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Occupational health of self-employed women workers. Experiences from community based studies of the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA)

Occupational health of self-employed women workers. Experiences from community based studies of the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA)

Health for the Millions 1(1): 13-17

The Self-Employed Workers' Association (SEWA) has conducted 4 longitudinal, community-based studies to survey the occupational health of self-employed women in Ahmedabad and Indore, India. It included the workers in all stages of research. SEWA staff examined women in readymade garment, bidi, agarbatti, and masala fields. Since SEWA did not use control groups, they could not establish cause and effect relationships. Masala workers had the highest illiteracy rate (66%). At least 50% of all workers (89% of readymade garment workers) worked 8-12 hours/day. Daily wages of most workers did not exceed Rs.10, confirming their low poverty level. The most common occupational health problem while working was pain in the limbs for bidi (63%) and readymade garment workers (80%). They also experienced back pain and headaches. After work, back pain was common among agarbatti (73%) and masala (39%) workers. Masala workers also suffered from blisters and calluses (51%) and burning sensation (45%), particularly in their hands. Gynecological problems (e.g., early periods, white discharge, and burning sensation while urinating) and abdominal pain were common in all 4 groups. These results demonstrated a need for further research on occupational health and gynecological diseases; health facilities to adjust services to meet self-employed workers needs; provision of safe and subsidized tools, safety equipment, benefits (e.g., sick leave and child care), and health insurance; and health education. SEWA recommends that self-employed workers receive identity cards, the government enforce minimum wage laws and regulate working hours, and workers are provided basic amenities (e.g., potable water and sanitation).

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Accession: 046848615

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PMID: 12286350

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