Monday, 31 March 2008

Protection of domestic workers: the ITUC supports proposed ILO Convention

Already grouping over one hundred million workers worldwide, the largely female domestic labour force is continuing to grow in line with the rising demand for these services. Whilst contributing to improving the quality of life and living standards of others, domestic workers themselves remain confined within an invisible and very poorly protected segment of the labour market. Although a vital link in the economic chain, they are often deprived of their basic rights and confronted with exploitation and ill-treatment.
Calling on its affiliates to rally to the cause, the International Trade Union Organisation is urging the countries represented on the ILO Governing Body to support the proposal to draw up an International Convention specifically to protect domestic workers.
Excessive working hours, low wages, inadequate or no social security, sexual harassment, physical abuse, unscrupulous employment agencies, no trade union rights, forced labour… the inventory of abuses drawn up in the document to be submitted to the members of the ILO Governing Body, which will meet in Geneva from 6 to 20 March, highlights the cruel lack of decent work among this category of particularly vulnerable workers, often excluded from national labour legislations and, until now, ignored by international law.
“For the international trade union movement, ensuring better protection for domestic workers is one of the keys to promoting decent work, which is at the heart of our action,” declared Guy Ryder, General Secretary of the ITUC.
-The ITUC has published several testimonies regarding the organisation of domestic workers, which can be read at:

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Say bye bye to cheap maids14 Mar 2008, 0331 hrs IST,Radheshyam Jadhav,TNN

PUNE: The 70,000-odd ʽkaamwali baisʼ in the city have something to cheer about. If the state government has its way, these housemaids may soon get a fixed, minimum monthly pay, bonus, paid leave and flexible working hours. The government plans to introduce a domestic worker welfare bill in the ongoing session of the state assembly ensuring stipulated benefits to housemaids in Pune, Mumbai and other select cities. State marketing minister Harshvardhan Patil told TOI on Thursday that the bill is ready for tabling. Once the bill is introduced, a labour board will come into place, which will include representatives of maids, their employers and government officials. The board will look into the rights of domestic workers and stipulate norms of payment, bonus, weekly offs and paid leaves. All housemaids will be registered with the board. Maids working in cities like Pune, Mumbai, Thane, Nashik, Nagpur and Aurangabad will be among the first to benefit. The Pune Shahar Molkarin Sanghatana (PSMS), an organisation of housemaids in the city, was a major force pushing the state to frame the bill. Absence of formal employer-employee relationship, lack of organisation, poor bargaining power, low legislative protection and inadequate welfare measures are some of the reasons cited by the PSMS for the exploitation of maids.

Monday, 24 March 2008


By Nisha Varia

Published in As-Safir

March 8, 2008

New York - International Women's Day is an opportunity not only to evaluate women's progress in areas such as education, employment, and politics, but also to honor the importance of what has been traditionally viewed as "women's work": cooking, cleaning, and childcare.

For many of us, an incredibly precious and important part of our lives is the well-being of our children, the comfort of our elderly parents, and a safe, clean home where we can count on nourishing meals. Yet society gives little recognition to the daily labors required to nurture a family and a home.

Lebanese women are caught in an unenviable position. While their participation in the workforce has increased, gender stereotyping and discrimination mean that they have retained the primary burden of household work. Their task has been made harder by a society that clings to the importance of a well-kept home while at the same time disparaging cooking and cleaning as trivial and unimportant in comparison to the "real" work of making deals at an office or clocking hours at a factory. This societal attitude has deeply undermined the skills required to care for the ill, raise children, and prepare meals several times a day, and in many cases, to perform such work simultaneously.

The lack of respect for household work is shown by not only Lebanese men, but also by many Lebanese women. This is most obvious in the treatment of migrant domestic workers. Each year, tens of thousands of women from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Ethiopia, and other countries leave their own families behind to help the Lebanese manage theirs. While many receive good treatment from their employers, far too many others are treated as if they are barely human and as if their work has little value.

Seeming to forget that they hired a domestic worker because they themselves found the demands of cleaning, cooking, and childrearing to be overwhelming, many employers think nothing of requiring domestic workers to be "on call"
around-the-clock and fail to provide them even one day of rest per week. In fact, some employers want this help without paying for it or even when they cannot afford it. Nonpayment of wages, for months and sometimes years, is one of the most common problems faced by women domestic workers.

Even the Lebanese government treats these women and their work as if they were invisible. By excluding domestic work from the labor laws, the government denies domestic workers the minimum standards of employment that other workers enjoy, such as a day off once a week, limits to working hours, and a minimum wage. This exclusion symbolizes how labor associated with traditional female roles of care-giving is not yet given full respect as work, and unfortunately gives employers wide latitude to exploit domestic workers.

Those opposed to reforming the labor laws assert that domestic work is a special case, a form of work that cannot be regulated because it takes place in private homes. Many employers claim they treat their domestic worker like their daughter or as part of the family. If this was truly the case, it is puzzling that these employers would not support basic labor protections for those they care about. Research shows that while some Lebanese families treat their domestic workers well, many others do not take this approach and do require guidance from the law - common complaints made by domestic workers include inadequate provision of food and restrictions on their freedom of movement.

In the worst cases, employers may physically or sexually abuse domestic workers. These situations carry strikingly similar themes to domestic violence. In such cases, employers may belittle and insult the domestic worker, or beat her for small mistakes in her work. Violence such as slapping or pushing a domestic worker may often be socially sanctioned as "discipline."

How could treatment of domestic workers, guests in this country who spend their days and nights caring for Lebanese families get to this point?
International Women's Day is a key moment to reflect on not only the status of Lebanese women, but of all the women in Lebanon, including migrant domestic workers. This day is a reminder to see the parallels in the struggle for equal rights.

Lebanese society has a choice: to continue the status quo, liberating itself from housework by passing it on to poorer sisters from around the world, but leaving them open to exploitation and abuse. Or it can take steps to value household work, such as providing equal labor rights to domestic workers, and giving them the dignity they deserve.

Nisha Varia is a women's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch and the author of several reports on migrant domestic workers, available at:
By Farrah Jarral on Monday, March 17, 2008

Sri Lanka, the pearl of the Indian Ocean, is seen as a tropical island paradise by many. Though beautiful, its troubles, both political and economical, mean that there has been an efflux of migrants for many years. In countries such as Canada, Australia & New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, Sri Lankan migrants from the upper middle classes form a prominent sector of the communities settled there. These Sri Lankan doctors and lawyers and their children tend to be well assimilated, with strong voices and positions in society.

However, those from the less affluent socioeconomic strata of Sri Lanka face a very different fate when they move abroad to work. Figures from the Centre for Women’s Research show that Saudi Arabia and the UAE were among the top destinations for female workers from Sri Lanka between 2001 and 2005. Indeed, there are few places on earth with a greater demand for domestic labour than the economically affluent parts of the Arab world, and for unskilled female workers such places represent a promise of greater prosperity and job security. Drawn in by assurances of decent pay and working conditions, Sri Lankan women have migrated in their droves to wealthy households in the Middle East to serve as housemaids. Tragically, the reality they meet is frequently more akin to modern day slavery than economic emancipation.

In the petrol-rich states of the Gulf, the private domain of the family home can and often does become an isolated arena for long-term physical, psychological and sexual abuse of domestic staff recruited from Sri Lanka or the Philippines. Within the walls of the home, women are raped, beaten, burnt and abused by both female and male employers and their families. Promises of pay may never materialise, flights and phonecalls home withheld, and the concept of time off work dismissed by employers free to behave as they choose away from the critical eyes of society.

Anecdotes relating the horrific abuse of maids in Saudi Arabia and the UAE abound, and the issue of the maltreatment of maids in the Arab world has begun to crop up in the media. The New York Times ran an article on the matter in 2005 and in 2003, an article by the BBC’s correspondent in Colombo, Sri Lanka, detailed stories of battery, torture by burning, sexual abuse and gang rape of female domestic workers in houses in the Middle East. Yet despite some awareness of the issue, problems continue and thousands of women continue to live as indentured labourers with no way out.

For many housemaids, leaving an abusive household is simply not an option – they have often not been paid for months or even years and have not a shred to their name with which to fly back home. Worse still, in many cases, women are actually locked within homes with no physical access to the outside world. The 2004 Human Rights Watch report on the abuse of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia noted that “living in forced confinement and extreme isolation made it difficult or impossible for these women to call for help, escape situations of exploitation and abuse, and seek legal redress.” It also highlighted female domestic workers as the most vulnerable group of migrants. For those that do run away, their fate as destitute foreigners in the arid lands of the oil rich Arab world is almost as bad as that within the torturous employer’s household. Despite that, many do still run away. In 2001, an official at the Saudi Ministry of Information estimated that there were 19,000 runaway maids in the country from Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. These women had escaped abuse and maltreatment at the hands of employers and were housed in shelters awaiting repatriation, or living rough, penniless and vulnerable.

In 1962, King Fahd boldly abolished slavery in Saudi Arabia. However, behind closed doors the culture of slavery persists, and the biggest victims are women from South and South East Asia working in a domestic setting. Organisations such as the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights are attempting to raise awareness and force governments in the Middle East to stop the abuse of women domestic workers, but with a background of human rights violations across the spectrum in this region, hopes are not high for change in the near future.

Of all Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange, the largest net income comes from the supply of labour. Economic pressures and high unemployment rates in the country mean that government officials even admit that, in the words of Minister of Labour Samarasinghe, “We are not in a position to say, ‘Look here, ensure that all of these things are in place otherwise we will not send our people’.”

Minister Samarasinghe’s statement regarding the provision of adequate health insurance for migrant workers does convey the sense of economic obligation that Sri Lanka is under. However, without sustained pressure from the governments of countries supplying domestic labour, the appalling abuse and torture of women of all ages will continue. The abysmal human rights record of countries such as Saudi Arabia suggest that it will be some time before changes take place within the countries in which such abuse occurs. It remains for us to apply pressure to the governments sending out their vulnerable women to a fate of torture, imprisonment, slavery, rape and even death, to make a stand for their safety.

Farrah Jarral is a junior doctor of British-Pakistani origin working in St Mary's Hospital, London. She has traveled widely in the Middle East.

Friday, 21 March 2008

The time has come for Malaysia to now ensure that basic worker rights is provided for and guaranteed to the over 0.3 million domestic workers in our country.
Gone also are the days when the number of domestic workers were small and there was no real need to look at legislating the rights of these workers. Today, in Malaysia, there are 320,000 registered foreign housemaids in Malaysia, and out of this 96 per cent or 308,000 are Indonesian migrant workers.
Gone too are the days when domestic workers were members of the extended family or someone from one’s own village. Gone too are the days of the local Malaysian part-time household helper. At the moment, although domestic workers are recognized as workers in Malaysian law, there is in effect very little or almost no protection whatsoever of the rights of this category of workers.
“Domestic servant” is acknowledged as worker in law BUT without rights
In our Employment Act 1955, “Domestic servant” is mentioned and is given the meaning “a person employed in connection with work of a private dwelling-house and not in connection with any trade, business, profession carried on by the employer in such dwelling house and includes a cook, house servant, butler, child’s nurse, valet, footman, gardener, washer man or washerwoman, watchman, groom and driver or cleaner of any vehicle licensed for private use.” In Malaysia, save for driving, migrant domestic worker normally ends up doing all of these different jobs.
With regard the domestic servant, it is clearly stated that the following sections of the Employment Act are not applicable to them, being:- Section 12 (Notice of termination of Contract), 14 (Termination of Contract for Special Reasons), 16 (Employees on Estates to be provided with minimum number of days’ work in each month), 22 (Limitation on advances to employees), 61 (Employers Duty to Keep Register), 64 ((Employers Duty to display notice boards), Part IX (Maternity Protection), Part XII (Rest Days, Hours of Work, Holidays And Other Conditions of Service) and Part XIIA (Termination, Lay-Off And Retirement Benefits.
Worker Rights Must be Legislated To Ensure Certainty and Real Protection
In short, there is not even basic protection for domestic workers under the Malaysian employment laws. Jordan has legislations to provide for rights and protections to domestic workers, and in Taiwan, a Bill for Household Services is before Parliament. In Malaysia, whish has a higher number of domestic workers; it is time for some legislation to protect the rights of these domestic workers.
Although, the Malaysian Immigration Department “policy” or “guidelines of employment” do have an Employment Agreement form which stipulates that a domestic worker is entitled to one day off per week, but the same clause provides that an employer can insist the worker works on the “off-day” provided adequate remuneration is provided. Sadly, there is no stipulation of wages, let alone the calculation of this additional remuneration. What is the basis of this “Employment Agreement” – for there is no existing Act or legislation that provides for rights of domestic workers in Malaysia.
In practice, save for the Filipino domestic workers, none of the other domestic workers of other nationalities seem to be getting any day off, let alone any time off. Domestic workers are treated more like “property” or “slaves” rather than human beings.
What then is the basis of the rights of domestic workers? Is it the Memorandum of Understanding (and/or Agreements) entered into between the sending countries and the receiving countries? If yes, the difficulty to get access to these Memorandums and/or Treaties keeps everyone guessing as to its contents.
Indonesia and Malaysia would be entering into a Memorandum of Understanding within a month or two, and it is disturbing to note whilst the Indonesian government are insisting on labour rights, Malaysia is rejecting giving reasons like according labour rights as given to other workers in Malaysia would make it uneconomical for Malaysian employers to continue to employ Indonesian domestic workers.
Discrimination based on Nationality must be stopped
It is also very disturbing to note that Indonesian domestic workers are the lowest paid compared to domestic workers from other nationalities, and this discrimination based on nationality goes contrary Article 8 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia provides that “All Persons are equal before the law and is entitled to equal protection of the law” and by the use of term “person” as opposed to ‘citizen’ makes it most clear that this guarantee of rights extends also to all persons, including migrant workers. Hence, the discrimination based on nationality is wrong.
No right of claim against the Government and/or its Agents?
It is shocking that the Malaysian government requires Muslim domestic workers have also to sign a Declaration agreeing not to make any claim against the Government and its agents in any cause of action whilst they are in Malaysia. This is what the Form at the Immigration Department website entitled “Lampiran B Perakuan Pembantu Rumah Asing Islam Warganegara …” (Enclosure B Muslim Foreign Domestic Worker of … Nationality”. This is a gross violation of human rights and a great injustice. It is interesting that protection from claims seem also to be accorded to the agents.
Of course, it seems that the claims may be made after the domestic worker leaves Malaysia – but this is not only difficult but near impossible taking into consideration that domestic workers generally are from poor backgrounds and would lack the resources to pursue any claims after they have left Malaysia.
Should Not the Agent be the Employer – not the Householder?
Employers, after all, do not have a choice but have to get the domestic workers through agents, and as such a question can be raised as to whether there should even be an employment agreement between the husband/wife (the householder) and the domestic worker – for after all is not the agent the labour provider.
Maybe, then the proper employer of the domestic worker should be the agent, and the householder should just be entering into an agreement with the agent for the provision of labour in the form of a domestic worker. The duty of the agent should therefore be to ensure that wages, rights and benefits that should be accorded to the domestic worker is so provided as per the agreement. If the worker fails to provide services as per the agreement, the householder should have a lawful remedy/claim/cause of action against the agent. If the householder is in breach, then the agent would have a remedy/claim/cause of action against the householder.
With regard to the domestic worker, her claim and cause of action with regard to matters involving her employment lies against the agent, the employer. Of course, if there is abuse, assault, battery or anything else against the person and/or property, the domestic worker should like any other person have a claim and/or cause of action against the employer.
Since, the agent is also the agent of the government; the domestic worker must definitely be entitled as of right to pursue a claim and/or a cause of action also against the government as well. Governments then would have to ensure that only good agents are approved and appointed. It may be good to also provide legislations covering the appointment and duties of the agents involving in the business of providing labour, and the Ministry responsible must be the Human Resources Ministry not the Director General of Immigration under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The employer-employee relationship between the “agent”(labour provider) and the domestic worker is not something new. For example security companies provide security guards to its customers, and at all time these security guards are the employee of the security company and not the customers. If unsuitable, the customers will have a right to demand a change of the guard. Wages and rights are the duty and responsibility of the security company not the customer. Similarly, the householder will have to make monthly payments to the ‘agent’, who will then have to pay the wages, less lawful deductions, to the domestic worker.
Rights that need to be accorded to domestic workers
The right to an 8-hour work-day (of course given the nature of domestic work, this could be defined periods through-out the day), the right to be remunerated for overtime work, the right to have one-day off per week, the right to be able to fulfill one’s religious obligations, the right to be able to communicate with one’s family using own monies/resources, the right to sick leave, the right to compassionate leave, the right to annual leave, the right to association, the right to seek legal redress, the right to a speedy procedure for redress, the right to change of place of work, the right to association, the right to consult a lawyer, the right to communicate and/or go to her embassy, the right to open a bank account, the right to have access to banking facilities to be able to transfer money back home, the right to sue and be sued, the right to private space and leisure time, the right to adequate medical and dental care; and the right to have a original copy of her agreement are just some of the minimal rights that must be to the domestic worker.
We sometimes forget that domestic workers are human beings – with families and other human responsibilities and needs. Domestic workers are also workers, and like every other worker must be accorded worker rights and human rights, including also effective access to justice.
Malaysia is on the verge of attaining developed nation status, and being a caring nation, we must not delay to ensure that our domestic workers, like any other workers, are treated with dignity and with justice.
Charles Hector
25th April 2006
Charles Hector can be contacted at

Thursday, 20 March 2008

If you want to stand up for Tibet, here is the link to sign the petition.

Will Burmese Migrants be able to Vote?

Most countries provide some form of absentee voting for nationals who live abroad or facilitate voting for internal migrants who have returned home to vote.Migrants represent a constituency that can be a powerful lobby in referendums and elections, and can, sometimes, determine an election’s outcome. In Zimbabwe, The Congress of Trade Unions has called on 3 million Zimbabweans living and working in South Africa to return home to vote in the March 29th election. In a recent election in Kelantan, Malaysia, the Barisan Nasional Party blamed its defeat on the failure of a large number of Kelantanese living outside the state to return home to vote.In Thailand, Section 99 of the 2007 Constitution enshrines the right of Thai nationals who reside outside their constituency or outside the country to vote. In the December national election, polling booths for absentee voters were set up a week before the vote. For Thai migrants, who returned home to vote, a public holiday was declared to allow more time to travel.In Burma, with a referendum on the constitution scheduled in May, Burmese migrants are wondering will they be able to exercise their right to vote? Burmese migrants have never had the opportunity to vote, although many have grown up hearing stories from their parents about voting in the 1990 election, only to have the vote ignored by the junta. While migrants fear the same thing may happen this time, they will never know unless they are able to vote.There are many hurdles for Burmese migrants to overcome, if they are to be allowed to vote. The deck, as usual, seems stacked against them.The first hurdle entails knowing how to register to vote. Embassies are usually the best source of information for overseas nationals on such issues, but it is no easy task to get any information from the Burmese embassy in Bangkok. Families in Burma are being instructed to tell their migrant relatives to return home quickly to be included on the voting registrar and obtain an ID card to be eligible to vote. If successful, that could entail making two trips home: one to register and one to cast a “No” or “Yes” vote. Such trips would not only cost migrants precious money and time, but could also cost them their legal status in Thailand. When migrant workers in Thailand register for a temporary work permit they are legally confined to the province where they register. Crossing a provincial border could lead to the loss of their legal status and crossing the border into Burma would automatically render the migrant illegal under current laws. Some 367,834 Burmese migrants in Thailand hold a work permit that will expire on June 30th. Registration to extend the permit for another year begins on June 1. If these migrants choose to return home to vote, would they be able to return to Thailand to register for a work permit again?Even if the Thai government decided to support the migrants’ right to vote and facilitated their return, migrants would have another hurdle to overcome: their employers. Employers of migrant workers are usually reluctant to give migrants time off from work; would they support a week off to return home to vote? Would their jobs be there when they returned? According to a recent article in The Bangkok Post, Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said: “If Myanmar [Burma] wants assistance from Thailand (on the referendum), we are ready to offer help as a friendly country.” Thailand’s help is badly needed by the 360,000 registered Burmese migrants and 1.2 million unregistered migrants. If the Burmese embassy in Bangkok becomes a polling station, Thailand’s help would be needed to issue migrants temporary travel passes to go to Bangkok to vote. The Burmese regime could also set up polling stations located close to the Thai border specifically for migrants as they do on the American-Mexican border. In this scenario Thailand would need to provide some sort of document or amnesty on travel restrictions to allow migrants to travel safely to and from the border.If the regime demands that migrants return home first to register and then to vote, Thailand’s assistance would be needed to provide travel documents or border passes and to ensure that employers grant workers time off to perform their civil duty and guarantee their jobs upon their return.The Burmese regime has provided almost no information about the referendum process, the actual voting or the contents of the constitution. If Thailand is open hearted and willing to aid Burmese migrants who want to vote in the referendum, it will be necessary to act quickly. And if Asean is truly a caring community, it will actively support systems for Burmese migrants in Malaysia and Singapore to also be able to vote. The future of Burma depends on it.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Good News!

The first step is won.
We are going to work for an ILO convention on giving equal workers’ rights to household/domestic workers.
Yesterday the Governing Body of the ILO agreed to include “Decent work for domestic workers” (Standard setting) in the agenda of the 99th Session (2010) of the International Labour Conference.
Maid room or dog's kennel?Published Date: March 16, 2008 By Badrya Darwish http://www.kuwaitti news.php? newsid=NjUwOTI1O TcyI went office and apartment hunting this past week and I went all over in most of the good areas like Bneid Al-Gar, Jabriya, Salmiya, Sharq, etc. The real estate agent took me to many buildings. Most had mixed floors, including commercial and residential spaces. To my surprise, people have managed to convince the government that floors can be licensed for commercial businesses up to the sixth floor and from there on it's only residential.I'm puzzled, what's the difference between the fifth and tenth floors? Why can one floor be commercial and one must be residential? The best part, of course, is that the offices on the commercial floors are twice the price of the same sized space on a residential floor. Never mind that. I accept it and can't do anything about it.But while being shown all the flats, the haris took me around saying, "This is bedroom one, this is bedroom two, this is the lounge, etc." Then on the side of the flat, or even maybe on the outside of the flat, there is a one-metre-by- another-metre room with a small toilet adjacent. I asked, "What is this?", and the haris answered: "This is the maid's room." And I said, surprised, "Are you sure it's not the dog's room?The poor haris just looked at me and smiled. Definitely he's afraid to say his mind but I could read his thoughts. I tried to figure out how this tiny space could be a maid's room. Let's assume we'd buy her the smallest bed, known as a single. It won't fit in this room, I bet you. Maybe widthwise, but definitely not lengthwise. So forget the bed. She cannot have a bed. The only thing that will fit there is a baby cot. Is the maid going to be the size of a baby? Isn't that ridiculous!Do you think these landlords, if they extend that poor maid's room by one more metre, will suffer losses? Will their financial situation go into the red? Will they go bankrupt? Or the building will have one less apartment? No, I don't think so. It's only greed and disregard for humanity. This maid, whoever she or he is, serves us all day long. Even in the best-treated houses, she will work for at least 10 hours. She will do our laundry, iron, wash the car, bake, cook, clean our dirt, scrub our toilets, clean the surrounding of the house, etc.Maybe we'll be kind to tell her thank you or please sometimes. Or maybe 50 percent of the time she'll be screamed or yelled at or criticized for the work that she's done. I'm not discussing this. That needs chapters and chapters. But for God's sake give her a bed to sleep on that fits her where she doesn't have to roll up herself like a baby in his mother's tummy in that luxurious bedroom.If the landlord is greedy and ruthless...what about the municipality? What about the architect who planned the building? They have no conscience too? Wake up guys. One day you will end up in a hole smaller than that maid's room.
Thailand National FDW Campaign Launched on the March 8, 2008!
Sri Lankan minister tackles issues of domestic workers http://www.arabtime client/pagesdeta ils.asp?nid= 13788&ccid=9 Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Jamal Al-Shehab and the Sri Lankan Minister of Labor Kahlia Rambo Kuela on Friday held bilateral talks in Kuwait. Issues discussed at the meetings centered on the welfare of Sri Lankan domestic workers in Kuwait. Rambo Kuela told the press after the two authorities has reached agreement to increase the minimum wage of Sri Lankan domestic workers from KD 40 to 50 with effect from January 2008, and after six months to increase it further to KD 60. He added that the agreement would strengthen the cordial relationship between the two countries. Al-Shehab promised to address problems of Sri Lankan laborers in Kuwait, adding that there are 100,000 Sri Lankan workers out of the 1.5 million expatriates in the country. Those present at the meeting were the Sri Lankan ambassador to Kuwait Sayed Abdul Qader Muhammad Zuhaili and other officials from both countries. By Shawki MahmoudSpecial to the Arab Times

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

International Women’s Day Statement

March 8, 2008

In 1908, 15,000 women marched through the streets of New York demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. A hundred years later, women still suffer unfair and unsafe working conditions and still we march for our rights.
We are women working in agriculture, community clinics, construction, entertainment places, factories, legal aid clinics, private households and in our own homes. We are local women, we are women from across the country and across the borders. We are working women and today we are walking for all working women. Today we walk for better pay for women! Today we walk for social security for all working women! Today we walk for safe working conditions for all working women.
Take a look at the constructions sites where we work, perched high above Chiang Mai with nothing to protect our safety! These sites are not safe. We need safe working conditions!
We work in the industrial estate in Lampoon, manufacturing electronic products. We are exposed to lead poisoning. We need the right to collective bargaining to improve the protection against such exposure.
We work like other women work, but we get no recognition or acceptance of our work because we work as sex workers. We want recognition as workers now.
Our Burmese sisters work in garment factories on the border. They are paid much less than the legal minimum wage. To get a living wage, they must work overtime every night! We demand not less than the minimum wage for all workers!
We work in the fruit and flower farms around Chiang Mai. We come from the mountains of Thailand, Lao and Burma. We have to spray pesticides which we know are dangerous to our health. We need proper protective clothing!
We work in private households as domestic workers. Our work is not protected by the labour laws. We are dependent on our employers, but some are fair and some are not fair at all. We need rights under the law. We need one day paid leave a week!