Domestic Workers Welfare Programme, which recently saw enrollment of 400 women across Maharashtra, was designed by Yashwantrao Chavan Open University (YCMOU) after a year-long research. The university’s survery revealed that most domestic helpers have mobile phones, aspire to be in the main stream and want to upgrade themselves. And if all works well, your domestic help may end up being your home assistant as well.
YCMOU Vice Chancellor, Dr. R Krishnakumar says, “We spoke mainly with domestic helpers in Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune and Aurangabad and found that they want to be in the mainstream too. Even though they were uncertain about how the course would help them, they had an inclination to learn and a strong desire to give their children good education.”
A comprehensive list of the myriad duties performed by domestic helpers was made after surveying domestic helpers and aspects of work that create problems between employers and helpers were also identified.
Program Coodinater, Vijay Kumar Paikrav, says, “Lack of education makes it easy for people to exploit domestic helpers, by paying less, not giving leaves and cutting pay citing different reasons. But the lack of trust between employers and helpers is not one sided. Employers feel that helpers waste water, soap etc. They also hesitate in allowing helpers to use equipments around the house, in fear that wrong-handling may spoil the equipment.”
To ensure 360 degree learning for domestic helpers, the course will give them applied language skills in Marathi, Hindi and English, teach them how to handle phone calls, how to use the mobile, basic mathematics, first aid and basic medical aid, and use of household appliances such as vacuum cleaners, microwaves, induction cookers, roti makers etc.
“We also discovered that husbands of 59% of maids don’t work and have addictions such as alcohol. To make ends meet many part-time maids over-exert themselves by working at 13-14 houses, they don’t commit suicide like farmers but feel very disheartened. So the idea is also that with better skills and understanding, the employer-employee relations will be smoother, helpers will be able to demand better pay and will also find it easier to take loans from banks, which they currently find very difficult.”
The program will require domestic helpers to attend classes for 20 days over a span of one year and it will also teach them vocations such as tailoring and computers. Although the program is open to both men and women, only women have enrolled and this year the number is 400. The fees are Rs.1000, but women get a waiver and will have to pay only Rs.300.