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Domestic Workers Speak
a global fight for rights and recognition

Guest edited by Geymonat400.jpg
Giulia Garofalo Geymonat

Sabrina Marchetti

In the last decade, awareness has greatly increased about the living and working conditions of the world's 67 million domestic workers. We now know that abuse and exploitation, child labour, discrimination, starvation, violence, debt bondage, invisibility, and the many crimes held under the umbrella of ‘trafficking’ are disproportionately represented within this traditionally unorganised and invisible sector. Many domestic workers – especially migrant domestic workers – are denied access to labour and human rights. Even in the countries where rights exist on paper, they are extremely difficult to implement, and ‘the mentality of servitude’ still prevails in different forms.

What is less known is that this increase in our awareness corresponds to the slow and steady expansion over the last 20 years, and despite considerable odds, of a grassroots mobilisation of workers who resist their exploitation and stigmatisation. They fight back as domestic workers, but also as migrant women, ethicised women, and women of the lower classes and caste. The widespread belief that domestic workers are ‘impossible to organise’ has been proven false by the enduring commitment of activists and unionists around the world. Read on...

Claiming rights under the kafala system

How can domestic workers organise when the legal system places them at the complete mercy of their employers?

Sisters in solidarity: the communal care of domestic workers in the Middle East

Jordan has recognised domestic workers in local labour laws, but many workers are still stuck in dire situations with few good options available to them.

The difference self-organising makes: the creative resistance of domestic workers

Informal networks of self-help and mutual care have given rise to a workers-led alliance in Lebanon to fight for the rights of domestic workers. Español

From runaway domestic worker to organiser in Singapore

Endless chores, verbal abuse, and physical confinement.

Let’s write a contract and call me house manager: experiences of a workers’ cooperative

Domestic labourer are not recognised as workers under South Korean law, but worker-led initiatives are transforming the face of how this work is perceived and managed.

When local and migrant domestic workers fight together

Care workers put their hearts into the job. Is asking for recognition and rights in return too much?

Broken laws and unprotected workers: the conditions of foreign workers in Taiwan

Care workers in Taiwan are being worked to the point of exhaustion, with dangerous consequences. Could basic rights make life better for workers and recipients alike?

The Filipino Kasambahay’s long struggle against invisibility

With more than one million domestic workers in the Philippines there is massive potential for collective action. From small beginnings huge strides have already been made.

Dignity and visibility for domestic workers: no longer workers in the shadow!

The roots of prejudice against domestic workers in India run deep.

“A few steps forward, still a long way to go”: old issues, new movements

A critical approach to domestic work based on our lived experiences. Español

How do we make labour rights real?

Domestic workers have achieved many gains in Colombia in the past years. Now they're setting their sights higher. Español

The work is not undignified, but how you treat domestic workers is

Today, through this text, I want to claim my rights and those of my compañeras. Español

Story of a domestic worker in Africa: migrant, unionist and community leader

It takes a lot of legwork to organise some of the world’s most invisible workers.

My experience as a domestic worker union leader in Nairobi

Union officials alerted me to the wrongs happening in my own workplace. Now I campaign with them to promote the rights of all domestic workers in Kenya.

Domestic work is decent work

A founder of the domestic workers movement in South Africa recounts the struggle for labour protections and rights that began in the time of apartheid.

Organising domestic workers across Africa: a regional view

In less than 10 years domestic workers in Africa have gone from barely any organisational contact to a thriving movement, but there is still a long way to go.

“Our subaltern position is determined by the law!”: the struggle for visibility in Spain

Recent developments in Spanish law have put domestic workers on a firmer footing, but there’s a long way to go before they are treated at equal to workers in other sectors.

Werk woorden - Words of labour

A collection of terms from the ILO Convention 189 accompanied with stories from domestic workers.

Justice for domestic workers: it’s about rights, not protection

Britain’s drive to limit migration has removed many of the rights migrant domestic workers once had in the UK. Could collective organising help bring them back?

From personal to political, and back: the story of the Filipino Women’s Council

For more than 25 years the Filipino Women’s Council in Italy has worked to improve the lives of their community. Could their path serve as a model?

A chapter of our shared history: from servants to domestic workers in Italy

Understand domestic labour in Italy through the history of one of their oldest organisations, ACLI Colf.

“And we continue to meet”: domestic workers stand up in France

In a realm where many employers ignore their responsibilities, domestic workers’ best chance is to empower themselves.

Out from the shadows: domestic workers speak in the United States

Long exempt from most labour protections, domestic workers in the United States can show an increasingly flexibilised workforce how to survive in the new economy. Español

Domestic workers speak: a global landscape of voices for labour rights and social recognition

Less than 20 years ago domestic workers began to demand rights and recognition. A new series shows that while they’ve made substantial progress, there is still a long way to go.

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