Our History

Our History

NDWM’s core activities focus on organizing and empowering domestic workers to address root issues that adversely impact their living and working conditions.

  • Comprehensive Legislation to protect their rights as workers.
  • Advocacy and Lobbying activities with Government authorities
  • Empowering domestic workers to organize themselves for collective bargaining
  • Shaping public opinion on the dignity and rights of domestic workers
  • Forging ties with international and national partners to advance the cause of domestic workers
  • Trafficking and migration
  • Crisis intervention for rescued and abused child workers
  • Safeguarding rights of children in domestic work

In the early eighties Sr. Jeanne Devos began working with women and children in the Dindugal District of Tamil Nadu, and encouraged small groups of domestic workers to come together with the objective of supporting themselves and each other. In 1985 she relocated to Mumbai and assisted with setting up some more domestic workers’ groups, which subsequently led to the launch of the National Domestic Workers Movement. Within a few years the movement had taken root in several large states, especially in Southern India. The inclusion of domestic work in the schedule of the Tamil Nadu Manual Labour Act 1982 on 1st June, 1999 was the first instance of legal recognition of domestic workers as workers in India. The Northern, Eastern and North-eastern states soon joined the movement giving it a pan-Indian presence. Although the needs and problems of each State were unique, the common thread of unity was the growing awareness that the legitimate labour rights of domestic workers was being denied. During this period policy makers extended protections and upheld the rights of organized labour and some sectors of unorganized labour, but denied the inclusion of protections for domestic workers. While this was a setback, it made the Movement more united and determined to draw attention to the injustices and discrimination.

Due to the concerted advocacy and lobbying efforts of NDWM, child labour in domestic work was specifically banned in October 2006.The Tamil Nadu Domestic Workers Welfare Board was also constituted in January 2007 under the Tamil Nadu Manual Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Work) Act 1982.The struggle of domestic workers to achieve recognition before the law received a huge boost in July 2011 with the codification of ILO Convention 189 which gave international recognition to domestic work as decent work with rights on par with all other forms of labour. Our Government was a signatory to this Convention, but has yet to pass comprehensive legislation that would be required as a part of its ratification. This has become the new rallying point of our advocacy efforts, especially during the last year and it has generated stronger media attention and favourable public opinion, which we hope will catalyse a change of mind set about the rights for domestic workers within our country.

NDWM owes a debt of gratitude to all its benefactors, well- wishers, international affiliates and network colleagues for their unstinted support. With their continued support, our domestic workers’ family commits itself to winning the struggle for labour rights and a higher quality of life in the coming decade.