US Tradeswomen’s Delegation 2 India
$30,515 of $30,000 goal
Two percent of construction workers in the US are women. Half of India's construction workforce are women. In the US, it is a good job that women are kept out of. In India, it is a bad job and women are doing it. That isn't fair.
A dozen US tradeswomen are traveling to India in January 2017 to meet women construction workers, labor organizers and other advocates. We will all be paying our own airfare, but we need help for additional expenses. Please contribute what you can. All funds will be used to pay for the Delegation and any remaining funds will be donated to the cause of improving the lives of India's women construction workers.
You can follow our trip on Facebook at Building Bridges 2017 and on the blog at tradeswomenbuild.org.
"In the global North they say women aren't strong enough. In the South they say women aren't smart enough."
Operating Engineer Holly Brown will give you and introduction to the events and the Delegates from the US below.
It was an honor to be part of the First Building Bridges International Tradeswomen Conference. When I walked into the conference it was more than I could have hoped for. We all had a part in the conference, I talked about apprenticeship programs. It was a two-day conference with highly respected people. We each talked about our career, how we got started, struggles, harassment on the job, etc.
We learned that they just started a construction workers’ welfare board. Most of the workers in construction are called the untouchables [Dalits]. They get paid in cash and in most cases they are not even listed on payroll. Women do all the unskilled work while the men do the skilled jobs. They do not even get minimum wage and their wage scales differ from person to person.
Because of the economic bust with the change of money there has not been a lot of women on job sites. Almost everything is done by hand. A Big Thanks to VV Giri National Labour Institute for taking such good care of us.”
— Holly Brown, Operating Engineers
Three tradeswomen give their thoughts and impressions below.
From Dee Soza, California Journeywoman Electrician
“It is eight days into our Tradeswomen Delegation, and every moment of everyday has been filled with colorful sights, bustling sounds, at times to the point of needing earplugs, and unexpected emotions. Dr. Susan Moir has done a tremendous job in organizing every detail of our amazing trip without missing a beat. Our first few nights we stayed in a Hostel in the Main Bazaar right in the middle of the hustle and bustle. The weather was quite cold and we were lucky to get in a quick warm shower in the small rooms we shared with a bunkmate. The narrow alley to get to our hostel was filled with street vendors, small stores, places to eat, cobble stones, dogs, unknown scents, and the occasional scurry of nice fat rats.
We completed our first conference in Delhi at the V.V. Giri National Labour Institute. This two-day conference brought Government officials, and Professors of womens’ studies, labour studies, and social studies. I learned Construction in India is the largest non-agricultural form of employment. One in five workers work in construction where the normal work-day is twelve hours. Over 90% of construction work is classified as “informal”, or as we may call it at home “the underground economy”, where they are paid cash for their work. Two young women from India who work in construction spoke and are paid 250 rupees a day, equal to $3.67 U.S.
Our U.S. delegation shared our experiences and successes being skilled union Tradeswomen. The members of the conference were eager, surprised, and encouraged to hear us speak. The members of the conference were very gracious hosts and we were served traditional delicious meals. We have now traveled to Mumbai where we are being hosted by the Tata Institute of Social Science for our second conference.”
From Noreen Buckley, California Apprentice Electrician
The level of hospitality and openness that the Indian people have shown us has humbled me. In this two-day conference, various voices presented the many layers surrounding women construction workers in India. The US delegation heard from members of the government and the ways in which they are establishing policy and creating programs to support the Indian construction workers as a whole.
The Indian labor organizers and union representatives shared the work they are doing to gain rights for construction workers around pay, safety standards on the job site, and pension after retirement as well as spreading that information to the workers, informing them that this option is available to them. The unions admittedly have tried to ignore the issue of women in construction only to now acknowledge that it is not going away. We sat on panels with activists who have been fighting for the basic needs of construction workers, specifically women construction workers. And we listened to academics that have studied and researched women construction workers, identifying the many hurdles they face in the field and their daily lives.
With just such a short time together, the Indian members did a great job in painting the picture of Indian cultural, governmental, economic, and social ways of life and how they all factor into the struggle that women construction workers face in their country. Before arriving in India, it was hard for me to see how the US and India could share best practices and benefit each other when our countries are on two different socio-economic levels. We talk about a fair wage for US union constructions workers being between $60-90/hour (for both genders) while 300 rupees a day ($4.50 US) is the norm for Indian female construction workers. But, the core issues that we as US Tradeswomen face are the same as Indian tradeswomen: Access to childcare, Equal pay for equal work, Making Policy versus Implementing Policy, Cultural perceptions of what women can and cannot do, Harassment and Sexual harassment:
I have barely touched on the richness of this conference, the people, the discussion, the stories. We, as a delegation, are moving on with more questions than answers regarding the growth of tradeswomen in India and the United States.
From Kelly McClellen, Missouri Operating Engineer and member of Heartland Women in Trades
“My major take from the conference is that women here in India have no real rights as citizens except on paper. Men do not have respect for women and it’s sad to see. Men and women were created to work together to make a great team. Not one better than the other. The policy makers and advocates have a great prospective on how life should be practiced but they haven’t found a way to teach or even spread the policies to the workers. India needs a lot more activists and business representative speaking and taking action out in the field. It is going to take an army of people to turn this country around. The fact that this group of ladies can bring inspiration and passion to these people is incredible and humbling!”
"Have you ever been a part of something way bigger than yourself?
During my time in India, I've seen some of the saddest cultural life I hope is around!
Children begging to feed their families. The injustice for humans is horrible. It is amazing to think that I may have been a part of a movement that gives women the ability to become skilled with tools and work alongside the men as I do. It is a process that could take more than 100 years and I'm sad I won't be able to witness this but I'm anxious to see a baby step in the right direction
Construction here seems to be a few steps behind us as they dig ditches by hand and hoist concrete in buckets with a rope and pulley. There are many people here trying to help and as far as I can see the policies and laws are there to protect all citizens and even females in construction but the enforcement is so different because of the number of people and lack of ability to enforce and control the human culture.
Hopefully with advocates, activists and our US Tradeswomen Delegation we will inch in the right direction.
This group of women & Brian are an amazingly diverse, intelligent, passionate and skilled family. Yes now we are a family. We will together help change the world for the better.
I would urge everyone to visit India with the time to soak up the culture or even research with looking into the poorest (informal) sector and the less poor (formal) of construction life and cultural life. #humbledtradeswoman."
IUOE - International Union Operating Engineer Local 101 KS/MO
HWIT - Heartland Women In Trades
Dear Susan, Being a travel agent may be more complicated than the other tasks you have taken on! I do hope the delegation and your trips inside the country are both rewarding and adventurous. I imagine that this project and all the work that has gone into it will be life changing and significant for all involved. Wishing you and the women in this project the best as you continue this important work.
reading the recent reports reaffirms my appreciation for the work you have done, especially in providing both the Indian women and the American women opportunities to share with each other, have a glimpse into each other's work lives, and learn from each other. As you leave India I hope you bring home with you the impact of your work, bringing women in the trades together for transnational support
would love to read the article and see a copy of the journal. thanks, e
Congrats on a successful trip. I am interested in the article. Thanks!
what a wonderful opportunity, both for the women from the U.S. and the women in India, to have this chance to share and build solidarity between the two groups.