Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Day 3: No Recourse: A symposium on women workers' rights and safety

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 covers all working women and all categories of workplaces, providing a redressal mechanism that informal, unorganised and self-employed workers can also access. There are several challenges to that access: that those mechanisms are not set up (the Local Complaints Committees); that people do not know about them, and that they are hard to access. 

Workers' rights are a central concern for Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and workplace sexual harassment compliance is an important part of Prajnya's work. So we came together to organise this programme.In the programme that we planned, we brought together a keynote speaker, two overview panels, one on construction and garment workers and the other on domestic workers, and a brainstorming session. We also added a valedictory session. 

The speakers we had listed on the programme were: Jaya Arunachalam, WWF; Mageshvaran, NASVI TN; Geetha Ramakrishnan, UWF; Sujata Mody, Penn Thozhilalar Sangam; Renuka Bala, CWDR; Sister Valar, NDWM TN; Sister Clara Pitchai, TN Domestic Worker Union; Lawyer Selvi; Geetha Narayanan; Kannagi Packianathan, Chair, TN State Commission for Women.

The keynote speaker was unable to attend for health reasons. The panelists were delayed. And the valedictory speaker finally had to cancel. But everything truly works out for the best! We had a roomful of people eager to share their experiences, so we just turned the programme into an open mic and invited everyone to come speak. There were actually men in the room, which was a good thing too because gender programmes tend not to draw male participants. 

The result was a rich mosaic of perspectives and anecdotes. The discussion in the afternoon was able to quickly go to action planning and there was agreement that coordinated action was the need of the day. 

Women's Christian College English department students rapporteured the programme and a proper report will follow. A link will be added to this post. 

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