Thursday, 28 August 2008

International Solidarity Day with Foreign Domestic Workers

CARAM Asia Statement

AMMAN, JORDAN, 28 August 2008: We are over 30 women and men from the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, United Kingdom, Jordan, Lebanon, Burma, Singapore, Malaysia, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Hong Kong SAR and Nepal. We have met in Amman, Jordan from the 25th to 28th of August 2008, for the Roundtable Meeting with multi-stakeholders on Foreign Domestic Workers’ issues in Jordan and the Campaign Strategies Workshop, organised by CARAM Asia, for its on-going “One Paid Day off Weekly” for domestic workers campaign. We have analysed the impact of labour migration for domestic work on women foreign domestic workers in the Middle East region. We are aware that the undervaluation of women’s work, the sponsorship system that is widely practiced in the region, and the remittance driven labour sending policies of origin countries make women FDWs susceptible to abuse, violence, and human rights violations, including their health rights, at all stages of migration.

This consultation and campaign strategies workshop takes forward the reflections and processes that were initiated when the campaign launched, at the third ASEAN Civil Society Conference (ACSC 3) in Singapore, a call to action for the recognition of domestic work as work by including this occupation in the national labour laws of countries. Such a call to action can only be achieved through the legal and social recognition of domestic work as work, subsequently realising the human and labour rights of domestic workers.

We, foreign domestic workers and strong advocates/activists of FDWs’ rights, express solidarity with the decades old, yet still ongoing, struggles of women domestic work against strong patriarchal systems that do not value women’s labour, reflected in the lack of legal protection for domestic workers, both foreign and national workers alike.

This has been an occasion for women domestic workers, community-based migrants’ organisations, migrant support groups, and non-governmental organisations to come together to reflect on and highlight the problems being faced by women FDWs, due to poverty and under or unemployment, being made worse by the rapid economic globalisation processes in origin countries, intensifying the women’s labour migration process.

It has been an occasion for us to reflect on the vital roles women FDWs play for the well-being of their families, communities, and the families that they work for, for the economies of both origin and destination countries, and within social reproduction systems of our society, all roles that need better recognition and valuation. While they provide a great deal for the well-being and function of families and society at large, their own health rights and the quality of life are extremely comprised due to the lack of labour rights in the occupation they work.

It has been an occasion for us to define strategies to counter the negative experiences of women FDWs, to define our vision of migration with rights and dignity, to draw strength from each other, and to bring synergy between our struggles across the regions.

We acknowledge that the cause of women domestic workers is gradually being recognised and that support is being extended by various groups. We are aware that there are some good employers, just as there are very many abusive employers. We do not demonise employers while we critique the structure in which labour migration for domestic work is being operated. The cyclical short-term structure of migration facilitates the enrichment of a handful of recruitment agencies and allows unscrupulous middle men to operate ruthlessly at the expense of foreign domestic workers. At the same time, guilt can also be directed towards origin governments who have been inefficient, or deficient, in protecting their citizens abroad.

Our Campaign demands that:

  1. Governments enact laws and adopt other measures to ensure that the rights of domestic workers are protected legally, and to change the national labour laws that do not protect domestic workers’ rights;
  2. The United Nations and International Labour Organisation (ILO) develop new mechanisms for the protection and realisation of domestic workers’ rights;
  3. Member States ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families; and
  4. Governments develop redress mechanisms for more effective accountability of non-State actors (employers, recruitment agencies, brokers) for violations against domestic workers.

We call on support from everyone who believe in equality and justice for domestic workers, both national and foreign, by endorsing this statement on this important day for FDWs.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Join Forces to Protect Foreign Domestic Workers

AMMAN, JORDAN 26 August 2008: Migrants rights representatives from 15 countries today called for greater cooperation between the Jordanian authorities, international agencies and civil society for the protection of foreign domestic workers.

During a high-level roundtable forum on the situation of foreign domestic workers, the representatives welcomed Jordan’s recent move to amend the labour law to include the protection of all domestic workers but emphasised the need for implementation to begin as soon as possible. They were speaking on behalf of domestic worker associations and rights groups from origin and destination countries in Asia and the Middle East.

“We urge the Jordanian government to speedily enact the relevant by-laws to ensure the protection domestic workers, both Jordanian and foreign. Such a standardised and efficient approach will address the serious labour and human rights violations that too many migrant workers experience. It will also allow problems or disputes to be resolved before they become critical,” said Cynthia Gabriel, Regional Coordinator of CARAM Asia, a leading regional network working on the rights of migrant workers.

Last month, His Royal Highness King Abdullah the 2nd signed this amendment which was gazetted on August 17th 2008. This has coincided with growing public awareness of cases in which foreign domestic workers have been subjected to serious violations including physical abuse, non-payment of wages and denial of rest days.

“We welcome this positive development which will strengthen Jordan’s commitment to human rights and justice. We urge the Royal Jordanian government to encourage other countries in the region to adopt similar measures for the protection of domestic workers,” said Asem Rababa, President of the ADALEH Center for Human Rights Studies.

“We hope that the Jordanian government will work closely with civil society and migrant worker groups to ensure effective implementation of the law. Allowing migrant workers to unionise would help in this process,” said Eni Lestari, representative of Asian Migrant Coordination Body.

The high-level roundtable forum which was hosted by the ADALEH Center for Human Rights Studies and co-organised by UNIFEM and CARAM Asia was attended by representatives of the Jordanian government, the Solidarity Center, CARITAS Lebanon as well as groups from Bahrain, Bangladesh, Burma, Hong Kong SAR, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Thailand.