IU Impact: Community Video Brings Wage Equality

600 female laborers in Maharashtra get equal pay because of our Community Correspondent Rohini Pawar’s video

As a result of her video “Gender Bias In Wages’, women in her village now earn equal wages for equal work.

Rohini is our Community Producer from rural Maharashtra. She comes from a farming community in the village of Walhe, in Pune District, and was married at a young age, but is a highly respected leader in her community because of what she’s been able to do for people through community video.

In October 2010, she produced a video that exposed the differences in wage according to gender among farm labourers. These daily wage labourers are people from lower castes and classes, who do not own much agricultural land of their own. While women engage in sowing seeds, planting saplings and reaping the crop, men are primarily associated with digging channels and canals, and ploughing the land. It is assumed that the men’s work is harder, and thus they are entitled to a larger sum of money. But this is wrong. Women’s work is equally as taxing. It requires constant bending of their back and having their feet immersed in stagnant water, which very often results in serious infections. Not only that, but before and after farm work, women have to resume all the household responsibilities of cooking, cleaning and taking care of family members.

In ‘Gender Bias in Wages’, Alka, a daily wage farm labourer since 1997, told Rohini, “I have two children. My financial situation is very poor… Every day, we work in other people’s fields. We earn around Rs. 60 per day [about $1.50] and use these earnings for our daily expenses. Also, my husband does not work.”Her husband and the men were earning twice that.

As she interviewed the women for her village, she talked to them about the importance of fighting for their rights and Alka and the other women interviewees felt they could do something to curb this injustice. How did they do this? They simply stopped going to work. And this at a time when all the landowners were in dire need of workers, as the onion crop needed harvesting. We asked Rohini if she or the women faced any threats. She said no, but that one landowner did come to her to ask her to stop filming, saying he could not afford to pay the women more as he earned so little from the government agents who bought the crops.

But Rohini persevered, and after only 6-10 days of protest, the landowners had to give in. First one raised his wage to Rs. 100, and all the women flocked to him. Then another raised it to Rs. 110, and the women flocked to him. Finally, the landowners agreed amongst themselves that the wage would be Rs. 125, and it has stayed there since then. We asked Rohini how many women were affected. She said, “In my village about 600 women work in farming during the harvest. All of them now have a wage on par with the men.”

Today, Alka is grateful to Rohini. “ You had come to interview us, recording our daily wages. You belong to our village, and it is for us that you did this work… and after you did that, it helped us so much that now we get 125 rupees for working in the fields.”

Rohini also works in fields during harvest season. She knows how hard and tirelessly women labourers work. For her, financial security is of utmost importance, because only through this, she believes, does a woman become economically independent andis able to create a stronger base of support for her family. “Honestly, I never imagined that I could help 600 women in my village. But the self-confidence that working in IndiaUnheard has instilled in me made this possible.”

Want to know more about Rohini? Watch Video Volunteers Ambassador, actor Abhay Deol interviewing Rohini at the second IndiaUnheard Training Camp in February 2011. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PI3GTUMT6Wc

BACKGROUND ON THE ISSUE:

Article 39 (d) of the Constitution of India recognizes equal pay for equal work for both men and women, and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 provides for “the payment of equal remuneration to men and women workers and for the prevention of discrimination, on the ground of sex, against women in the matter of employment and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”. However, women from various fields of work all over India face this bias in wages, and many a times, like those of Walhe village, don’t even consider this gap in pay a form of discrimination. Some surveys suggest that there is no country in the world where men and women are paid equal wages. Overall, figures for gender pay gap range between 13% and 23%.

– Rajyashri Goody

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