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Helping Hands

Pratima Baa was 14-years-old when she was first brought to Delhi by an agency that supplied domestic helps.

Written by Deepika Nath |
August 12, 2010 12:47:37 am

A new documentary turns the camera on migrant domestic workers

Pratima Baa was 14-years-old when she was first brought to Delhi by an agency that supplied domestic helps. Nine years later,she finally found the courage to speak on behalf of thousands of other women like her,who haven’t been able to find their way back home yet. She heard about Reena Kukreja,a filmmaker who works on human rights issues,and approached her to make a documentary on girls who work as domestic helps in upper middle class Delhi homes.

The hour-long documentary,called Delhi Bound for Work,took two years to complete and has been screened at several film festivals in Canada and the US. It will also be shown at the Jeevika Asia Livelihoods Film Festival at IIC from August 27 to 29.

“With Pratima Baa’s help,I met 112 women from over 20 villages in Jharkhand,Chattisgarh and Orissa,” says Kukreja,46. She doubled as the director and cameraperson,while Pratima Baa interviewed the women,several of whom had faced torture,even rape,by their owners. “Even if families want to search for their missing daughters,they don’t have photographs to give to the police,” she says. “Some have been searching for more than three years.”

Kukreja is a part-time film maker based in Ontario,Canada,where she also teaches Gender and Media Studies. Since 1988,she has directed and produced over 40 documentaries,many of which were commissioned by the UNDP and ILO.

Delhi Bound for Work focuses on the reasons that compel young women to work in the cities,and how many of them get stuck with abusive employers. Pratima Baa cannot return to her village in Jharkhand as her community no longer accepts her. Kukreja found that 86 per cent of these women cannot get married as the men in the community consider them “tainted” after working in big cities.

“Many agencies do not have permanent addresses and keep changing mobile phone numbers,making them untraceable,” says Kukreja. In the film,a building in Punjabi Bagh is shown to house over 100 such fly-by-night agencies.

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