Superwomen without Rights – Labor Migration in India

A short film on the challenges of women and families in India, whose men have migrated in search of work.

“First my Father left, then my Husband and now my Son is gone as well.”

A village in the Indian part of the Himalayan mountains. Sharo, Beero, Manju and Kaku are waiting for Basheer, the son, the husband, the father. Like almost all village men, Basheer has to earn his family’s livelihood as a migrant worker.

As a result of climate change, the little cultivable land left is barely able to provide enough income to ensure the survival of the families in this mountainous region. So, Basheer has to take out a loan, which he then has to work off again under the poorest of conditions – and which is still not enough to live on. The family is caught in a vicious circle of debt. And as a migrant worker Basheer is not home most of the year, much to the chagrin of his family.

The short film focuses on a subject that has not gotten a lot of attention so far: the lives of the women who stay behind. With their men gone, these women have to take care of livestock, farming and home repairs, in addition to their normal duties (cooking, washing, fetching water, and taking care of children and the elderly). And because the men's wages are barely enough to live on, these women also have to work outside the home as housekeepers, construction workers or day laborers – under the worst possible conditions and at the very bottom of the social hierarchy.

“When the Men Migrate, it Creates Problems and Struggles for the Family.”

Despite their triple burden of having to carry a job, keep up the house and care for children and the elderly, these women are still not recognized as full members of society. Conservative and patriarchal structures and mindsets prevent women from having an equal say on life in their villages, as well as the use of public funds. Scholarships for children and government funds for the construction of toilets can’t be secured because the men aren’t there to sign the necessary papers in time. Thus, the women continue to live in the shadow of the absent.

How do women experience a migration that affects them without necessitating actual resettlement? How do they deal with the emotional vacuum their fathers, brothers, husbands and sons have left behind?

More information on this subject can be found on the English-language pages of the FES Regional Project Asia.


Contact: Patrick Rüther, Deputy Office Manager of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung India.


Short Film Program: “People in Motion” – Why do People leave their Homes? What Paths do they Take?

In cooperation with local partners, the FES international offices produced a short film program that deals with these questions. The films are available on our TOPIC pages “Flight, Migration, Integration”. Please feel free to use them for your own events.


The Route was never the Destination. “We have become migrants....but one day we will arrive.” Short film about a Cuban family that had to flee their country.

Return. In the 90s Lana Mayer fled Croatia for Germany. Now she has returned to Vukovar. This film tells her story.

Move. Three people leave their homes and end up in Namibia. In the short movie “Move”, they reflect upon migration, European double standards and imbalances of power.

The Rainbow-Center of Gaziantep. “Exile offers the chance of overcoming the shadow of violence”. A short film on Syrian dissidents caring for traumatized children.

Caught in the Middle – Migration in Ethiopia. “I do not want my children to live in fear, like I did”. A short film about Ethiopian refugees in Sudan.

Chaught in the Middle, Part 2. Elsa's husband, Yosef, has arrived in Sweden. He has not yet been able to bring his family. Part 2 of the short film “ Between Two Stools”.

Jaminton and Yannia are Leaving. Displaced in one's own country. A short film about a family in Colombia who have become internally displaced due to civil war and violence.

Cyber-Mom. A short film about three children from Central American El Salvador who are raised by their grandparents because their parents have migrated to the USA for work.

Asfur - Syrian Refugees in Turkey. "Asfur" gives an insight into the life situation of Syrians who had to flee from the war zone Syria and now living in Hatay (Turkey).

Nowhere Man - Pakistani Refugees in South Korea are fighting for Recognition. The A. Family has fled from Pakistan to South Korea, 6000 miles away. A story that also deals with South Korean asylum policy.

Behind the Sea. The film deals with the story of four Algerians who left their homeland for various reasons and returned to Algeria after a certain time. [only available in german]