The strength of WIEGO's partner organizations in India has meant that the OHS project has worked in two cities rather than one. In Ahmedabad, Gujurat WIEGO has supported the work of the Self-Employed Women's Association. SEWA has worked on promoting OHS for informal workers since the early 1970s, and are now involved in the production of work tools which both protect health and improve the productivity of their members. WIEGO has supported the expansion of this work into new sectors of the informal economy, as well as policy advocacy on extending occupational health services to informal workers.
In Pune, Maharashtra the OHS project has worked with the 8000-strong union of waste pickers, Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP) and its solid waste management cooperative SWaCH. Here the work has focused on:
- integration of OHS into the union's general work activities
- documentation of case studies on health and safety
- improving the organization's health, safety and social security data collection systems
- supporting KKPKP's campaign on Extended Producer Responsibility (see below for more details).
SEWA holds State and National OHS Workshops in Ahmedabad and Delhi
As part of its OHS Project dissemination activities, SEWA has held two workshops on the 'Occupational Health of Women Workers in the Informal Economy.' The first of these was a state-wide event held on the 23rd of January, organized in collaboration with the Indian National Institute of Occupational Health. The second was a national workshop held on the 4th and 5th of April in Delhi. The workshops were set up as platforms for the sharing of experiences and ideas in order to move the campaign for a more inclusive OHS forward in India. As Mirai Chatterjee, Director of SEWA Social Security, pointed out: it has been over 60 years since the Government of India's Bhore Commission Report recommended that occupational health services be integrated into primary health services and made available to all working Indians─yet so far little has been achieved in this regard. (Read more about this in OHS Newsletter 7).
Seemaben, a SEWA embroiderer, showing off the work she created with her new embroidery frame developed by the SEWA OHS team.
Waste pickers argue for Extended Responsibility to apply to manufacturers of sanitary pads
It is estimated that only 12 per cent of India's women have access to sanitary pads when menstruating. In response to these low numbers, the Indian government has made efforts to manufacture and distribute sanitary pads at low cost. As SWaCH points out, however, this isn't a simple story about improving women's health. When sanitary pads are carelessly disposed of they can pose a real health threat to workers who recycle waste - workers who are also mainly women. In response to this SWaCH has developed a low-cost, environmentall friendly solution: ST-Dispo Bags, and is now arguing that manufacturers of sanitary pads should be compelled through Extended Producer Responsibility laws to include the Dispo Bags in their packs of santary pads. For the full story read OHS Newsletter 6.