Beyond Trafficking and Slavery

Voices from the supply chain: an interview with the Self Employed Women’s Association of India

BTS speaks with Jyoti Macwan of the Self Employed Women’s Association of India on the invisibility of homeworkers in the Indian labour force.

Jyoti Macwan
1 August 2016

Jyoti Macwan

JM: Hello, my name is Jyoti Macwan and I am the General Secretary of the Self Employed Women’s Association in India, which organises women workers in the informal economy of our country.

BTS: Hello Jyoti, and thank you for joining us. Can you tell BTS readers and listeners about the working conditions for the informal economy and homeworkers that you represent in India?

JM: In India, 94% of the labour force works in the informal economy and more than 60% of women workers work in the informal economy. That is huge – it’s almost everyone! This is why it has been so important for us at SEWA to try to represent these workers, to fight for them to get recognition as workers. Women are major contributors to the national economy, yet they are legally invisible. The biggest challenge for us is therefore how to get recognition for these workers: we need voice, we need visibility and we need validity for these workers.

BTS: And building on that, Jyoti, in your opinion, what key things do homeworkers and informal economy workers need in order to be able to enjoy decent work?

JM: I would say that there are four key things that we really need for women in the informal economy to have a sustainable livelihood. First, work security. Second, income security. Third, food security (meaning at least two meals a day for them and their families). Fourth, access to social security mechanisms like childcare, healthcare, pensions, insurance and housing. Housing is a very important social security need for homeworkers because they work in their homes – for them, housing is a productive asset.

BTS: What progress has there been in India towards these goals over recent years?

JM: Well, we have actually made some progress. SEWA has been organising these workers for almost 42 years now and we have gained visibility for them. Everyone in India now talks about informal economy workers and SEWA has also lobbied to get a social security bill in parliament for the informal sector.

BTS: Congratulations, that’s a huge achievement!

JM: Thank you.

BTS: And at an international level, why would a convention on decent work in supply chains be so important?

JM: Because an international standard gives us a benchmark that we can struggle for in our own countries!

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