Kolkata: The recently concluded 12th National Convention for Working Women organized by the All India Coordinating Committee for Working Women (AICCWW) and held here at Binani Hall called for reaching out to unorganized women workers across the country. The Convention, attended by delegates from various states, noted how across the country women faced harassment in the workplace; that there were disparities in salary structures for working women, particularly in private offices.
The rule of “same work, same pay” was not applied by the country’s private sector, discussions at the Convention observed. The delegates claimed that the current BJP government in the Center has not formulated any laws to address this issue, and that the current laws are not being used effectively.
Speaking at the Convention, K Hemlata, President of the Center of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) highlighted how more and more female workers should be enthusiastic about joining the organization. She said women should be more politically aware of their situation and in new areas the organization should increase its reach.
“Rightly, in various states, female taxi drivers Ola and Uber have been brought under the umbrella of the organization and the organization of domestic helpers is also getting stronger. However, it should be noted that in rural India, during the menstrual cycle, women are not allowed to work in the sugar cane fields or in the paddy fields,” she said, prompting a request for their free access to the fields. Hemlata added that the organization should try to reach women agrarian workers and daily wage earners.
The problems of workers like Anganwadi and ASHA workers, who do not receive any maternity benefits, were also discussed in the Convention. Although there is a law in this regard, it is still ignored in many states. Private organizations grant maternity leave but not without salary deductions, complained the delegates to the Convention.
The issue of sexual abuse of women in the workplace was also discussed within the Convention. It was pointed out that in many offices, women work at night without any safety net. When they complain, they risk being fired from the organization. Fearing this, the women are forced to keep a stoic silence, the delegates said.
“Under such conditions, the work ethic is not maintained and if the labor productivity of female workers declines, then across the country there will be a negative economic impact.
The condition of female agricultural workers is not much better,” said AR Sindhu, the organization’s outgoing facilitator.
From the Convention, a committee of 70 members of the organization was formed. Sindhu was re-elected as head of the organization.
Earlier on Saturday, Sindhu had placed the draft political-organizational report at the convention. She called on the assembled women delegates from various organized sections of the working class movement to do some time management while charting the struggles and movements ahead. She also highlighted the steps taken by the CITU to make the AICCWW under the CITU a more cohesive unit.
Over 300 delegates from across the country attended the convention. The Convention area was renamed Ranana Nirula Nagar and the stage was renamed in honor of Shibani Sengupta and Nisha Roy Mancha.
On Saturday, Tapan Sen, Secretary General of CITU opened the delegates’ session of the conference and stressed that no Manuvaad, but on the contrary, only a greater and greater participation of the working women of the country can make the country a happy secular society. He also criticized the RSS for its “discriminatory outlook against women” which tries to keep women inside.
Addressing the delegates, Sen said that “CITU had started this work of organizing working class women since 1979. Now other left-wing unions are also doing the work.” He also called on women working in renowned organizations to reach out to less privileged women.
Advocate and MP for Rajya Sabha, Bikashranjan Bhattacharya, as the chairperson of the welcoming committee, spoke about the heritage of Bengal and said that “Kolkata, as the city of Ram Mohan Roy to Gurudev Tagore, is the seat of women’s empowerment. It also excites us when we see women at the forefront of the fight against inequality and gender discrimination. The town where Vidyasagar worked where Ram Mohan started his movement to stop the satisfied should be an inspiration to the women delegates attending the convention.”
Ahead of the convention, a big meeting was also held in Burrabazar area where Tapan Sen, AR Sindhu, CITU West Bengal leaders Anadi Sahoo and Subhash Mukherjee spoke. The session was chaired by another union leader, Madhumita Bandhyapadhya.