Seema was one of an estimated 4 million domestic workers in India. The domestic sector is informal and unregulated, obscured in private homes, and workers are not recognised as such but rather as ‘informal help’. Their wages are, on average, only a third of those in other sectors, they have very limited social protections, and commonly suffer poor working conditions, exploitation, abuse and slavery. Many domestic workers are migrants from poorer states and are among the most marginalised and socially discriminated populations in India. Most of them are Dalits or come from other disadvantaged castes and tribal minorities, many are landless, illiterate and innumerate, which increases their vulnerability and disempowerment.
I had been placed with two different employers in Delhi before I met the National Domestic Workers Movement (NDWM). I wasn’t paid for the work that I did over two years, except for the absolute minimum that I needed to survive. My employers would shout at me, insult me and beat me.
Finally, I was given NDWM’s number, and the very next day after I called them, a staff member came to the house, accompanied by the police, and rescued me. My employers still didn’t pay me, but I was just so happy to leave that place anyway.
Narrative as told to Anti-Slavery International.