Making History

To roaring applause, the votes on the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers appeared on the screen: 396 yes, 16 no, 63 abstain. Domestic workers cheered from the ILO Congressional balcony and unfurled a banner, “Congratulations! Now the Domestic Work for Governments: Ratify! Implement!”

Domestic workers demonstrating for their rights

“For the first time, domestic workers will no longer be invisible and unrecognized,” wrote Yenny Hurtado of Sindicato Nacional Trabajadoras del Servicio Domestico from Colombia. “It was an incredible experience to be at the ILO negotiating the hours, pay and benefits we want.”

ILO Convention 189 recognizes domestic work as labor with basic human rights protections. It was the result of over three decades of organizing by domestic workers associations,  networks, and coalitions including many Global Fund grantee partners. These groups represent some the world’s most exploited workers: women, racial and ethnic minorities, indigenous people, and migrants. Many earn low wages with no benefits, enduring long hours in unsafe conditions where they are vulnerable to sexual, physical and verbal abuse.

Though isolated in their employer’s homes, women from Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean managed to organize locally, build alliances within their countries and across regions, and take their demands all the way to the highest decision-making body on labor: the ILO.

“This is a victory for all domestic workers, but it’s also a victory for the Global Fund for Women as one of the only international organizations that provides support to our struggles,” Rosa Acosta of Astradom wrote to us from Costa Rica. Of the 20 domestic worker delegates to the ILO, 12 were Global Fund grantees, including CARAM Asia, the South African Domestic, Service and Allied Workers Union, and National Union for Domestic Employees from Trinidad and Tobago.

The Global Fund for Women salutes domestic workers for making history!

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