Journalist Isabel Garcia-Gill wrote an in-depth news article on three members of the IDWN.  Her June 11 Le Temps article, “La longue marche vers la dignité” [The long march to dignity] received national coverage and a front page feature.  Photographer Alan Humerose created the striking images of Ernestina Ochoa, Narbada Chhetri and Fataou Raimi from the main lobby of the International Labour Organization.

An attached version of the article is available in French here.  Le Temps


Members of the IDWN contributed their voices to the formal ILC Plenary Record. Read Ip Pui Yu’s speech below, to situate the domestic work conversation within the larger context of global labor and workers’ rights.

Mr. President

My name is Ip Pui Yu, and I am speaking on behalf of the IUF global union federation. The IUF provides an organisational base for the International Domestic Workers’ Network (the IDWN), and I am Asian Regional Coordinator for that network.

In today’s world, vast numbers of women are migrating – within countries and across borders, even to countries far away from their homes and families. They leave their own children and elders behind, in the care of others. They leave behind their own communities, often for many, many years, because they cannot get a job in their own country. They do it precisely because of their love for their families, so that the money they earn can pay for education, healthcare and so on. Off they go – most of them to work as domestic workers, caring for others.

Mr. President, I ask whether the world has ever seen anything like it – such a deliberate movement of so many women, as a strategy for themselves and their families, promoted by many governments, to help relieve poverty. If they were not poor, surely far fewer numbers would do it. This is why we need a far better economic system for the world, as the Director General so rightly states in his report this year.

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Onward…Day 7

Members of the IDWN begin the day with unity through song.

At 10:30 this evening, the Domestic Workers Working Committee reached an agreement on the adoption of a proposed Convention for Domestic Workers!  We are one step closer to leaving the 100th International Labour Conference with the first global standard on domestic work in the form of a UN Convention.

Over the next two days, the committee will discuss the proposed Recommendations, followed by a vote the final document on Thursday, June 16.  Our work is not complete, yet today marked a major victory for the the International Domestic Workers Network.

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Evelyn Mulo is a domestic worker in Kenya, and an organiser for the KUDHEIHA union in her country. Here, she talks about the positive legal improvements for domestic workers in her country, and the urgent need to include this sector in occupational health and safety provisions. In Kenya, Evelyn’s union is working with the Ministry of Labour to conduct labour inspections in private homes.  Her experience will inform key items of the vote on the Convention.

Evaline Mulo, KUDHEIHA, Kenya

My name is Evaline Mulo. I am a domestic worker from Kenya, East Africa. I am also a trade union organiser of domestic workers in my country.

I have been working as a domestic worker for five years. I have multiple tasks at my workplace, including cooking, laundry, baby-sitting, cleaning the house and the compound, and weeding the flower garden, as well as taking the children to school and bringing them back home again.

Among the many challenges that we are facing is a lack of recognition by many employers – including my own – as well as the community at large, that we are workers, like other workers. We are called names like ‘maids’, ‘servants’, and ‘helpers’, and this makes us depressed and demoralised. We want to be recognised as workers who make a very valuable contribution to society and the economy. Continue Reading »

Members of IDWN gathered to share experiences across regions and languages, through song and poetry.  Inspired by her sisters’ performances, Shirley Pryce, President of the Jamaica Household Workers’ Association, wrote “I am a Domestic Worker.”

I am a Domestic Worker

Hear me roar in numbers too big to ignore, I have been down on the floor but no one ever going to keep me down

O yes I am wise, but it is wisdom born of pain, yes I have paid the price, but look how much I have gained

If I have to, I can do it all again O yes I am strong, I am invincible

O yes I am a Domestic Worker

I am a Domestic Worker watch me grow, I can stand with you toe to toe,

I cook the food but cannot eat it, I was locked out of the house,

because I want to grow, I slept in the dog house times and times again but yes I am a Domestic Worker I am invincible and I am strong

You can bend me but never break me, cause it only serves to make me more determined to achieve my goal.

But if you bend me I will come back even stronger yes I am strong, STRONG STRONG

[Poema en Español]

Soy una Trabajadora del Hogar

Escucha mi rugir, en números tan grandes para ser ignorado,

He estado en el suelo, pero nunca nadie me mantendrá abajo.

Oh sí, soy sabia, pero es una sabiduría nacida del dolor

Sí, he pagado el precio, pero mira lo mucho que he ganado

Si tengo que hacerlo, lo puedo hacer todo nuevamente

Oh sí, soy fuerte, soy invencible

¡Oh sí, soy una trabajadora del hogar!

Soy una Trabajadora del Hogar, véanme crecer,

Puedo estar contigo cara a cara,

Puedo cocinar la comida, pero no puede comerla,

Me sacaron de la casa porque quiero crecer,

He dormido en la casa del perro continuamente,

Pero sí, soy una Trabajadora del Hogar

Soy invencible y soy fuerte

Me pueden doblar, pero nunca me podrán romper,

porque sólo servirá para hacerme más decidida a lograr mi objetivo.

Y si me doblan, voy a volver aún más fuerte

Sí, soy fuerte, FUERTE, FUERTE

-Shirley Pryce

Jamaica Houshold Workers’ Association

Angelina Joseph began working as a domestic worker seven years ago, at the age of 10. Reflecting upon the experiences she shared with girl domestic workers in her surrounding Tanzanian community, Angelina recalled, “we have been violated, discriminated against, and beaten, working without payment for years.”  Losing the opportunity to attend school marked one of the most devastating aspects of Angelina’s childhood. When the Kivulini organization approached her five years ago at her employer’s home, however, her circumstances changed dramatically.  Mobilizing hundreds of domestic workers in Tanzania, Kivulini provided Angelina with access to other child domestic workers, as well as vital education about her rights as a domestic worker.  Today, she has become a leader in her organization, which strives to assist other child domestic workers in accessing their social and labor rights within domestic work contexts. Kivulini continues to advocate for domestic workers’ rights within Tanzania, in order to assure decent working conditions and the protection of child workers.  As Angelina conveyed, “We can go to our government as a group, so we ask for our rights together.”   This week, Angelina joined eight other former child domestic workers at the International Labour Conference.  She spoke at a panel discussion on the eradication of slavery and child labor, and learned lobbying techniques by interacting with government members from her region. “I am very glad to be here in this meeting because I am not talking on my behalf, but representing the children on our behalf.”  If the ILO convention is passed, Angelina hopes it will improve child domestic workers’ access to education so that they may improve their lives and the wellbeing of their surrounding communities.