I receive a daily news digest for anything that crosses the internet with the terms “India,” “women” and “construction.” Today I received “A peek into the lives of women construction workers.” The article has lots of pictures and tells the too typical stories of Devamma and Padmaja, women who have migrated from their villages to the cities for work in construction. They do the heaviest and most dangerous work and are paid the lowest wages. They live on or next to the construction sites where they work and are exposed to all the environmental hazards all day every day. Devamma’s children are with her and also exposed to the hazards.
I am always curious to look into who is publicizing the conditions of India’s women construction workers. This is the first time I have seen this site, Jaago Re, and was surprised to see that it is owned by Tata Tea. It seems to be a both a feminist cause site (“the Power of 49”) and a tea marketing site (“Drink Tata Tea!”).
So I am skeptical. This seems to take the dubious concept of social marketing to another level. But I love their tagline/mission statement: “No fundamental social change occurs merely because government acts. It’s because civil society, the conscience of a country, begins to rise up and demand – demand – demand change.” The organizers reading this are saying ‘duh’ but the policy people may be confused. Relentless efforts to persuade bureaucracies to begin to do what they have never done do not work, regardless of the good intentions of the bureaucrats or the policy advocates. Tata Tea and Frederick Douglass agree that “power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”