Equal pay for equal work has been made possible as women of Chizami fought and won parity in 2015, with courage and a little help from like-minded men
CHIZAMI (NAGALAND): Earlier this month, thousands of women hit the streets across Switzerland to demand equal pay, but one of the wealthiest countries of the world would be amazed to know that women in a village in Nagaland have secured what it has been striving to achieve for the last 30 years. The gutsy women of Chizami in Nagaland’s Phek district succeeded in winning pay parity with their male counterparts in 2015 after a eight-year battle, and with the help of sensitive men by their side. But while that’s unlike anything heard of in India, their fight is far from over.
“We never had disparity in pay in the days when we used to practise barter,” says 74-year-old farmer Tasetshulou Kapfo, talking of a time before the advent of cash
“Both boys and girls got three zahe (a measuring basket) of grain for a day’s work. But as cash came into the system, the value of labour changed and we started seeing disparity in wages,” adds Kapfo, who still works in her terraced paddy fields in the village that is about four hours’ drive from capital Kohima.
What the Swiss protest is all about
Women across Switzerland went on strike on June 14, 2019, to protest for equal pay and equal rights. On an average women in Switzerland earn 20% less then men
The protest comes 28 years after a similar action in 1991 when half a million took to the streets demanding equal pay
Post World War I, along with millions of other women in Europe, Swiss women too demanded right to vote, but only got it in 1971
The women farmers of Chizami say men got paid more by projecting that they performed the more laborious tasks in the cultivation process, like ploughing the field. “We argued what women do, men can’t. That it is equally strenuous to sit hunchbacked the whole day and clear the fields of undergrowth,” says Kenzunyipe-uTsuhah,
chairperson of the village women’s society. In the terraced fields of Chizami, it is the women who put in most of the farm work without any mechanical assistance. “We pursued the idea of equal wages with the village council and its welfare forum for seven years, starting 2007, but it was pushed back every time,” she says. “One year men
said it was a taboo for women to demand equal wages. Another year they said we should respect men as the head of the household and not look to be paid as much as them,” said 56-year-old Adile, who took to farming when she was barely six years old.
But seeing their strategy hitting the wall year after year, the women changed tack in the eighth year. “We approached men who were sensitive to our cause. Dr Wethselo T Mero, a paediatrician who works at the district hospital in Phek, became our spokesperson and convinced the village council that Chizami should be a model for the
world,” says Tsuhah.
“The equal wages apply for all kinds of non-specialised agricultural and manual work and is fixed at Rs 450 a day during peak paddy transplanting time (from June 1 to mid-July) and Rs 400 for the rest of the year,” says Wekoweu Tsuhah, the programme director of NEN in Nagaland. Chizami, a village of 600 households and approximately 5,000 residents, is surrounded by hills carpeted with alder and oak trees. “About 20-30% of Chizami’s households depend on farm labour in addition to working in their family fields,” says Wekoweu.
Wage parity in India
Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 promises equal payment to men and women for the same work done. However, it is rarely implemented on the ground
Women are paid 22.24% less than men
Women are paid 24.06% less than men
Source: NSSO Survey 2017
Statistics show what the women of Chizami have achieved is no mean feat. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) in its ‘India Wage Report’ released in 2018 says the gender wage gap in the country remains very high by international standards, despite declining from 48% in 1993–94 to 34% in 2011–12. Of all worker groups, the average daily wages of casual rural female workers is the lowest, it adds.
“What this village in Nagaland has achieved is unheard of in the entire country,” says Ramendra Kumar, national secretary of Trade Union Coordination Centre, which works in 20 states across India. Despite the Equal Remuneration Act of 1976, enforcement on the ground is missing and discrimination is widespread, Kumar added. “The difference in wages can be anywhere between Rs 50 and Rs 100. The discrimination has been internalised and women don’t ever question the pay gap,” he says.
Women of Chizami, the village inhabited by the Chakhesang tribe, talk about newfound respect and confidence since the epochal decision of 2015. “Women from other villages have been inspired by Chizami’s achievement and are demanding equal wages. What is most important for us is that we feel happy and proud that our work is
given equal value,” says Adile. “We can say to our children and grandchildren that in our generation we addressed the issue and achieved pay parity,” she adds.
But for Chizami’s women, the fight still continues as many men in the village find it difficult to swallow the idea of equal pay and are challenging the move, says women’s society chief Tsuhah. “Even last year, some men wanted the equal-pay decision revoked but the chairperson of the village council — the apex decision-making body of a village — put his foot down. Our struggle hasn’t ended, but we are going to hold on to this achievement with our lives,” she adds.
For now the women of Chizami have a friend in Welhite Naro, the village council chairperson, who is sensitive to gender rights. A master’s in sociology from Jamia Milia Islamia in Delhi, Naro has two women members in the council and plans to increase women’s representation in the body. Asked about the challenge to the equal pay decision, Naro said: “There is no question of going back on the wage-parity issue now.”
Photo Credit: Jasdeep Kaur
A small village in Nagaland’s Phek district, Chizami, has been scripting a quiet revolution in terms of socioeconomic reforms and environmental protection for almost a decade. A model village in the Naga society, Chizami is today visited by youth from Kohima and neighbouring villages for internships in the Chizami model of development. This model focusses on health issues, women’s rights, community programmes, food security, and environmental conservation.
What is unique in the Chizami model of development is that economically marginalised women have played an important role in bringing about this transformation that is rooted in traditional practices of Nagaland.
The Chizami village is perched in the upper reaches of the densely forested hills of Phek district in Eastern Nagaland. It has around 600 households with a population of 3,000 that is largely involved in Jhum cultivation, a slash-and-burn type of agriculture that is traditionally practised in the hilly terrains of north-east India.
Chizami’s village council comprises of six khels (the Naga word for clans within the same community) who have equal representation in the council. The council plays an important roles in the village governance. The village council prohibits hunting and trapping of birds and animals and imposes strict fines on those violating norms as proclaimed by a sign board at the entrance to the village.
The seeds of socioeconomic and environmental reform in Chizami were planted back in the late 1990s. In 1994, Monisha Behal, women’s rights activist and founder of North East Network (NEN), landed in Nagaland to improve women’s health standards in the state. Noticing the collective strength of women in the Naga society, Behal decide to use it to do something about the deplorable health and sanitation environment that prevailed in the state that time.
NEN, working with CWS, started skill enhancement programmes such as bamboo craft, food processing, organic farming, rooftop water harvesting and low-cost sanitation. Discourses on governance, women empowerment human rights issues were also organised.
In 2008, NEN started Chizami Weaves, a decentralized livelihood project to create sustainable livelihood opportunities for the marginalized women in the district as well as preserve the unique textile tradition of Nagaland.
Starting with seven weavers, Chizami Weaves today has a strong network of more than 300 women in Chizami and 10 other villages in Phek district.
‘Chizami Weaves’ also promotes textiles made by one of the oldest looms – the loin-loom or the back-strap loom – that is still traditionally used by the Chakhesang Nagas and other tribes of the North East India.
The project has also helped bring in new perceptions of gender justice to women. Not only do the weavers support their families through their weaving, they are also making their presence felt within their homes and in community’s public spaces by raising their voices on issues of health, livelihood, and environment.
NEN is also working to address another major concern of the villagers – food security. The fragile mountain ecosystem in Nagaland has been increasingly experiencing the wrath of climate change with irregular rains and rising temperatures. Traditional farming practices have also declined in Nagaland with the advent of the more lucrative cash crop mono-culture, which gives better economic returns.
NEN is now working to revive millet-based biodiverse agriculture in the villages of the district. An integral part of Naga culture, millets are highly climate-resilient and nutritious crops.
दिल्ली श्रमिक संगठन लगातार युवाओं और किशोर उम्र के लड़कियों तथा लड़कों के साथ अलग -अलग तरह कि गतिविधियों का आयोजन करता है और उनको मौका देता है कि वो समाज के द्वारा बनाये रूढ़ी वादी नियमों को करीब से समझे और समाजिक असमानता और लिंगभेद जैसी बेड़ियों को तोड़कर समाज में अपना हस्तक्षेप करे और समाज में बदलाव के लिए निरंतर प्रयास करे !
दिंनाक 09 -02 -2019 युवा और किशोर लड़के -लड़कियों का दिल्ली भ्रमण करवाया गया !
construction workers union working for the education, awareness and organizing the construction workers of Delhi
More than thousands construction workers from different parts of Delhi staged dharna at the Labor Secretary cum Commissioner office located at 5, Shamnath Marg, Civil Lines in protest of non implementation of BOCW act’1996. The construction workers were demanding immediate starting of registration, renewal and processing of claims of construction workers under Delhi Building & Other Construction Workers Welfare Board (DBOCWWB) by Labor department officers.
The dharna was organized by Delhi Nirman Mazdoor Sangathan, a registered construction workers union working for the education, awareness and organizing the construction workers of Delhi to achieve a dignified life.
Ramendra Kumar, General Secretary of the union said that despite of a central act & state rules, the construction workers of Delhi are deprived of their rights and social security benefits. The registration, renewal and processing of claim applications have been stopped since May’2018 without any valid reason by the Labor department officers.
He further said that a FIR has been registered by Anti Corruption Branch (ACB) of Delhi to investigate the issues of corruption involved in the registration and disbursal of benefits to the construction workers. The district labor offices claimed that they have to furnish a number of documents to ACB that is why the department is not in a position to carry out the work of DBOCWWB. But even after four months, the DBOCWWB work has not been started by the officials.
Anita, office bearer of the union said that our union has been demanding the fair implementation of the BOCW act’1996 since long and demanded investigation to curb the corrupt practices taking place at district labor offices. We support the investigation being carried out by ACB in the interest of the construction workers of Delhi because the corrupt practices have snatched the rights of genuine construction workers. We also believe that corruption can’t take place in isolation; there is definite involvement of district labor offices with the fake unions/agents in this whole corruption. One can easily identify these nexus as there is complete violation of first in- first out principle, there is no web camera at windows of the district labor offices for registration & renewal, there is no following of SOPs etc. These corruptions are continuing because of support from the senior labor department officials and that is also known to all.
Sangita, Joint Secretary of the union said that the Labor minister cum Chairman of the Board convened an extended meeting of DBOCWW Board along with all senior officials of the labor department on 2nd of August’2018; discussed the issues in details and directed the officials to start the Board work from the immediate effect. The district labor offices didn’t start the Board work even after direction from the Labor minister cum Chairman of the Board.
Bindu, a union activist said that on 23rd August’2018, an order was issued from The Additional Labor Commissioner to start the registration, renewal and claim processing work under DBOCWWB to all district heads of the labor department. We followed with all districts with respect to the implementation of this order and we came to know that no district is carrying out the DBOCWWB work even after issuing of this order.
Anil, vice president of union said that the construction workers of Delhi are in frustration and finding no solution of this problem. The identity cards of construction workers whose annual contributions were due since April’2018 have lapsed. They have lost their live membership with Board. They are not entitle for any benefits/claims after lapse of their identity cards cum pass books. The numbers of such construction workers are more than 70,000 from May to July only.
Jaya, a union activist said that the South West district has illegally detained thousands of identity cards cum pass books of the construction workers since Septmeber’2017 and not renewing their cards, no new registration and no claim application is being processed. The district head is violating the BOCW act’1996 by misinterpreting the act and rules. The Labor department has not taken any disciplinary action this errant officer.
Kailash, joint secretary of the union said that there are hundreds of construction workers waiting for the social security rights/benefits like maternity benefits, death & funeral compensations etc. The old age workers are not receiving any old age pension after April’2018; one can imagine how difficult will be the survival of such pensioners. There are thousands of children studying in government schools and students studying in colleges & universities are waiting for their educational support from the Board.
Manglesh, vice president of the union said that the labor department official’s undeclared strike has paralyzed the implementation of the BOCW act’1996 in Delhi and sufferers are no other than the builders of the city and the nation. We have written to LG & Labor Secretary both to intervene in this matter but we didn’t get any support from these offices. We will continue our fight till the demands are met.