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Domestic Workers

Across the world, domestic work is a rapidly growing source of employment for women and girls. But within the domestic space, women often face abuse and exploitation by their employers who take advantage of women’s isolation. Domestic workers are excluded from key protections in many developing countries’ national labor laws. For poor rural women who have moved to urban areas or have gone abroad, immigration policies give employers inordinate control over their workers and dis-empower women to act for their rights.

More on domestic workers
Domestic workers take up many jobs within other people’s homes. Most women provide domestic services for low pay, such as sweeping and cleaning, washing clothes and dishes, shopping, cooking, children and elderly care, and looking after the disabled. Men usually have better paid jobs as in gardening, driving, and security. Domestic workers are often stretched to work multiple jobs on a part time basis and work for various employers.

SEWA Delhi Domestic Worker Campaign

More than 4,300 domestic workers have organized under SEWA Delhi to gain awareness of their rights and enable them to mobilize with collective strength. Through government and employer liaising, SEWA Delhi facilitates domestic workers towards addressing their concerns, such as ensuring decent wages, safe work conditions, and paid leave. SEWA Delhi links domestic workers and their families with government social security schemes and SEWA Delhi development programs.

Since January 2014, SEWA is the lead partner on the ILO supported project “Preventing trafficking of women and girls in India through empowerment and organization of domestic workers.”

Through this project, SEWA Delhi aims to ensure that:

  • Women domestic workers are empowered through information and support networks particularly in relation to migration
  • Collective voice and advocacy capacity of women domestic workers is strengthened through organization
  • Women domestic workers are better able to negotiate for better wages as a result of skill development and empowerment
  • Union leaders and women domestic workers are able to exercise their rights as workers through an improved understanding of their rights at work.
  • Access to effective complaints mechanisms and support services for women domestic workers who experience exploitation and abuse at work.

Domestic worker campaign activities

Organizing domestic workers

Domestic workers are usually engaged in work across a number of people’s homes. This isolation and lack of singular work place or employer poses particular difficulties when organizing domestic workers. SEWA Delhi’s grassroots leaders take an area-wise approach and hold mohalla (community) meetings in areas where there are high percentages of domestic workers. Mohalla meetings are often the only platform for domestic workers to discuss common issues faced.

SEWA Bharat member organizations have organized over 70,000 domestic workers across the country.

  • SEWA Delhi: 4,376
  • SEWA in Bihar: 1,259
  • SEWA in Gujarat: 19,898
  • SEWA Madhya Pradesh: 41,841
  • SEWA in Jodhpur: 86
  • SEWA in Bareilly: 1,039
  • SEWA Kerala: 2,605
  • Total domestic workers: 71,104

Capacity Building

SEWA Delhi aims to build the capacity of its domestic worker members so that they are empowered to claim their rights. Workshops, skill building, and trainings help supply women with information so that they are empowered to negotiate for fairer wages. Exposure visits to other SEWAs across India, and other organizations, helps women identify with a larger movement and not feel isolated in their struggles.

Social service linkages

Through mohalla meetings domestic workers pointed out that their lack of formal identity inhibited them from accessing social security. There are eight SEWA Shakti Kendras (SSKs) in Delhi where women domestic worker members are connected to formal government issued ID, and the SEWA Delhi government-approved SEWA Delhi Domestic Worker Cards. At SSKs, members can access social security scheme information, application support, and advice.


SEWA Delhi works close at the city and national level to bring domestic worker issues to government attention. SEWA Delhi has been involved in a number of ongoing policy advancements, such as the Government of India’s Draft Policy on Domestic Workers.

There are fifteen countries that have ratified the Domestic Workers Convention 2011(C189) – but India is not one of them. SEWA Delhi is working towards the ratification of Convention 189 of the ILO. A press conference in collaboration with other SEWA sister organizations was convened on December 14, 2011, to build pressure on Government authorities.

International Domestic Workers’ Day

SEWA Delhi members celebrated this day by organizing a rally on June 16, 2012. One hundred domestic workers took part and demanded better wages, decent working conditions and weekly off-days. Ninety-six meetings were held with domestic workers to raise awareness on ILO Convention 189, which supports rights of the domestic worker.


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