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Moving Towards Gender Equitable Public Transport Operations in a Post-COVID World

Moving Towards Gender Equitable Public Transport Operations in a Post-COVID World


Sonal Shah, the Founder of The Urban Catalysts and Executive Director of the Centre for Sustainable and Equitable Cities, joined us for our seminar series on 21st September 2023 to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the mobility of women workers in the informal sector.

Shah presented an interesting study conducted by their organization in 2021 which is titled as “Moving Towards Gender Equitable Public Transport Operations in a Post-COVID World.” The key points of the discussion are given below.

She laid down the context of the study by highlighting the impact of the pandemic on women which is as follows:

  • Fall in income
  • Increase in care work in household
  • Increase in domestic violence

The study aimed to-

  • To provide evidence and fast-track knowledge uptake to understand the impacts of COVID-19 on resource-poor women’s mobility
  • To inform policy guidance and response by low and lower-middle countries in addressing gender equity, safety, and personal security in public transport
  • To deep-dive in Delhi with learnings for cities in South Asia



Methodology Adopted in their study

  • Rapid literature review: They studied the impact of COVID-19 in selected cities – Dhaka, Lahore, Karachi, Kathmandu
  • Roundtable: They compared similarities in the impact of COVID on the mobility of women workers in the informal sector across cities
  • Key Informant Interviews: They talked to transport experts from the government, multi-lateral development banks, think tanks, etc.
  • Primary survey: They conducted with 800 women workers across different settlements in Delhi
  • Lastly, they disseminated the recommendations to key informants and roundtable participants

The primary survey of the study identified resource-poor women (RPW) in Delhi. Their profile was as follows:

  • 65 percent of RPW did not receive any formal education;
  • Only 10 percent have access to smartphones;
  • 84 percent of RPW do not own a vehicle

The findings highlighted by Sonal in their study are as follows:

  1. About 79 percent of RPW did not work in the 68 days of lockdown and lost an estimated INR 754 crores across Delhi; RPW travelled 20 percent less as compared to pre-COVID times; shared paratransit (IPT) is the next preferred mode of transport because of less waiting time.
  2. Concerns while traveling: Reserved seats were not enforced in the bus; the driver did not stop the bus for women passengers due to free service; rash driving and over-crowding in IPT.
  3. Women e-rickshaw drivers suffer a loss of INR 5000 due to safety, household, and care taxes. They operated in routes closer to their homes and earned lower revenues than men.

The recommendations disseminated by them to the roundtable participants and technical experts to complete the loop are as follows:

  1. A model that subsidizes the purchase of commercial assets and provides support from membership organizations.
  2. Creation of a mechanism for complaint that is not necessarily based on smartphones. Having coordinated responses to complaints across different modes of transport at the command-and-control centre set up by the transport department.
  3. Need for multi-modal subsidy for RPW
  4. Increase electric vehicle adoption amongst RPW, reservation of parking spaces at metro stations, and waive parking fees for women e-rickshaw drivers.

Watch the recording here

The International Day of Care and Support

The International Day of Care and Support: an opportunity to acknowledge and bolster care’s power to foster inclusive development

Satellites are launched into the cosmos, vaccines are engineered in record time and food supplies are produced to propel our societies forward. Investments in “human capital” are channelled to boost the production of these and other things considered valuable for promoting development. Yet the link between economic progress and people’s overall well-being seems to be broken. In 2022, the Human Development Index witnessed its second consecutive decline, as some countries continue to grapple with economic challenges following the pandemic. Care, often undervalued and underprioritized, holds a critical role in reversing this trajectory.

Care work encompasses an array of services and activities that individuals and societies undertake to nurture, preserve, and restore human capabilities. People are not born with the inherent knowledge to construct satellites, create vaccines or produce food, nor are they born knowing how to transform all these resources into well-being. The capabilities to develop fulfilling lives and prosperous societies are also acquired and accumulated. Nurturance, social connections, shelter, emotional support and family assistance, among others core elements of care, provide the enabling environment for a productive society. In other words, care work sustains our societies while being the enabling force behind all other productive endeavours.

At some point in our lives, we all require care, especially during childhood, at later ages or when people experience illnesses or live with disabilities. The lion’s share of care work responsibilities predominantly rests within households, where it is mostly conducted by women and girls. This unequal gender distribution of care work affects women’s economic outcomes and autonomy, personal development and well-being and fuels many gender gaps in today’s society.

Recognising care work’s value demands rethinking the political and economic system by putting people at the centre and acknowledging the interdependence of all living beings. A shared responsibility between governments, the private sector, communities and families is essential to tackle this challenge, meeting care needs in a sustainable and equitable way for the wellbeing of both humanity and the planet.

Even following standard economic indicators, the benefits of building a caring society become evident. Implementing universal childcare and long-term care services worldwide, as proposed by the International Labour Organization (ILO), could potentially create nearly 300 million jobs by 2035. In addition, care policies would bolster tax revenues, economic growth, and productivity, all while promoting gender equality. A safe and affordable care system can empower caregivers, particularly women, to enhance their workforce participation, securing better livelihoods for themselves and their families. Investment in childcare is especially significant due to its profound impact on children’s development and rights.

The International Day of Care and Support offers an occasion to reflect on the prevailing situation and present evidence-based policy recommendations to value care and care workers and enhance accessible, affordable and quality care systems, placing the people both providing and receiving care at the heart of our focus.

For the last year, a group of more than 20 organisations, including think tanks, international institutions, NGOs and the private sector, from across the world have joined forces to making care a global priority. Through fostering collaboration, producing policy-relevant knowledge and coordinating outreach efforts, we have worked together to highlight the relevance of care and offer concrete policies. Our collective efforts have primarily focused on the G20 forum, advocating for a “Care 20” agenda. Below, there are a series of key recommendations we have developed in this pursuit.

Transforming the paradigm of care

Making the value of care visible and recognising its vital role in society is a first step towards advancing the well-being of people, communities and the planet. This entails recognising that households manage most of the resources that societies allocate to producing capabilities, including care, education and health goods and services provided in the monetised economy. To revolutionise the care paradigm, we propose:

1) Enhancing data and evidence: Strengthening data collection, monitoring, evaluation and technical capacity is imperative to better understand the welfare implications of care and guiding policy strategies. Data collection – periodic, intersectional and at both individual and household levels – is crucial to value care, analyse care dynamics and generate evidence on effective strategies to foster a caring society. In this way, it facilitates the identification of lessons learned and good practices.

Estimating the costs of care production from the standpoint of households and women through a Basic Care Basket (BCB) is a powerful tool to build evidence and inform policy. This indicator measures the monetary value of the resources invested by families in producing care -through goods, services and care work-, the profile of their investment and its impact on the production of capabilities.

Preliminary results from the BCB calculation for Argentina (2018-2021) indicate that 65% of households with children and adolescents were able to support the development of capabilities in terms of health, education, sociability and emotional wellbeing. On average, these families invested resources worth 3.7 times the poverty line, with over a third of these resources stemming from unpaid work, primarily provided by the women in the household. In turn, 18% of the resources mobilised by households were provided by the state through education, healthcare and direct cash transfers. The BCB, therefore, offers crucial insights to understanding families’ investment profile in care, subsequently informing decision-making for the creation of care systems.

2) Transforming social norms and roles: Encouraging changes in restrictive social norms can have an impact on care and gender roles, combatting gender stereotypes and promoting shared responsibility for care across sectors, stakeholders and amongst all adult persons, including men. The implementation of public policies and awareness campaigns can contribute to this endeavour. These actions should be underpinned by evidence production to identify what works to catalyse a transformation of existing norms.

3) Understanding care in context: Care intersects with a myriad of issues, such as the demographic transition, migration, worker’s rights, and gender-based violence. Its implications can also relate to crises related to debt, climate and humanitarian emergencies, which threaten the economy, social cohesion and prevailing development models. Although these phenomena are often addressed in isolation, their interconnection is crucial when life in its multiple dimensions is at stake. Care plays a pivotal role in addressing aging populations, migration flows, and environmental degradation. To address contemporary and future challenges, it is essential to evaluate how care needs and provision fluctuate in response to social, environmental and economic processes. Taking into account the care dimension of these multifaceted phenomena can also help to envision better solutions.

Promote investments in comprehensive, sustainable, and inclusive ecosystems of care

Comprehensive Care Systems are essential to ensure equitable access to quality and affordable care services. Public financing must be at the heart of these efforts, while governments should form meaningful partnerships with multilateral organisations, philanthropy, the private sector and civil society to build ecosystems of care to leverage resources, enhance cross-sector coordination and promote transparency and accountability.

The need for quality access to care is evident, as participation in early childhood care and education (ECEC) services is still lacking worldwide. UNICEF estimates that only 4 in 10 children aged 3 and 4 attend ECEC spaces globally, ranging from 66 per cent in Latin America, to below 50 per cent in Asia and as low as 25 per cent in Africa. While data is scarce to assess the global situation of other populations requiring care and/or support, such as the elderly or persons with disabilities, it is generally observed that these groups are disproportionately vulnerable to abuse, neglect and discrimination due to the absence of institutional mechanisms for their care.

Moreover, paid leaves, essential to guarantee quality care, its redistribution and promote work-family balance, are also insufficient worldwide. There are 64 countries that grant below the minimum 14 weeks of maternity leave, as established by the ILO Convention 183 on Maternity Protection. Additionally, only four in ten parents have access to some form of paternity leave, with durations varying from two days to several months. While some countries offer cash transfers to supplement resources for care, much work remains to be done.

Effective care systems should, at a minimum, encompass the following components:

1) Comprehensive care infrastructure: Care infrastructure and services need to encompass childcare, long-term care and support services for persons with disabilities, as well as care for aging populations globally. These systems should consider the specific needs of the most disadvantaged populations, including LGBTI communities, while respecting their rights to autonomy and choice. Gender-responsive water, energy, and sanitation systems are a crucial element of infrastructure to reduce the time spent on domestic work.

2) Paid time to care: parental, maternity and paternity leaves, as well as measures to facilitate work-family balance such as flexible working arrangements, are vital to encourage shared responsibility between genders. Given the prevalence of informal work in the Global South, it is imperative to establish pathways to reach workers in the informal economy -who do not have access to parental leaves- through income transfers scheme, granting monetary resources to fulfil care needs.

3) Cash transfers: monetary resources are a key component of a robust social protection programme, which can support households in acquiring goods and services to meet their immediate needs. Many countries worldwide have progressed on providing both conditional and unconditional income support, yielding positive developmental outcomes for children and better livelihoods for families.

4) Institutional architecture and regulatory framework: coordination and articulation among the different actors responsible for designing and implementing Comprehensive Care Systems require solid and coherent regulatory schemes. This means avoiding isolated interventions that may overlap or leave critical gaps, in favour of cohesive, whole-of-government and whole-of-society efforts to maximise impact. Assurance mechanisms are also essential to guarantee the quality and adequacy of care services. The District Care System in Bogota and the National Care System in Uruguay serve as notable examples at the local and national level, respectively.

5) Decent work for paid care and domestic workers: Paid workers in the care and domestic sector, including migrants, should enjoy decent work conditions, with labour legislation guaranteeing their rights in accordance with the ILO Convention on Domestic Workers (C189). This encompasses fair wages, social protection, written contracts, rights for collective bargaining, formalisation of employment, and opportunities for training and professional development. Collaboration with trade unions and civil society organisations is essential to involve workers’ voices in decision-making and foster social dialogue. In light of technology and digital transformations in labour markets, regulatory considerations should also address digitally enabled care enterprises and care jobs.

6) Resource allocation: To transform commitments into action, resources for the implementation of care systems and for scaling up public and private innovations linked to the care economy are vital. This implies building sustainable, long-term financing by expanding fiscal space and building partnerships between the public and private sector.

Strengthening international cooperation on care

The international arena serves as a fertile ground for bolstering networks, sharing knowledge, disseminating lessons learned, building capacity and advocating for the implementation of comprehensive and inclusive care systems.

Our work within the G20 process united us to work at national, regional and global levels to make care a policy priority. This intention builds upon the numerous commitments on care by G20 leaders over the past decade. In 2014, the importance of care was underscored when leaders committed to reduce the gender gap in labour force participation by 25% by 2025. This commitment was reinforced with an Action Plan in 2021, aiming to establish a roadmap for achieving this goal. In addition, The G20 Early Childhood Development Initiative, launched in 2018, also emphasised the need to increase investments in quality childcare services for younger generations, while promoting shared responsibility. Time is pressing to turn these commitments into tangible results. As the G20 presidency heads to Brazil, new leadership from the Global South offers an opportunity to spotlight the care needs of developing countries.

To foster a new social contract that places care at the forefront of global priorities, guarantees the rights of both care recipients and providers, promotes gender equality and recognises shared responsibility for care, we propose:

1) Opening dialogue in multilateral spaces: Creating opportunities, both within the G20 and other regional and global fora, for peer learning, knowledge exchange and capacity building related to the care economy. These platforms can also support initiatives to design data collection and harmonisation schemes while disseminating evidence on the effectiveness of care policies that can be adaptable or scalable to other contexts.

2) Enhancing advocacy efforts: advocacy is vital disseminate the benefits and evidence of reinforcing care ecosystems worldwide. To this end, common challenges and shared goals need to be identified among different groups working on care and support for early childhood, older persons, and persons with disabilities, as well as organisations representing workers and migrants working in the care sector. In this regard, the role of care recipients and care workers is paramount, placing their experiences at the centre of policy making for care justice.

3) Designing accountability mechanisms: open data and regular reporting are important to monitor the commitments made by governments and international agencies within multilateral spaces. This ensures transparency and helps track progress towards achieving the established care-related goals and objectives.

The virtuous circle of care

Care remains the invisible foundation of our socio-economic system, providing vital support to individuals and families and empowering them to lead fulfilling lives and unleash their full potential. Governments have the duty to champion this agenda, a commitment that yields a triple win for society, the environment and the economy.

As we mark the inaugural International Day of Care and Support, it is time to pave the way to a new world: one in which care takes its rightful place as the cornerstone of wellbeing and the development of human potential.

The original article was published on CIPPEC’s website. Supported by the IDRC, this article was elaborated in collaboration with a global network of more than 20 organisations dedicated to reshaping care policies and advancing a “Care 20” agenda within the G20 and beyond. Partners in this endeavour include CIPPEC, Southern Voice, IWWAGE, FORCES India, the Center for Global Development, the Asia Foundation, UN Women, The Global Alliance for Care, Early Opportunities Initiative, the Early Childhood Development Action Network (ECDAN) and Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN).


Nayi Chetna

Launch of annual campaign ‘Nayi Chetna’ with the Ministry of Rural Development

A step against gender based discrimination

Gender-based discrimination, often seen in the form of violence against women, girls and gender-diverse individuals, continues to be one of the biggest deterrents to achieving self-growth, well-being and a life of dignity. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5 data reveals that 30% of women between the age of 18 and 49 have experienced violence (physical, sexual, or emotional) since 15 years of age. It also reveals that as many as 77% women never sought help from anyone about the violence inflicted on them.  Figures from the National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) ‘Crime in India 2021’ report show that India registered 31,677 cases of rape in 2021 – an average 86 daily – while nearly 49 cases of crime against women were lodged every single hour. With a global rate of 1 in 3 women being a victim of violence, and given its physiological and psychological impacts, this human rights violation deters individuals from achieving their full potential and living a life of their choice. Individuals from socially marginalized groups are more acutely affected as gender-based violence is an added layer of vulnerability. 

IWWAGE in partnership with Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM), UNICEF and Roshni recognize this social evil as a hindrance towards achieving individual and social development and aims to take necessary actions advance the rights of women, girls, and gender-diverse individuals. Strategic efforts have been made towards gender-mainstreaming by integrating gender approaches into its policies and programming to address gender inequality. These include building capacities of rural community-based institutions to identify and take action against issues of gender-based discrimination and setting up institutional mechanisms to make this process sustainable. The staff on ground and in the field were also given training and sensitization to integrate gender approaches into operations to create an enabling environment for multi-sectoral gender-responsive and transformative interventions in rural communities.

To add momentum and build on these ongoing efforts against gender-based discrimination, an annual national-level Gender Campaign against Gender-based discrimination, ‘Nayi Chetna’ was initiated. This month-long campaign was flagged off on the 25th of November marking the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls, ending on the 23rd of December. The campaign was graced and launched by Hon’ble Sh. Giriraj Singh, Union Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Government of India and Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, Minister of State for Rural Development, Government of India, along with other senior officials from MoRD. IWWAGE also showcased an animated movie called ‘Kamli Ki Kahaani’ translating as ‘The story of Kamli’, a case study-based story following the lead ‘Kamli’, a victim of domestic violence. Through the medium of the video our aim was to educate the audience on various forms of violence and on redressal mechanisms provided by the government for anyone who may be a victim of violence. 


The goal of the campaign is to advance the agency and rights of women and gender diverse individuals, by addressing structural barriers for dignified living with no fear and discrimination and violence based on their gender and intersectional identities. This marks the first campaign as the campaign will be observed annually for the next five years, with a focus on specific themes responding to gender equity each year. Importantly, this is envisioned in the spirit of a ‘Jan Andolan’ or People’s movement with follow-up actions planned for the rest of the year beyond the month-long campaign. It will thus gradually work towards deepening an intersectional approach to address multiple vulnerabilities, enhanced convergence and deepening the understanding of gender and generating relevant and ownership for multisectoral action. 

The campaign ran in all 34 states and union territories of India. This campaign was implemented by all states in collaboration with CSO partners, and actively executed by all levels including the State, District, Block engaging the Community Institutions along with the extended community. It also marked the inauguration of 160 Gender Resource Centres (GRCs) in 13 states. GRCs are intended to act as a catalyst to support women through social, legal & economic empowerment in private and public spaces, within the family, community and at the workplace. There are 1,251 gender resource centres set up across the country from where women facing gender violence can seek help. The Campaign also brought together all line departments and stakeholders to create a concerted effort in acknowledging, identifying, and addressing issues of violence. There was an array of activities which were conducted during the campaign, some of which were night walk, rallies, street plays, wall paintings, hosting of legal and gender camps and women leadership workshops. 


Watch the animated video here


G20 workshop

G20 Thematic Workshop on Nari Shakti: Towards Women-Led Development organised by NITI Aayog and IWWAGE

A workshop on the theme of Nari Shakti: Towards Women-led Development, emanating from the New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration 2023 (NDLD 2023), was held on 8 November 2023 at New Delhi.  The workshop was organized by NITI Aayog in collaboration with Institute of What Works to Advance Gender Equality (IWWAGE). This workshop was part of the series of thematic workshops steered and anchored by the NITI Aayog towards action items in the NDLD 2023.

The workshop focused on specific themes for enhancing the role of women in economy through economic and social empowerment. Discussions were held of topics of strengthening women’s collectives like Self-Help Groups (SHGs), Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs); bridging gender skills gap and promoting women entrepreneurs; and strengthening legal safeguards for women’s empowerment.


The Workshop commenced with inaugural remarks by Dr. V.K Paul, Member NITI Aayog, where he highlighted that women-led development has been emphasized by our Hon’ble Prime Minister through various initiatives and programmes over the last few years. However, he underscored the challenge of low female labour force participation and stressed upon leveraging their social capital by providing them an enabling ecosystem. He called to synergize pathways of G20 priorities and national agendas, and create actionable strategies to achieve the same.

Dr. Preetam B Yashvant, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, emphasized of the paradigm shift where women are no longer recipients but active participants in the development discourse. He further highlighted that G20 was truly a Peoples’ Presidency where women-led development was showcased through ‘Jan Bhagdari’ activities.

Dr Sandhya Purecha, Chair W20 India, highlighted that Nari Shakti encapsulates the strength that women embody and women-led development is a moral obligation necessary for equitable society.

The theme on Women in the Economy: Enhancing Women’s Economic and Social Empowerment delved into increasing women’s labour force participation to achieve women-led development. Issues like recognizing gender disparity in domestic and care work; and increasing investment in this sector to enable more women to participate meaningfully in the workforce; exploring the potential of gig economy; bridging gender skill gaps and social security for women; enhancing policies to create gender inclusive and supportive workplaces; and role of private sector to enhance and retain female workforce, were discussed.

The theme on Women’s Collectives: Strengthening SHGs, Women led FPOs and Rural Women’s Leadership Abilities focused on sharing the best practices in the women’s collectives’ space and strategies to scale them pan-India. The segment engaged in developing strategies to enable these women’s collectives reach the next stage of economic empowerment through formation of large producer enterprises or collectives and fostering leadership abilities among rural women.

The theme on Women and the Future of Work: Bridging Digital and Skilling Gaps for Access to Jobs and Strengthening Women’s Entrepreneurship concentrated on enhancing women’s access to digital skills and infrastructure, prioritizing quality and safety, to ensure a secure and inclusive digital literacy experience, fostering greater participation in the digital ecosystem. It also focused on incentivizing employers to promote women’s participation in non-traditional sectors by addressing structural issues that shape gender roles, thereby encouraging women’s entrepreneurship and diversification of career aspirations.

In the segment of Legal Safeguards for the Empowerment of Women, discussions focused on creating an enabling ecosystem by prioritizing women’s safety through improved public infrastructure, strengthening the implementation of gender-friendly laws by effective monitoring, evaluation and placing accountability system, and developing gender-disaggregated data for more evidence-based policy for women-led development.

This workshop provided a platform for experts, academics, experts, and civil society and think tank representatives working on gender empowerment to collaborate and design a roadmap for comprehensive gender equality and empowerment.



GRC workshop

The Ministry of Rural Development and IWWAGE jointly organized a two-day
Consultative Workshop on Gender Resource Centre

The Ministry of Rural Development and IWWAGE jointly organized a two-day Consultative Workshop on Gender Resource Centre in New Delhi on 27th and 28th July 2023. In his keynote address, Shri Charanjit Singh Additional Secretary, Ministry of Rural Development mentioned that since 2016, DAY NRLM has targeted intervention for mainstreaming gender within the program with the goal to strengthen the voice, choice and agency of women. To respond to the issues of gender specific entitlements and rights, a need was felt for establishing a structure like Gender Resource Centre to find resolution for a varied range of complex cases that demand inter linkages with other departments.

Setting the context for the workshop, Smt. Smriti Sharan, Joint Secretary, shared that the DAY-NRLM has initiated a silent revolution in the country and that its transformative approach is premised on the principles of creating women led and women owned institutions. She shared the two basic principles of the DAY-NRLM program are social empowerment and economic empowerment of the rural poor women. Joint Secretary further stated that the establishment of GRC has been a landmark achievement for the program reaffirming DAY-NRLMs commitment to the mandate of women empowerment. Ms. Sharon Buteau, Executive Director of LEAD at Krea University underscored the importance of evidence generation in identifying key elements for interventions.



A total of 75 participants from 15 states along with CSO partners and gender experts participated in the workshop. The deliberations in the workshop highlighted the major components for strengthening Gender Resource Centre through a participatory group work. The enriching experiences from the participating State viz. Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Nagaland, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Puducherry, Rajasthan, Kerala, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Tripura re-emphasizes the efforts that are required for strengthening the Gender Resource Centre in the country.


The closing remarks by Joint Secretary, Smt Smriti Sharan, laid out that the discussions have helped us reflect on the present scope of the GRC and ambit of work that lay in front of us. She also added that if GRCs are envisioned as the apex body of the community institutions at the Block level, then its role should also be of higher order. She also laid emphasis on the fact that it is much larger than just addressing cases- it is about combatting gender inequality through a holistic approach.


Fourth Gender Samvaad

Fourth Gender Samvaad was co-organized by Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihoods Mission ((DAY-NRLM) and Institute for What Works to Advance Gender Equality (IWWAGE) –September 22, 2023

The fourth Gender Samvaad was co-organized by Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM), Ministry of Rural Developmen and Institute for What Works to Advance Gender Equality (IWWAGE) on September 22nd 2023. The virtual event brought together over 8000 participants, including senior officials MoRD, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of Bihar and state government officials, practitioners, gender experts, academia, civil society actors, and members of self-help groups.
Gender Samvaad, is a unique, joint attempt between DAY-NRLM and IWWAGE to establish a shared platform to generate awareness on DAY-NRLM’s gender interventions across the country, with a focus on hearing voices from the states and of SHG members.
In his keynote address, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Rural Development, Shri Charanjit Singh expressed concerns over the statistics on gender based violence and emphasised on the role that community based institutions can play in addressing this issue. He also stressed on inter-ministerial convergence to address Gender Based Violence, especially with Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Ministry of Education for awareness generation and sensitisation.

Joint Secretary, DAY-NRLM, Smt. Smriti Sharan highlighted the extensive efforts undertaken by DAY-NRLM in empowering women and creating model institutions to address women’s issues in rural areas particularly through the platform of Gender Resource Centre.
Community resource persons (CRP) from various states including Jharkhand, Kerala and Odisha were invited to share their experience of institutional strategies adopted to address gender based violence. Smt Rajani Dandasena from Odisha shared the experience of the functioning of the Prerna Kendra (Gender Resource centres) at Gram Panchayat level. The Prerna Kendras have established strong linkages with other departments through Gender Forum and have been able to address cases of Violence. The Gender Campaign launched in November 2022 has also led to widespread awareness on GBV and demanding public action through the institutions of the women. Women shared experiences of addressing issues like witch hunting, drug abuse, sexual violence, etc.
Smt. Mahua Roy Chaudhary from Jeevika, Government of Bihar highlighted the importance of gender training, learning pedagogies and use of IEC materials leading to creation of gender responsive institutions particularly Didi Adhikar kendras for addressing violence that is deep rooted in patriarchy and social norms. She also emphasized the political empowerment of women as ward members and mukhiyas in the state. She emphasized the importance of sustainability of these institutions in continuing delivering women’ s empowerment.

A panel discussion followed which included Joint Secretary from Ministry of Women and Child Development, Gender Expert and Women’s rights lawyer to emphasise the importance of  SRLM and system related opportunities like legal  remedies including fast track courts, horizontal and vertical gender training across different stakeholders and  inter-ministerial convergence adopting multi-pronged strategies to address GBV.   The panel discussed innovative financing for sustainability, safe spaces for women like Shakti Sadan and short stay homes, strengthening data driven governance and economic agency of women. The conversation laid out the scope of convergence between Naari Adalats under Mission Shakti with Gender Resource Centres under DAY-NRLM.  The Samvaad 2023 ended with the need to come together to address the core issues of women through focus on preventive measures, convergence and innovative and local approaches of problem solving.

IAWS-IWWAGE_Panel on Care Workers

Institute for What Works to Advance Gender Equality (IWWAGE) and Indian Association for Women’s Studies (IAWS) panel on Strengthening the Voices of Care Workers in India



On 7th September, 2023, Institute for What Works to Advance Gender Equality (IWWAGE) collaborated with the prestigious Indian Association for Women’s Studies (IAWS) as a part of their 17th National Conference held in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala (7th – 10th September 2023). The crucial panel discussion was held on one of the emerging issues of women workers in the insidious and rarely recognised sector of the economy – the care sector. The panel aimed to discuss mechanisms to strengthen the voices of such workers and aims at contributing to policies for their welfare.

The session was chaired and moderated by Ritu Dewan (Vice President, Indian Society of Labour Economics (ISLE)). The panel was introduced by Bidisha Mondal (Research Fellow, IWWAGE-LEAD at Krea University), where the panellists were Dipa Sinha (Assistant Professor, School of Liberal Studies, Ambedkar University Delhi), Sonia George (General Secretary, Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in Kerala), Kiran Moghe (Member, All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA)) and AR Sindhu (General Secretary, All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH)). The concluding remarks were given by Ishita Mukhopadhyay (President, IAWS).

The discussion centred on the growing significance of care work and care workers, particularly in rural India, where they form the largest group of frontline workers employed by the State. With a diverse range of care workers in the country, spanning from unpaid to underpaid, working for the public and private sectors, households, or even within their own families, the panellists highlighted the pressing challenges these workers still face today. Women, particularly those serving as frontline workers such as Aanganwadi workers, ASHA workers, Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs), mid-day meal workers etc., play a vital role in providing essential services to rural communities. Despite their substantial contributions to various human development outcomes and being responsible for the generation of 25-30% of India’s GDP (sic), the State does not officially recognize them as ’employees’; instead, they are often referred to as ‘scheme’, ‘voluntary’, or ‘honorary’ workers. They dedicate approximately 4 to 6 hours a day to their responsibilities, leaving them with little time to pursue other forms of employment. This lack of recognition is compounded by meagre compensation, which falls below the minimum wage and underscores the undervaluing of their work. In the country, only 14 states have officially established minimum wage rates for domestic and care workers, and even these are significantly below what is considered adequate. Unfortunately, in practice, it is found that the wages that workers receive are even lower than these officially notified rates. Furthermore, it is important to recognize that this issue extends beyond the rights of care workers. It also encompasses the rights of those receiving care – who have a right to receive high-quality, respectful, and dignified care. Overworked and underappreciated care workers may not be able to offer the level of attention, compassion, and expertise required. This work is not only valuable, but often requires a high level of skill – including empathy, communication, problem-solving, and often medical or technical expertise depending on the context. It requires emotional labor, as well as physical and intellectual effort. Failing to recognize this skill can lead to a lack of job satisfaction and motivation to work, which ultimately impacts the quality of care. Therefore, this work must not only be recognized but also compensated appropriately.

These honorary survival wages are provided without the benefit of any accompanying social security policies. Despite being the cornerstone of the rural economy, care workers are not even entitled to the care they themselves provide. In essence, the quality of care provided by care workers is then directly impacted by the conditions in which they operate. The highlighted challenges are not solely about their wages, but also about the overall working environment — including access to essential facilities like toilets during their shifts, and the implementation of social security measures. Additionally, provisions for maternity entitlements for the care workers who provide such benefits themselves are crucial. Without these fundamental rights and support systems, the standard of care delivered may not meet its full potential. 


In the urban landscape, domestic workers entrusted with the care and upkeep of households and their occupants are also facing a profound transformation in their paradigm of employment. This shift is underscored by several significant trends. Firstly, there is a notable surge in mechanization, altering the traditional landscape of household tasks. Concurrently, a rise in unemployment among employers of care workers is observed, marking a consequential shift in the employment dynamic. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated this evolution, ushering in substantial lifestyle changes. These shifts encompassed a notable shift in habits and attitudes, and have also unveiled persistent discriminatory practices that continue to plague this workforce. Additionally, the outsourcing trend of the emergence of gig economy workers through apps has not only altered the employment structure but has also introduced new dynamics to the sector, emphasizing the need for adaptability and resiliency within this workforce.

However, one noteworthy achievement highlighted during the discussion was the expansion of schemes offering opportunities for workers, particularly women, to form unions, even if they are not in formal employment. Over the past decade, there has been a remarkable surge in union activities nationwide, leading to numerous successful endeavours in the fight for fundamental labour rights.

As the global conversation shifts from centring on care workers to prioritizing support for individuals in need of care, the struggles faced by care workers are often marginalized or overlooked. The panel identified this change in the narrative to highlight the importance of re-evaluating the recognition and support provided to care workers. The panel emphasized the importance of discussing welfare measures when considering wages and time dedicated to care work within the framework of social protection. The transition from a welfare-centric approach to one centered around establishing minimum wages should be a pivotal focus for domestic and care workers, and the subsequent policy recommendations. One pertinent question to address is whether there is adequate representation of domestic and care workers on these minimum wage committees. This aspect bears significant weight in ensuring fair and just compensation for the invaluable contributions of these workers.

The panel emphasised the efforts that must be made to recognize the home as a legitimate workplace, especially in contexts where care work is predominantly carried out. They pointed out the current oversight in acknowledging domestic settings as official work environments and stressed that this recognition requires active engagement with pertinent stakeholders, especially labour ministry and departments, to highlight the significance of this matter. They also emphasized the importance of collaborating with statistical agencies to establish robust mechanisms for integrating care work into official labour statistics. This would involve creating specific categories or classifications customized to accurately depict the contributions of care workers. They suggested the necessity for a proactive approach in initiating productive dialogues with stakeholders, ultimately leading to the establishment of comprehensive guidelines and protocols for data collection and reporting specifically tailored to care work. The panel concluded that by diligently pursuing these actionable points, significant progress can be achieved in rectifying the current oversight and ensuring that the invaluable contributions of care workers receive the recognition and appreciation they rightfully deserve.


An extensive question-and-answer session ensued after the panel discussion. Where the discussion brought various crucial points to the fore, concerning: old age care, instances of sexual harassment faced by domestic workers within households, the impact of invasive technologies on care workers, as well as instances of discrimination experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. These discussions provided an invaluable opportunity for further discourse and action on these pressing issues.

This note has been prepared by Prakriti Sharma, Senior Research Associate, IWWAGE-LEAD at Krea University.