Helping households…..the 'Sahayika' way

Urban life comes with a host of recurring problems. 'Finding a trustworthy and reliable domestic worker' is one of them. Let us admit one thing here; you simply cannot rely on the information provided by the pan-walla in the neighbourhood. So what do you do when your parents need a care taker, or when you yourself need someone to take care of the chores which you have absolutely no time to attend to? No clue, right? On the other hand, estimates show that domestic work accounts for about 10.4 million jobs in India with more than triple that number of employers currently in search of a domestic worker, signaling the importance of this form of livelihood as well as clear labour market imperfections. These domestic workers are vulnerable to socio-economic exploitation because they are unorganized, poorly skilled and lack bargaining power to get fair wages and dignity in society. As the size of the female work force and middle class has increased, so has the demand for domestic workers, while the supply has remained stagnant. This indicates the need for the market to be organized and the requirement for employers to adjust their expectations. This is where organizations like Maitri come in. Maitri is a Social Enterprise Group with two entities in its fold; one a NGO (Maitri Livelihood Services Pvt Ltd) and a private limited company(Maitri Livelihood Services Pvt Ltd).Maitriprovides technical, commercial and life skills training to youth and women along with intensive follow-up and handholding support so that they can earn a decent and dignified livelihood on a sustainable basis. It is led by its Managing Director, Gitali Thakur having over twenty years of experience in livelihood promotion and microfinance sector while being associated with reputed institutions like BASIX, FWWB &MicroSave. Maitri implements a caregivers' programme called "Sahayika". Sahayika aims at providing skilled, reliable and trustworthy caregivers to urban households in India. Maitri implements Sahayika so that home based caregivers can earn a dignified and sustainable livelihood. This programme was designed to assure dignity, respect, recognition and fair wage to domestic workers. While doing so, Maitri is also addressing a pressing problem faced by millions of families in urban India. Under this programme, Sahayikas undergo an intensive training in 3 modules: Empowerment Module, Technical Skills Module, Value Education and Life Skills Module. The duration of training for Domestic Workers is 90 Hours and for both BSPA and Child Caregivers is 180 hours. After training they are placed in households. All Sahayikas are issued a certificate, I Card and an apron. Maitri works as the facilitator between the Sahayika and the employer. Background check and verification is done for all Sahayikas by Maitri before placement to assure the employers security and trust. Both the parties are made to adhere to a set of Ethical Code of Conduct. Maitri works as a service provider on a continuous basis. The uniqueness of Maitri's model is its ability to create social goods and value for both the caregiver as well as the employer Maitri takes care of both the ends of the system. From the supply end, the Sahayikas enjoy a number of benefits which they are deprived of while working otherwise. As a Sahayika of Maitri, a caregiver earns an assured monthly salary of Rs. 4500 to Rs. 6000 which is a significantly higher amount than what they usually earn in Guwahati in the same profession. In Kolkata, the basic salary starts from Rs. 6000. Most of the Sahayikas of Maitri come from very poor backgrounds, many of them are victims of domestic violence and in many cases they are the only and the most important income source for the family. Maitri organizes monthly meeting of Sahayikas on every 2nd Saturday for conflict resolution, assurance, feedback and reinforcement. The Sahayikas form a community of skilled and organized domestic workers, trained in household management and able to build a dignified and secure livelihood and seek career advancement. The Sahayikaprogramme has impacted the lives of domestic workers not only economically but by instilling in them a sense of dignity, respect and a better future while enhancing wellbeing in many middle and upper middle class urban households. From the employer's end, other than providing a well-trained Shaayaika, Maitri has a dedicated customer care cell for grievance rederessal for both the Sahayika and the employer. Every complaint call is captured by MIS and trackedfor monitoringthe time and accuracy of problem solving. NilakshiDuwarah, a yoga instructor has been in connection with Maitri ever since it's days of inception. She has had her days of up's and downs. She has had two recruitments till date with the organization. She is a mother of two boys and had shifted to Guwahati from Dehradun five years ago.SahayikaMamoniNath has been working at her place since March, 2014 and Nilashi says she finally has found someone she really trusts and says Mamoni understands her well too. She says that with Mamoni being very patient at work and taking control of responsibilities they have had few things to hassle about till date. Jyoshna Pal has been associated with Maitri since Feb 2011. A graduate from our 1st Batch. This is what she had to say, "I was working as a domestic worker but found it very difficult to sustain myself with my son. I worked in three households and could generate only Rs.1500 per month. This was a very little amount to help me meet my daily ends let alone educate my son. I heard of Maitri'sSahayikaProgramme and approached the office staff. I enrolled in the Domestic Worker's training programme and learned a lot. Mairi office supported me and placed me in a very good household, where presently I draw a salary of Rs. 4000 per month Maitri boosted up my spirits. Now I don't have to work breaking my back and can give my son ample amount of time. I have admitted him in a good school and he is very happy. I also get respect and recognition for my works!" From a social initiative to a sustainable economic model, Maitri creates a win-win situation for both the employers and the Sahayikas. And considering the growing demand for domestic workers, it could easily solve a few problems faced by certain sections of the society.