Cohesion: Empowering Domestic Help with Consistent Work Deals

By auther pic. Shilpa Tiwari

October 26, 2020

Cohesion: Empowering Domestic Help with Consistent Work Deals

Relief Distribution to Domestic Workers, Santoshi Nagar Slum

Sangita Muthkure is a domestic help who was hit by the pandemic lockdown and lost her job. Her husband, a retail cloth sales person also sits at home due to COVID-19 related lay-offs. In other words, a salary of two is suddenly stopped that amounted to Rs.3000 and Rs.5000 respectively. With little to no savings and children to feed, the pandemic has closed all doors for Sangita. They stay in the slum of Tajnagar area, Raipur, Chhattisgarh, leading miserable lives, living in harsh and uncertainconditions. In addition to their miseries they had taken a loan of Rs. 20000 for the medical treatment of her mother-in-law who happened to pass away last year. They are bound to pay the instalments of loan plus arrange money for surviving their household needs.


This is not just the fate of Sangita but almost all the domestic helps and daily workers that were hit by the sudden pandemic consequences. Only 30% domestic workers were able to continue working at their own risk. With little or no means of transportation they also had to bear the cost of transportation as public transportation was not available. With no income security and fear of catching infection as they were not given any safety gear.

Relief Distribution to Domestic Workers, Kota Slum

Cohesion Foundation set up in 1996, has been active in multiple fields of welfare programmes. With various collaborations and strategic partnerships, the Foundation has been vocal and instrumental towards a number of philanthropic activities. COVID-19 provided them with a critical opportunity to act upon. Considering cases like that of Sangita Muthkure, immediate planning of the work was done by Cohesion in collaboration with Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiative (APPI) wherein, four team members from Chhattisgarh team of Cohesion and two women leaders from Gharelu Kaamgar Kalyan Sangh (GKKS) Federation - a domestic worker federation promoted by Cohesion, along with a few youth volunteers were made active for meeting with the demands of the day.


The demand was nothing but to reach the 1007 domestic workers from seven project slums and 18 new other new slums of Raipur. "We decided to decentralise the distribution work by involving GKKS and youths," said the project in-charge.“Through the network organization, Project Youths and DW Federation support we have reached out relief material including ration, health and hygiene items to 1007 families through the support of APPI during the COVID 19 and lock down situation,” he expressed further.

Relief Distribution to Third Gender in Durg District.

Cohesion Foundation Trust with support of Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiative planned to give ration kits and also just not one-time ration, but we planned to earn livelihoods for women out of mask making. Sangita is the member of GKSS federation of Domestic workers facilitated by Cohesion Foundation Trust since last 5 years. She is an active leader of the CBO and she has organised other 25 women in her slum lane. They already had a stitching machine at home and used to stitch clothes in free time, this became a boon to Sangita and her co-workers.


Not only were they given the one-time ration which lasted almost for one month to sustain their family but also empowerment via work of mask making. They were given training for a day on making Khadi masks which were three layered. This was given by Cohesion Foundation Trust with support of APPI. Sangita was a quick learner and also trained other 5 women from her neighbourhood. She earned Rs. 25000 out of stitching 3300 masks and by selling it to the Municipal Corporation. This also helped her to pay back her loan at the same time she was able to sustain the family.


Cohesion Foundation helped in advertising the products created by Sangita and many like her. The foundation arranged for displays and adverts that addressed people, offices, corporate and malls of Raipur and in turn the workers got more and more orders of mask making. Sangita feels, “now it is very difficult for me and my husband to go back to work as Covid19 cases are increasing day by day in Raipur, however, we now earn our livelihoods from the skill of mask making. Also, the mask intervention done by Cohesion was very unique since very few people are making Khadi masks.We have also created unique design with good quality which is helping us to fetch the orders,” says a delighted Sangita. She is very thankful to APPI and Cohesion for bringing the project which was almost helpful to all domestic workers like her.


The beneficiaries were happy in both ways of receiving ration kits as well as stitching masks. Distribution was started from 22th June and daily distribution through 210 informal workers was planned through our Federation and Youths. A coupon system was initiated to follow the norms of social distancing and safety of the frontline workers. 35 domestic workers directly benefitted through the income generation from selling the Cloth Masks they stitched with skill and raw material support from the project. Within two months 19825 masks were completed by these women.

Sangita is happy to make Masks with increased earnings.

Each of these 35 women were able to generate income of Rs 3000 to Rs 4000 during the lockdown period. More than 4600 masks have reached out to the beneficiaries directly while distributing relief kit. The mask stitching work is completed and simultaneously, domestic workers are selling the mask and encouraging others to use it for their safety. Before distribution of Kits in the slums Health kits for all staff and volunteers were ensured including two Masks, Towel, Sanitizer, Socks, Soaps and Hand gloves. The guidelines of Government were followed strictly by the staff and volunteer while distributing the relief kit.


The munificence of Cohesion Foundation did not just stop at general daily wagers but was indeed all-inclusive. 62Transgenders from Durg district and Raipur district of Chhattisgarh with whom Cohesion had been working since last two years for their rights and issues were included in ration – kit distribution. Transgenders were also the most vulnerable group and affected very much although we could reach only a few numbers.


Reaching out to the Third Gender community of Durg district speaks volumes of the unbiased approach of this organisation. The short-term food shortages of the vulnerable daily wage workers and their families due to restricted movement and job and wage losses just proves how well they have followed the principles of social inclusion, non-discrimination and promotion of dignity.


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Shilpa Tiwari is a New Delhi based Content Specialist with three decades of experience. She has worked extensively on a variety of researches and curricula across K12, Higher Education, Corporate and Social Development sectors. A Master’s degree in English Literature and a degree in French from Delhi University, alongwith International Business Programme from IIFT, most certainly provides Shilpa an added expertise to work as a Consultant on various research and consulting projects with Corporates, Educational Institutions, Publications, CSR Foundations and NGOs.


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