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IDWF Congress: Our new Federation is born!

IDWF Congress: Our new Federation is born!

by IDWFED published Oct 28, 2013 03:04 PM
2013 Oct 26-28 New global federation, the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF).
Oct 26, 2013 to Oct 28, 2013 (Universal / UTC0)
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Yes, we have our new global federation, the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF).

Today, delegates from domestic workers' organisations around the world agreed that this is what our network, the IDWN, should become. After the new IDWF Constitution was unanimously agreed by a show of voting cards, the hall broke out into clapping and cheering, with cries of "Si Se Puede" and singing of "Solidarity Forever". 

Dan Gallin from the Global Labour Institute, who has provided us with huge support over these years, told us, "You have created your own road by walking". Our future is with the labour movement, and we will continue to shape it, perhaps even more than we imagine, he said. We are the first global union entirely run by women - overturning discrimination that goes back to the dawn of human history.

We are also showing that there is no such thing as 'unorganisable workers'. As Juanita Flores of the National Domestic Workers' Alliance of the USA said, the world doesn’t yet realise how important our work is to the economy. But we are showing that we have the power to change such attitudes. Respect for ourselves and each other will bring others to respect us.

We went on to discuss the Five-Year Action Plan for the IDWF, and then came the elections for the new Executive Committee. It comprises domestic workers' representatives nominated from each region, all accepted by a show of voting cards:

Region Titular Alternate
Caribbean Shirley Pryce Gillian Atwell
North America Juanita Flores Antonia Peña
Europe Guilliana Messina Anacoreta DeLos Reyes
Asia Phobsuk Gasing Sonu Danuwar
Africa Myrtle Witbooi Asmaou Bah
Latin America Ernestina Ochoa Elena Pérez

Myrtle Witbooi is now the IDWF President. She was the Chair of the IDWN, and was elected unopposed.

For the IDWF Vice-President there were two nominations: Ernestina Ochoa and Juanita Flores. So we went through a transparent election process, where IDWF member organisations voted in a secret ballot. Ernestina got 46 votes and Juanita got 34. So our new Vice-President is Ernestina Ochoa. 

Finally we elected our new General Secretary, Elizabeth Tang. Elizabeth was the IDWN International Coordinator and so there will be continuity here too.

Our thanks go to the elections committee for all their work in conducting a fair, open and efficient process for the elections. We now have our new team to take the IDWF through the next five years.

Also today we launched two important new booklets: 

  • "Yes We Did It!", the story of how we and our allies achieved the historic C189, produced by WIEGO and IDWN, and so far available in English and Spanish. READ BOOKLET HERE
  • "Claiming Rights", produced by Human Rights Watch, in collaboration with IDWN and ITUC. It is about the progress since then in achieving improved legal rights - ratification of C189 in 14 countries, with more in process, and better laws in others too. READ BOOKLET HERE

The Congress also agreed that the IDWF and IUF should communicate our great displeasure to the airlines Emirates and  TAM, for refusing to board four sisters and brothers, meaning they could not be with us. We will also be sending our warmest greetings and solidarity to the four. 

Our Congress closed with short inputs from our new Executive Committee members about their vision for the IDWF and the role they hope to play. We expressed our warmest thanks to all who have supported us over the years and to be in Uruguay, through funding, technical support, interpretation, report-writing, and so on, as well as the IDWN Steering Committee and our Regional and International Coordinators over the years. Finally, our President Myrtle closed with strong messages to mobilise, and then she led us in again in her "favourite song" from South Africa:

'My mother was a kitchen girl, My gather was a garden boy. That's why I'm a unionist, a unionist, a unionist."

There were many more songs too from Latin America, Asia and Africa, and we watched the video 'Conventional Wisdom' about how we got C189. 

Then our most honoured guest arrived, the President of Uruguay, Mr. José Mujica (commonly known as 'Pepe'). He is a model for Presidents worldwide, living on his small farm rather than the Presidential Residence, driving a VW Beetle, and donating most of his salary to a social housing project.

He gave a most inspirational speech, expressing his pride the progress his country is making to improve working conditions and recognition for domestic workers. As he said, working collectively is our biggest strength, and he warned us not to stop fighting for "those who stop fighting are defeated".

With this important message for our future, we brought our first Congress to a close.

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