accessing the research

29Mar12

In my research from 2010, I addressed the social and labor challenges of domestic workers in India. With the help of student translators, over two hundred domestic workers were interviewed for the report. Originally, this project was simply to summarize and translate that research into the local language of Kannada so that the interview participants would have access to the knowledge generated from their experiences. However, I soon realized that over half of the domestic workers surveyed had never stepped foot in a school, and most of the domestic workers did not have education beyond Standard 3 and 7 (roughly the equivalent of grade 3 and grade 7). Therefore, a written summary, even one translated into Kannada, would not reach many of the kinds of people who participated in the research.  The concept of an oral summary of the research in a DVD format was introduced, as some of the women said they had DVD players in their homes.

Pedestrian Pictures is a local media-filmmaking organization that focuses on socio-political issues. They are currently in the process of designing the DVD concept of the research summary. The written summary will obviously be very different from the DVD version, and writing it in a way that will be both informative and hold the interest of the audience will be a bit of a challenge. But hopefully we can create an accessible format with the input of some domestic workers. Suma Anil (who works independently with Fourth Wave Foundation) is putting together the written version.

The aspects of the research we considered most relevant for the domestic workers were figures such as average household income and educational levels. Additionally, I felt that defining the ‘culture of servitude’, a system of beliefs that authors Qayum & Ray discussed extensively in their 2003 article, “Grappling with Modernity: India’s Respectable Classes and the Culture of Domestic Servitude”, was very important to domestic workers understanding the situation they found themselves in, both personally in their relationships with the employers, and politically as a labor class in India.

Finally, the explanation of public policy was an issue that was not part of the original research, but that I consider important for any low-income female workers in India. These women are often sought out to be interviewed by NGOs, universities, policy institutes and government agencies. Most of them have only a vague understanding of why they are being surveyed and what happens to the information that is gathered from them. I wanted the women to get a sense of the bigger picture of these academic and research surveys and what their roles are in shaping public policy when they give their time to be interviewed by various organizations. Therefore, this issue will form the foundation of both the written and DVD versions.

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