This article was published by Women's Revolution, 25-1-2011

Women in India Widowed and Forced To Work After Male Miners Contract Tuberculosis

In the village of Majhera, located within the state of Madhya Pradesh, India, women belonging to the ancient Saharia tribe have lost their husbands to tuberculosis working in the illegal mining industry.

As a result, these women have been left to fend for themselves and their children in a country surrounded by poverty, hunger, diseases and unemployment.

In many cases, these widowed women have replaced their husbands becoming the sole caretakers. Due to the fact that they must work to provide, many return to the mines where they like their husbands also risk contracting tuberculosis.

This is something that not only the Saharia tribe face but also other tribes in India such as the Adivasi and Dalits, reports the India Committee of the Netherlands in June 2010.

“Because miners often live in crowded conditions, work long hours without enough food, and have little access to health care or medicines, they have a high risk of getting TB,” said a 2009 report by Hesperian Foundation, a global grassroots educational publisher for public health in Women News Network.

Yet for women, it’s even more difficult to find work because those who do are often assigned different tasks than men, reports the India Committee of the Netherlands. Most women are “unskilled workers” who are assigned simple tasks such as picking up, loading and crushing stones. In many cases, they are paid less than men.

The fact that women are treated differently than men in the workforce may also reflect low literacy rates for women living within the country. Recent estimates suggest that Saharia women have a literacy rate of 7 %, reports WNN.

Another reason it is extremely difficult for women to find work is because some may be lured into false job offerings that may lead to sex trafficking and labor bondage, reports WNN. This is something that threatens both widows and their daughters.

It is believed that in the village of Majhera, an estimated 92 women have lost their husbands to tuberculosis, reports WNN. Yet exact numbers of those killed from Tuberculosis remain unknown. WNN suggests that if these accurate numbers are obtained, “pro-active health programs and better legislation” within the country may be encouraged.

Yet unfortunately, tuberculosis continues to threaten both men and women alike in India. For many suffering from poverty, malnutrition and lack of resources such as health care, death seems inevitable.


- "Miner tuberculosis creates village of widows in rural India", S. Niazi (2011), Women News Network.
- "Mining and its effects on children, women, Adivasi and Dalits" (2010), India Committee of the Netherlands.

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Landelijke India Werkgroep - August 25, 2011