India’s invisible workers

Every Women's Day we speak about women's empowerment. We recall the stories of successful women who defied odds and went on to make a mark in fields that were traditionally considered "men's forte."

This women's day, let's pay tribute to some lesser-known working women and their odd jobs, for whom the Working Women's Day was originally conceived.


It is estimated that around 1.3 million Dalits, mostly women, make their living through manual scavenging. Photo: Mahim Pratap Singh


Traditional blacksmiths are usually nomads. Women from these communities indulge in hard labour just like their male counterparts, in addition to taking care of household chores. Photo: G.N. Rao.

Daily wage labourers

Equal pay for equal work is certainly not the case for daily wage labourers. For instance, Women working in the salt pans in the Prakasam district, Andhra Pradesh, get a very meagre payment of Rs 240 per head for 11 hours of arduous work against Rs 440 earned by men. Photo: Kommuri Srinivas

Household work

If you think there isn't much work to do at home, think again. A report by National Commission of Women states a rural woman walks about 6 km a day to fetch potable water. A young girl carries empty buckets to fetch water on the outskirts of Jammu. Photo: AP

Domestic help

The estimated number of domestic workers in India is 2.5 million according to International Labour Organization's 2011 report. Photo: K.Gopinathan

Beedi workers

National Commission of Women states majority of workers in beedi industry — in some places as high as 80 per cent, are women. The industry is coupled with exploitation and innumerable health hazards. Photo: PTI

Self help groups

Self help group is the new buzz word in women empowerment. This government-aided scheme turns economically under-privileged women into entrepreneurs with micro-credit assistance from banks. Photo: Special Arrangement

Agriculture labourers

In rural India, agriculture and allied industrial sectors employ as much as 89.5% of the total female labour. Photo: Ch. Vijaya Bhaskar

Textile labourers

Textile mills largely rely on women labourers. South Indian textile mills employ young girls under Sumangali scheme where a part of their salary is withheld and paid as lumpsum at the time of marriage. Photo: K.Ananthan

Construction workers

Though women form half the workforce in construction industry, they are never allowed to become masons. Glaring wage disparity can be seen as men earn 32 per cent more than women in this industry, according to Journal of International Women’s Studies. Photo: A.M. Faruqui

Street vendors

Women constitute a large segment of street vendors in almost every city. According to the National Policy on Urban Street Vendors, 2009, women vendors earn a meagre Rs. 40 per day. Photo:R. Ashok


Traditionally women were equal partners to their menfolk in fisheries. Later, women were largely involved in selling fish and making nets. This gender-based division of labour has made woman’s contribution less worthy, according to Asian Fisheries Society. Photo: R.Eswarraj

Forest produce

A tribal woman collects honey from bee hives. Forest produce is a major source of income among tribal women. Compared to their rural and urban counter-parts, 91 per cent of tribal women are engaged in cultivation, processing, storage and marketing. Photo: G.N. Rao

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Printable version | Apr 14, 2021 10:18:20 PM |

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