Hivos International

Hivos Oral Statement at CSW61 by Myriam Vandenbroucke

Thank you, Chairman for giving me the opportunity to speak on behalf of the International Domestic Workers Federation, Migrant CARE from Indonesia, the International Trade Union Confederation, the Programme for Women’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Hivos, where I work. Hivos is an international organization based on humanist values, opposing discrimination, inequality, abuse of power and unsustainable use of our planet.

With this year’s theme “Women’s Economic Empowerment in the changing world of work” of the Commission on the Status of Women it is a great opportunity to be speaking on the rights of around 50 million women in domestic work worldwide. Domestic work accounts for 7.5% of women in paid employment. Domestic workers make it possible for other men and women to work and develop themselves. As the Secretary General explained in his report on the 61st CSW, informality and mobility of labour are increasing. The intersection of these happens to cover the more than 8 million migrant women in domestic work. Migrant workers contribute to economies in countries of employment and countries of origin, to the financial wellbeing of their communities and families.

Unfortunately migrant domestic workers are literally hidden behind closed doors and work in isolation. Routine harms these women encounter include unpaid wages, insufficient rest, inhumane living conditions, employers confiscating worker’s identity documents, or in some cases, confinement to the home and physical or sexual abuse.

With this oral statement I would first of all like to ask everyone here to think of a domestic worker that you know. No matter where you work or live, I believe we all know someone who works as a nanny, cleaner, cook or driver; be it as an employer, a friend or as family. Please keep that person in mind while I elaborate on our recommendations.

Worldwide, 23 countries have so far ratified the Domestic Workers C189 and about 50 countries have included domestic workers in their labour laws. We are happy to see ratification of the convention is included in the draft agreement of the Commission and our first recommendation is to implement SDG 8 decent work for all to ensure the rights of MDWs.  

Second, States should ensure the right to organize, form unions and collective bargaining.

Third, we would like to urge the Commission to include in the agreed conclusions to support migrant women’s access to skills and training, particularly women in domestic work, with a focus on transferable skills, by improving the quality and expanding the scope of education and training opportunities throughout the migration cycle, meaning in countries of origin and destination; We refer to the recent ILO publication Decent work for migrant domestic workers: Moving the agenda forward for further reading;

Fourth, the agreed conclusions should support recognition of skills  of migrant women who return home, particularly women in domestic work, by building return portfolios of evidence which include e.g. job descriptions, details of work and training history, and certificates from formal training courses. 

Finally, we believe that those who are part of the issue should also be part of the solution. We therefore urge everyone to involve employers and recruitment agencies in securing rights and protection for migrant women in domestic work.

Now I hope you have been able to keep that person who works as a domestic worker in mind. We all contribute to how she is perceived and we can all contribute to make domestic work more visible. In case you are an employer, support and acknowledge your worker’s skills. In addition, make sure she went through an ethical recruitment company, encourage her to join a union, give her sufficient off time and pay overtime, travel cost and paid annual leave. We all lead by example to change the narrative on migrant women in domestic work!