The invisible women in the sea of migrant labourers

Women migrants who are either on their own or with their families, remain largely invisible as they quietly brave the transient times in the face of the pandemic. | PTI Photo

The word ‘migrant’ in the time of coronavirus lockdown conjures up images of tired, desolate men walking hundreds of kilometres trying to evade hunger and misery. However, women migrants who are either on their own or with their families, remain largely invisible as they quietly brave the transient times in the face of the pandemic.

For 45-year-old Sita, the journey from Kathmandu to Chennai a few years ago meant leaving her two children behind and settling for a life of a housemaid. What Sita earns helps add to her husband’s income that the couple saves to send home. The fact that Sita recently had a surgery for her kidney stones and is battling weight issues and diabetes adds to the burden of her daily existence.

Still, life wasn’t as bad, she says. That was until the lockdown happened.

As India went into a lockdown in the last week of March, her employers asked her to not come for work. “The area where I live — closer to the houses I work — has been severely affected by the virus. But a few weeks ago, I received a call from one of my employers. I thought they had called to pay me my salary for the 20-odd days I worked in March. But when I reached there, my madam asked me to wash a huge pile of clothes instead.”

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