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Organizing the Patience Industry: Profile of a Domestic Worker in Maputo, Mozambique

Organizing the Patience Industry: Profile of a Domestic Worker in Maputo, Mozambique

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by IDWFED published Nov 16, 2012 12:00 AM
Contributors: Ruth Castel-Branco/WIEGO
Albertina has been a leader in the struggle for domestic worker justice in Maputo, Mozambique. She is one of at least 37,000 domestic workers working in and around Mozambique’s capital. Nicknamed the "patience industry" by domestic workers, it is characterized by low wages, long hours and rigorous schedules, humiliating tasks, unhealthy working conditions and vulnerability to abuse. Albertina finds this paradoxical given the intimate nature of the profession.

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Albertina has been a leader in the struggle for domestic worker justice in Maputo, Mozambique.  She is one of at least 37,000 domestic workers working in and around Mozambique’s capital.  They are young and old, urban residents and rural migrants, high school graduates and illiterate workers, both female and male—but mostly female.

Nicknamed the "patience industry" by domestic workers, it is characterized by low wages, long hours and rigorous schedules, humiliating tasks, unhealthy working conditions and vulnerability to abuse. Albertina finds this paradoxical given the intimate nature of the profession.

"We are the pillars of their households. We protect their belongings, their families, even the money they leave lying around. I raised a child from when he was born until he was ten," Albertina recalls. However, even after being like a second mother to children, she says that domestic workers get no respect.  "We have the same blood running through our veins but we are treated as an alien species."

Albertina does not believe that the transformation of working conditions will take place overnight. Most employers still do not recognize domestic workers' rights. While Albertina emphasizes the importance of open communication, she also recognizes that employers have discretionary power to refuse to dialogue, sometimes violently.

Willing employers may promise improvements in working conditions, but in the absence of adequate state regulation, it is a choice rather than an obligation, and promises often go unfulfilled.  Domestic workers walk a very thin line in demanding access to their rights, and concerns over job security often win out in the "patience industry."

Nonetheless, Albertina has hope that slowly, conditions will improve.

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