Global Domestic Workers’ Congress Begins in South Africa

A four-day global congress of the International Domestic Workers Federation began at Cape Town in South Africa on Friday with call to address discrimination against domestic workers and protect them with developing rights-based framework.

Marking its five year anniversary the IDWF organized the second congress where over 200 advocates for rights of domestic workers, migrants as well as academics and trade unionists were taking part from IDWF’s 69 affiliated organizations from 55 different countries, according to a press release.

They gathered there to discuss the challenges facing domestic workers globally and consult on strategies and solutions, hoping to take inspiration from the achievements of the host country in ridding itself of apartheid and its fight for freedom of its oppressed.

A Bangladesh team, comprising leaders of domestic workers and unionists, joined the global congress with support of American Solidarity Center in Bangladesh raising demands to ensure equal rights and due recognition of the jobs of the domestic workers.

National Domestic Woman Workers Union president Amena Begum and general secretary Murshida Akhter Nahar were among the Bangladesh team being led by American Solidarity Centre in Bangladesh office senior programme officer Dr Lily Gomes.

According to the organizer, there are more than 67 million domestic workers worldwide and they are working as cleaners, cooks, caregivers for children, the elderly, and the disabled, as well as others employed in homes.

‘This number is growing rapidly to meet the global ‘care gap’, as need for care givers increases with fewer family members able to stay at home and forego employment, combined with longer life expectancies for the infirm and elderly. Yet, domestic work is routinely undervalued and most domestic workers do not have the same labour protections as other workers.’

The IDWF stated that throughout the world, groups of domestic workers were standing up to discrimination, rallying for laws that protect both the labour and human rights of domestic workers.

‘At the International Labour Conference in 2011, domestic worker organizations mobilized as a global united force to achieve an international convention to protect their rights – the C189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers,’ the IDWF statement said. 

When asked, Bangladeshi Ovhibashi Mohila Sramik Association director Sumaiya Islam, also a migrnt rights activist said that her organization BOMSA wished all success of the global congress of domestic workers.

‘In Bangladesh We want that the government will ratify the ILO convention 189 and also recognize that ‘Domestic work is work,’ she said.

Sumaiya said that a delegation from BOMSA and Bangladesh Nari Sramik Kendra in short BNSK a had recently had a meeting with Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment minister Nurul Islam.

During the meeting, she said that the EWOE minister assured them of taking steps on recognition of the jobs of the domestic workers.

Quoting the minister, Sumiaya Islam said all human being were born and died quality but they were getting deprived rights due to social discrimination.

Migrant rights activist and WARBE Development Foundation director Jasiya Khatoon said that ensuring protection of rights of the domestic workers was very important for Bangladesh as huge number of the country’s domestic workers were employed abroad.

‘Many of the domestic workers do not know their rights and definition of the decent works,’ she said, adding that by taking the multi-lateral approaches, the rights and the decent work for the domestic workers could be ensured at workplaces.

 According to Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training, over 7.77 lakh female workers have gone abroad with overseas jobs since 1991. About 98 per cent of them were employed as domestic workers, said BMET officials.

Most of Bangladeshi domestic workers were employed in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Besides, there were also Bangladeshi domestic workers employed in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, according to BMET.

In recent months, a good number of the country’s domestic workers were coming back home from the KSA and other counties being sexually abused and facing physical torture, officials and rights activist have said.

The returned migrants also complained of facing problems -- denial of regular wages and providing insufficient foods in the countries of destinations.

Migrationnewsbd.com/Ob

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