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In El Salvador, this kind of abuse is one of the most common causes among domestic workers for changing employer or job. There are numerous known cases of domestic workers also being deprived of food, forced to work as slaves, and trafficked.

A study found that in Haiti domestic workers weighed on average 20 kilos less then other people living in the same neighborhood. The family usually comes from a poor, agricultural background and is falsely promised that the child would receive an education and professional training. On the contrary, the girls end up being exploited and unpaid, in a situation that can be called slavery. Women who are migrant domestic workers often face even greater challenges compared to their national counterparts.

They are more isolated and exploited in light of their language, nationality, lack of social support, and limited knowledge of the local laws and customs. For those who have irregular migration status or whose visa is tied to the employer, it is even more difficult to leave an unhealthy employment relationship. This malpractice is very common in Arab countries, where a kafala or sponsorship system is in place.

Indeed, the situation is particularly critical in the Gulf countries, as denounced by the Human Rights Watch.

The Informal Economy in Europe and the US

Even if only few of those abused find the courage to denounce, embassies, consulates, and centres for domestic workers receive tens of daily visits from women who want to escape exploitation and violence. These terrible experiences and the humiliating and frustrating attempts to put an end to them or to receive redress lead to frightening rates of suicide among migrant domestic workers in these countries.

We must stop being servants, the lowly ones, those people who deserve nothing. Now, for the first time, we can speak on our own terms. In order to tackle the complex situation described above, many advancements need to be made, internationally and locally, on different fronts — namely, the promotion of decent work for domestic workers, gender equality, and policies that look after the rights of labour migrants. In the first area, a cultural and value shift is needed towards the professionalisation, formalisation, and recognition of domestic work.

This needs to be coupled with efforts to create a more balanced and equal world from a gender perspective in all areas of life, including the employment sphere, decision making, the family, etc. Concerning migration, it should be first of all assured that it is a choice rather than an obligation, through the creation of decent work opportunities for women, both at the country of origin and the country of destination, and the fight against human trafficking.

During the th session of the International Labour Conference on the 16 th of June , the ILO adopted the first international convention targeting domestic workers specifically. Convention No. Those employed in this sector deserve recognition, respect and rights equal to other workers, yet their unique circumstances and characteristics need to be considered. Over all, the Domestic Workers Convention No. Recommendation No.

To date, 23 countries in the world have ratified, of which 12 are Latin American, 7 European, 3 in Africa and only the Philipines in Asia. Governments which ratify this Convention and improve their legislation according to its principles can take significant steps to advance the conditions of domestic workers. In UN Women collected these inputs in a guide based on a Checklist to protect and support domestic workers. The crucial role of civil society and unions [13].

One of the main barriers to effective protection and abuse prevention is the lack of knowledge about rights and the voice to uphold them. To combat this obstacle, there is the need to empower domestic workers and to strengthen the structures and organizations that represent them. However, domestic workers are in many countries denied the right to organise and, where there is no such obstacle, isolation and geographical dispersion of their place of work, long and irregular working hours, limited freedom of movement, a particular employer-employee relationship, all make collective organising difficult.

Nevertheless, thanks to the efforts of many vocal and brave domestic workers, nowadays the situation is improving and more organisations of domestic workers exist all over the world. In North America and Europe, activism by and for domestic workers was often propelled by migrant associations and groups. For example, the U. Unions and other organisations have also contributed significantly to the capacity and skill building of domestic workers, further promoting activism.

They provide a platform and useful resources for individuals, organisations, and policy-makers, creating a global and regional community to share struggles and good practices. Another global entity important for domestic workers is the International Trade Union Confederation ITUC , which is able to impact governmental policies thanks to its collective efforts with partners from more than 90 different countries. Moreover, we can learn much from local initiatives that have contributed to improving the conditions and rights of domestic workers, in different parts of the world and using different approaches.


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Research is a fundamental step to better understand the situation of domestic workers and how to positively impact it. An example of successful evidence-based advocacy comes from Nepal, where research centers have carried out situational and policy analyses concerning emigrating workers, including domestic workers. The results became a powerful tool to pressure the government to adopt the Foreign Employment Act in , with gender-sensitive provisions. Organisations are increasingly using technology to reach as many domestic workers as possible.

In particular in Uruguay, innovative methods have been used over the years, including radio and TV broadcasts as well as dedicated websites, to disseminate information and raise awareness. In Brazil, a mobile app was developed for domestic workers, providing them with accessible information on their rights, useful contacts of protection agencies, and the possibility to connect with each other through social networks.

Lebanese project PROWD Protecting the Rights of Domestic Workers developed a successful on-line tool for groups and stakeholders to actively disseminate information and coordinate. Apart from research and awareness-raising, civil society organisations have done important work not only to obtain reform in laws and policies, but also to increase compliance and effective enforcement of relevant legislations, reaching results that have an impact on the lives of many.

Moreover, they often have the knowledge to tackle specific contextual problems. In Chad, Femme Juristes du Chad has brought forward the plight of domestic workers from rural areas.

This Newsletter does not aim at being an exhaustive resource on the issue of domestic work and domestic workers, but rather to give insight on the topic and raise some reflections on the human rights of domestic workers, in particular women. Some positive steps forward have been made, but much still needs to be done for the rights and conditions of domestic workers worldwide, and women domestic workers especially. A law-and-enforcement approach is often advocated to solve the problems faced by this group, but here we argue for the necessity to adopt a human rights framework.


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Promoting, guaranteeing, and protecting human rights, in particular labour rights, in the everyday life of domestic workers is the first and fundamental step to lead to decreased informality and irregularity in the sector, and to recognise, value and promote the economic and social contributions of domestic workers in the society. The struggle of women domestic workers is a struggle of the most vulnerable, of those who keep society going but stay invisible and without a voice, of those who engage in a day-to-day battle for their own rights and well-being.

Mistreated domestic workers are not a distant reality, they are suffering close to us, in the private homes of every country. Scandals have involved even those who should fight inequality — diplomats, ambassadors, UN and EU staff. We must stand together with women domestic workers and support them in their call to finally and fully be recognised and valued by governments and societies.

Geneva, Special focus on migrant domestic workers. Patriarchy still rules.

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The Invisible Workers: Rights, Justice and Dignity for Domestic Workers - UN India

What else is new? Women at work — the grim global picture. Recognition and remuneration for the work done by women has always been a crucial determinant and indicator of their status in society. Inequality is the biggest threat to the world and needs to be tackled now.

The Invisible Workers: Rights, Justice and Dignity for Domestic Workers

The post agenda must ensure universal access to quality basic goods and services, and tackle earlier policy failures. A world of inequality. As economies slow down, people in the developing world who did not gain from the boom will face deteriorating conditions. Poverty Play. What about aam aurat? IN Indian politics, a month is clearly a very long time.

Measuring the invisible

In mid-December the Aam Aadmi Party AAP —which as a fledgling political group had done remarkably well in the Delhi Assembly elections—created both excitement and optimism that it could provide a new, different way of doing politics, which would be accountable to the common people and would connect with their concerns. Whose public interest?

The government of India has taken the stifling of dissent in the name of public interest to great lengths without encountering any resistance. How not to urbanise. The model of urban development that has been adopted recently in China takes little from the preserving and conserving approaches found in Europe that provide aesthetic value, pleasant public spaces for residents and varying and mixed use of urban locations.

Labour regulation and employment growth. One of the major failures of the neoliberal economic strategy in India over the past fifteen years has been inadequate employment generation. Yet the obvious lessons from this experience — that obsessively contractionary macroeconomic policies and forms of technology choice encouraged by economic openness have been responsible — are not drawn by those in charge of policy making.

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Employment and Social Protection. Rights for Domestic Workers. Panel Discussion on Domestic Workers. International Labour Organisation. More than half a million Rohingya in Bangladesh get ID cards for first time UN stands in solidarity with Japan following deadly arson attack at leading International Court of Justice orders Pakistan to review death penalty for As monsoon rains pound Rohingya refugee camps, UN food relief agency steps up Start typing, then use the up and down arrows to select an option from the list.

Photo Gallery. JAYATI GHOSH When home is no help 8 Jan , Frontline Domestic work mostly takes place under extremely difficult and oppressive conditions, with low pay, no limits on working hours, lack of respect for the workers, and almost no protection or social security. Changing patterns of domestic work 12 Nov ; Hindu Business Line Domestic work is emerging as and is likely to remain an important activity for women workers in several developing countries, including in urban India.

Work without pay 5 May , Frontline There should be not only social recognition of unpaid labour but also some attempt by society to reward or compensate those who perform it. The Plight of Domestic Workers in India Im4change Domestic work takes place under extremely difficult and oppressive conditions with low pay, no limits on working hours, lack of dignity and no protection or social security.

Social protection is the best foundation for development 8 Nov , Poverty Matters Blog An important report calls for social protection measures to become a permanent part of a new strategy for inclusive growth. India still a vast informal economy 28 Oct , Hindu Business Line Even as the government is obsessed with growth, it ignores the poor quality of that growth despite the evidence.