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Uphill Task: Survey Finds the Going is Tough for Working Women in India

Uphill Task: Survey Finds the Going is Tough for Working Women in India

The study that covered 43,255 respondents from across the country observed that a large number of women don’t have access to basic facilities like washrooms, transportation, crèches and sexual harassment complaint committees at the workplace.

An all-India study, one of the largest since Independence, has shed new light on the challenges faced by working women in India. The survey conducted through 2017-18 by Pune-based research centre Drishti Stree Adhyayan Prabodhan Kendra (DSAPK) is titled Status of Women. The findings were released by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat in Delhi on Tuesday.

A total of 43,255 women from 29 states and five union territories were interviewed. The study covered respondents from urban areas, urban slums, rural and tribal areas, areas near international borders, internal conflict zones, etc. The surveyors spoke to scientists, fisherwomen, teachers, police personnel, those involved in agriculture, cooperative sector, medical field, as well as domestic workers and housewives, among others. Women from the spiritual fields were also interviewed.

Some key findings of the study are that often there is exploitation and a lack of basic civic amenities at the workplace. It was found that 48 per cent of women from the medical profession in the state of Rajasthan don’t have toilet facilities in hospital. Thirty per cent of female teachers do not have security provisions at school. CCTV systems are available only in 39 per cent schools.

Despite several changes in law, many of these women are not getting benefits of canteen and crèche facilities at the workplace. Just 10 per cent working women in border areas of Jammu and Kashmir have access to crèche while this facility is almost non-existent in border areas of West Bengal. Even women scientists are not much better off. A significant number of working women told the surveyors that they don’t have canteen, crèche, transportation, loan and restroom facilities at the workplace.

The study found that in Jammu and Kashmir only two-thirds of the respondents in border areas had basic facilities at the workplace. The situation is worse in such parts of West Bengal. A large number of them were found to be deprived of amenities like restrooms. And two-fifths of these working women have no safety measures available for hazardous activities.

Many women police personnel in Maharashtra were found to be deprived of statutory and non-statutory facilities at the workplace. Around 36 per cent of them do not have washrooms. Close to 56 per cent do not receive transportation facilities. Almost a fourth of them do not get a weekly off.

It was also found that due to deep-rooted socio-cultural influences regarding gender roles, about half of the working women don’t get support from spouses in household chores. Balancing between home and office does not leave much leisure time for most women. Those who manage a little break often cannot utilise it in activities related to their areas of interest.

There are no skill-training programmes for women engaged in traditional occupations such as farming, fishing, etc. About 97 per cent of the fisherwomen surveyed in Kerala did not get any vocational training.

It was observed that more than a tenth of working women face sexual harassment at their workplace. Employers and co-workers were found to be perpetrators in many of the cases.

It was found that a majority of the women in the unorganised sector don’t have an internal complaints committee at the workplace. More women engaged in the organised sector have access to these panels. But 61 per cent of the respondents from the medical profession in Rajasthan said that no sexual harassment redress committees exist in their hospitals.

Though laws like the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and Factories Act, 1948 exist, but was found that most working women are not aware about the legal provisions, resulting in poor implementation of the scheme of internal complaints committees in all institutions.

The survey also detected the need for a monitoring agency to watch over the status of women in the unorganised sector, who are more prone to every type of exploitation. Effective implementation of the internal complaints committee plan is needed at every level, the report says.

One of the positive findings of the study is that a large number of working women in India are happy with their employment despite work pressure. This is because they are able to balance their personal and professional lives. A majority of the women engaged in Gujarat’s cooperative sector said that collaboration with people being the base of these societies has made them aware of the basic values of cooperation. They observed two important changes in themselves after entering this field: a boost to their confidence and economic progress. The respondents from Gujarat also said that association with the cooperative sector has contributed to an improvement in upbringing and education opportunities of their children.

Effective implementation of laws and support of voluntary organisations, the report says, can play an important role in empowering women to overcome challenges while contributing to the household and the economy.

(The author is Phd in Sociology and Senior Fellow with Vichar Vinimay Trust, a Delhi-based think tank)

first published:September 26, 2019, 14:58 IST