vegetables and tailoring, which improve the families' income.

Ms Manisha Pendurkar, vice-president of the trade union federation Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) in Maharashtra, and Ms.Vrishali V. Rane, president of one the self-help groups, propose to expand the groups to the surroundings of ship breaking yards by setting up basic health care centres for children and pregnant women to attract the interest and support of the workers.

IMF and GMB promised to look for support for this initiative and to maintain close contact with this group of women activists in Mumbai and to develop a programme for the workers' families.