Building a Global Movement for Domestic WorkersOn September 10, 2019 by Raul Dinwiddie
Domestic workers play a very, very important role in our societies, socially and economically. We depend on them to cook, to clean, and especially to take care of children, infants, and the elderly people. [Initially, when I came to work in Hong Kong, my first job was to take care of young children. I would sleep at 3:00 a.m., and then wake up again at 5:30 a.m. Aiya, it was a very difficult situation.] Out of the 70 million domestic workers worldwide, about 80 percent are women. More than 40 percent are in Asia. [The reason I came was because I was raising three daughters but I couldn’t make enough to feed us when I was working in a factory For a migrant domestic worker, what she can earn can be ten times or twenty times compared to what she earns at home. In many countries in the south, because of climate change, there is now often extreme drought. So, many people have to give up farming, and a lot of women migrate to the city to work as domestic workers. [When I worked in the Tuen Mun district, they made a shed for me as a bedroom, and right outside, there were three cages of chickens. I fell sick multiple times, I was really suffering.] When a domestic worker is at the same time a migrant, she suffers another layer of discrimination. These domestic workers who are doing the work are kept poor because of lack of legal protections. There is no minimum wage, there is no holiday, there are no other social protections. So, today we see domestic workers are very keen to join with their peers. In 2009, Dang cofounded the Thai Domestic Workers Union, now an affiliate of the International Domestic Workers Federation. [I believe it’s good to help people, so in the beginning, when I came into the organization, and saw the situation of our fellow domestic workers, I agreed to join them as the executive committee member.] When we unite them, when they are together—they have visibility—and they also have their strength and courage and power to speak out, and also to demand for their rights. [Do you know that now, I’m really well known, and so many people call looking for me, asking for advice, “Sister Dang, how do it do this? What do I do with this and that, with regards to the law?” I feel so very happy to help.] So many domestic workers face violence and abuses, and this absolutely has to be stopped. To fix the different treatment, first and foremost, is to pass legislation so that they will be able to enjoy the same rights, the same protections as any other workers. Secondly, our perception of domestic workers needs to be changed. We have to see that domestic work is valued work. [I wish that the governments everywhere in the world will treat us domestic workers as human beings and not discriminate against us. This is very important. You have hopes and dreams, and I, too, have hopes and dreams.