Redistributive policy

Tamil Nadu Women’s Policy Project must refocus on the unorganized sector | Chennai News

R Geetha and Priti Narayan
CHENNAI: The government of Tamil Nadu recently released a draft state policy for women which is perhaps the country’s first holistic policy initiative aimed at reducing discrimination, eliminating violence against women and provide them with opportunities. Although this is a commendable initiative, the project has several shortcomings, especially with regard to women workers.
While aiming to cover all women in the state, the project claims to focus on women in the informal sector and women in vulnerable professions. To this end, it presents a multitude of initiatives, including comprehensive support for women in labor law, social security and other support services to enable women’s participation. However, these intentions cannot be adequately acted upon if the link between policy and labor laws and rights is not clearly established. For example, domestic work, a highly feminized informal occupation, remains undervalued and unrecognized in the new central labor codes as well as in this draft policy. Domestic workers continue to have no single law that stipulates their wages and working conditions. Even though registered workers, including in domestic work, receive some benefits from a social welfare sector council established under the Tamil Nadu Manual Workers Act 1982, women remain underrepresented in employment. decision of all sectoral welfare councils, including those of other unorganized feminized labor sectors. such as fishing, saltworks, sewing and weaving.

To ensure equity for women in the unorganized sector, enrollment in welfare councils alone is not enough. The protection of these social protection sector councils at state level is itself a commitment that must be made in the face of new labor codes, as is the participation of women in these councils, which can be made possible thanks to the proportional representation. Notably, the policy aims to reduce the gender pay gap by 50%, instead of ensuring equal pay for equal work.
Since vocational training is essential for accessing livelihood opportunities, the draft policy mentions the expansion of training programs for women in agriculture and related sectors. The government should also commit to training women in construction, tailoring, hand weaving and waste recycling, through concentrated efforts at the local body level, including in urban areas. Additionally, livelihood opportunities can be provided to women trained to produce, market and sell goods in joint liability groups who can access formal finance.
Land rights:
The draft policy rightly recognizes the vital role played by women in agriculture and other related sectors. It guarantees equal representation of women in the management of water resources, forest rights and agricultural cooperatives. However, in a sector that employs 80% of all working women, there are no secure land rights for them. As groups like Land for Tillers’ Freedom have pointed out for decades, without land redistribution, women cannot hope for equity. The government could consider making panchami, temples and other vacant land available to women, especially those from Adi Dravidar and Scheduled Tribal Communities. Women farmers who engage in organic farming practices have also expressed their interest in channeling their agricultural products such as millet and palm jaggery directly into feeding children in government-run anganwadis, if they can benefit from incentives. Salt land should also be leased to cooperatives of female salt workers to encourage production.
In urban areas, the sight of women cooking for their households and caring for their children on sidewalks remains common. Women and children are also the most affected due to forced eviction from inner city sidewalks and poor urban neighborhoods and resettlement in outlying areas. According to a 2021 survey conducted by the Human Rights Law Network and the Center for Information and Resources for Disadvantaged Urban Communities, job loss during forced relocation to Perumbakkam was found in 44% of female-headed households. Given the policy’s commitment to female-headed households, poor urban women should have access to land close to their place of work, possibly through collective land rights, and be protected from evictions. in the towns.
End of violence:
The policy also expresses a commitment to eliminating violence against women through a “life cycle approach”. Formal mechanisms such as internal complaints committees and women’s volunteers and task forces have been considered in schools, colleges and police stations. However, the protection of informal women workers in the workplace is conspicuously absent from the draft policy. Complaint mechanisms, including anonymous complaint boxes and committees, should be established in each social commission as well as at the respective local body level.
A National Crime Records Bureau report confirms that there is an increase in crimes against women and children in Tamil Nadu during the pandemic. The link between alcoholism and drug addiction and the violence faced by women and children must be explicitly taken into account. The government must take action to ensure that the sale of alcohol on major roads, near schools and bus stops, is banned as a first step. Since women and girls are the most vulnerable in times of social conflict, education focused on constitutional values ​​and social equality should be made mandatory in school and college curricula.
In addition to the various measures described to ensure equal access to education, the universalization of education and the reduction of dropout rates among girls, adult education opportunities should also be made available. arrangement. If transition to mainstream school is not possible, non-formal education should be made available to dropouts and children released from bondage. Those who have lost access to education during the pandemic must be guaranteed access through means other than online courses.
To make any kind of lasting progress, representation is a must. The policy makes no mention of how it will involve civil society groups and women’s organisations. The government should undertake sensitization programs to inform women of their rights and various political opportunities, as well as to encourage women’s participation in welfare councils and trade unions.
(The authors are members of Pennurimai Iyakkama social movement working for women’s rights and labor issues in Tamil Nadu)