Domestic Workers’ Organizing and our Struggle for C189 Continue

This year marks the 12th anniversary of the domestic workers’ convention C189, and the first year that we celebrate this occasion without our beloved late president, Myrtle Witbooi. Her spirit, words, and guidance remain with us.  

“I want you to remember me, unite and organize. I want you to remember that if I can do it, you can do it and together we can sing Amandla.

Myrtle Witbooi, 2023

The Domestic Workers Convention (C189) and Recommendation 201 (R201) have united domestic workers globally; they reiterated to our movement that we are important and should be proud of ourselves, that our voice is heard and we will no longer be reduced to silence. It recognized the economic and social value of domestic work and is a call for action to address important decent work deficits in the sector. We won this convention in the fight for freedom and dignity, this fight is indivisible from the struggle for our labor rights. And in the same way that the preamble to the Human Rights Declaration proclaims that all humans are born free and equal, so are domestic workers, and must be, free and equal in dignity and rights, same as any other profession. 

As we celebrate the convention’s growing prominence and ratification, we note that its ratification has been slower compared to other conventions, as domestic workers face rampant informality induced by both legislation and implementation gaps: the exclusion from national labor and social security laws and inadequate levels of legal protection, as well as the lack of implementation and compliance with international standard and local regulations. When assessing the speed of ratification, it’s important to note that each convention addresses different labor issues and may face distinct obstacles. Our struggles are complex, but they are not difficult to address: the solutions have been and are continuously drafted by our movement in the multitudes of ways we are organized: in meeting rooms, in collective bargaining, in social dialogues, in high-level events, in strikes, in protests, in the streets, and in our communities where we continue to lift our voices to overcome deep-rooted discrimination and oppression. This is a task we undertake collectively, as we continue to build our federation which celebrates its first decade. This year thus also marks our 4th Congress, slated to take place in Belgium in early October 2023. 

Twelve years after the adoption of the convention, informality persists but the Road to Decent Work for Domestic Workers has been paved. Today, more than ever, we need the political will and governmental commitment to ensure that there is no backtracking on domestic workers’ rights. 

IDWF and our movement will ensure to do our part, to guard, promote, and use our convention, and to move together in unity, with one agenda item only on our plate: guaranteeing that every domestic worker in this world is free.

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