‘Only a Woman Can Understand Our Pain’: Women Migrant Workers

The Quint speaks to women migrants to understand their share of struggles while they walked miles to get back home.

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2 min read

Video Editor: Mohd Ibrahim
Video Producer: Hera Khan

The coronavirus pandemic forced the country into lockdown, leading to a migrant crisis. If you analyse the crisis, it becomes clear that women were the most affected by the pandemic. From big cities to villages, women could be seen travelling for hundreds of kilometers, with their babies in their arms.

Many headlines told tales of how some women were even forced to give birth on the roads and then resume their walk back home.

Now, when the country is moving from lockdown towards ‘unlock’, The Quint thought of reaching out to these women, to understand the difficulties they had to face during the lockdown.

'We Have No work’

“We have come back from Hyderabad and Telangana. It took us two days to come back. We earned Rs 200 there daily. Here, we make bidis and earn just Rs 100-200 in a week. There are better facilities in the cities. Here, we have no work.”
Manjali Bahu, Labourer, Damoh

Another woman, Genda Bai, a migrant labourer who worked at construction sites in Faridabad said, “We had to walk for seven-eight days to reach home. One day, we walked the whole night. We ate if someone offered us food, we rested and slept at the station through the night. We again left in the morning. When we reached Mathura, policemen asked us to go back and we were forced to spend the night there.”

Bai also described the physical pain she had to endure: “Our skin peeled due to days of walking. The sun burnt our skin as well. Even with slippers on, our feet got blisters.”

'Only a Woman Can Understand Our Pain'

On being asked if women faced more difficulties than men while walking back home, Radha Rahi, a labourer, said:

“Only God knows the difficulty with which we reached here. Only a woman can understand the problems of another woman, men can’t understand. Your feet will obviously hurt if you have to walk with such difficulty. Men don’t know our problems. They are asking us to speed up when we are finding it difficult to walk, when we are suffering.”

When asked if they found any lady police officer during their journey back to their villages, they said there were no female officers whom they could have shared their problems with.

Questions For PM Modi and MP CM

A group of seven-eight women sat together, discussing the miseries and struggles they faced while returning home.

One of the middle aged women, while discussing the issue, said:

“PM Modi said, ‘I can’t sleep...’. Did he see the policemen, when they were hitting us with their lathis? We were hungry for two days... at least give us food and if you can’t, then don’t agitate us. If you don’t let us go home, should we die here?”

Another woman complained, “Shivraj Singh Chauhan did nothing. He didn't even say that our people should come back. He, in fact, asked us to stay wherever we were.”

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