Three members of a domestic servants' association have decided to contest the 2012 civic body elections
If you thought that your maids could do little else other than routine household chores, it is about time for a rethink.
Three domestic helps from the western suburbs are gearing up to do a different kind of clean-up job: they plan to contest the civic election independently next February, and root out the problems plaguing their wards, not as bais, but as corporators.
A member of the Gharkamgar Molkarni Sanghatana addresses the maids at a meeting
Needless to say, high up on their agenda will be the problems plaguing the 20 lakh Mumbai maids, and their 30 lakh comrades in the state.
All the three contesting maids, of which two have already been chosen, are members of the Gharkamgar Molkarni Sanghatana, Mumbai, (GMSM), a domestic servant's association affiliated to the India Trade Union Comrade.
The two candidates chosen so far will be contesting from Goregaon and Malad wards respectively, without the backing of any political party. The third candidate is yet to be chosen by the body.
After its formation in 2005, the association conducted three meetings, the last one taking place yesterday.
At these gatherings, maids from different parts of the city like Virar, Malad, Andheri, Goregaon and Dadar came together to share the vicissitudes of their profession and voice their problems. In course of the meeting, office bearers are also appointed for the body.
Every month the maid federation holds the meeting with their members and discusses their issues. They have an area leader of their association who helps them in every problem or any difficulty.
Lending strength to the association is a veritable army of 8,000 maids, most of who became members in order to seek support and solutions from their peers in addressing certain common problems and injustices faced by them the failure to obtain ration cards, bank accounts or basic rights at their workplaces.
Recently, the association has also been encouraging the spouses and children of the members to attend the monthly meetings, so they are sensitised about the problems faced by the maids at work.
Babli Rawat, general secretary of GMSM, said, "I am sure the members of my association will win, even without the backing of political parties.
We want a representative to take up issues concerning us at the meeting.
Our members have been taught to fight for their rights, sign up for insurance policies and bank accounts. Like others who work and earn, our maid sisters also deserve respect and legitimate rights."
Meet the candidates Subhadra Dhabade (45), Goregaon, said, "I wanted to change my destiny, and also that of my friends who are resigned to working for long hours in exchange for meagre pay. I am sure I will win the election in my area, and I will improve the lives of the maids in my community, as well as that of the common man." Tanuja Raul (32), Malad, said, "Many of the maids have not only been able to obtain their long-pending ration cards, but also their monthly rations. For over 20 years, they were clueless about the formal procedures. They have also learnt to bargain for their basic rights, such as weekly offs, which were unheard of before."