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Former child domestic worker addresses ILO committee on new convention

Geneva, 2 June 2011: Global March has launched a major online campaign to lobby for support for the proposed new convention on the domestic work sector at the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) annual conference (ILC) being held in Geneva, Switzerland, from 1 to 17 June 2011. As part of this campaign, Global March has linked up with partners the International Domestic Workers’ Network(IDWN), Human Rights Watchand Anti-Slavery International (ASI) to ensure that the voice of the millions of invisible and vulnerable domestic workers, including children, around the world is heard in the debate on a proposed ILO convention and recommendation.

As part of its own major campaign in support of the new convention, entitled “Home Alone”, ASIand its partner Children Unite consulted with over 150 current and former child domestic workers from Africa, Asia, Central and South America as part of a project entitled “Stand With Us”. The project sought the views of child domestic workers on what a new convention might mean to them and what changes it could make to their lives. It also ensured the physical presence of child domestic workers at the ILC in Geneva to support the lobbying campaign and make sure that their voice would be heard by delegates. This group is known as the “Children’s Champions”.

At the opening of the first plenary session of the Domestic Work Committee on 2 June, one of the Children’s Champions, Lilibeth Masamloc from the Philippines, was invited to make a speech on behalf of ASI and below are some highlights from her speech.

I am Lilibeth Masamloc from the Philippines. I am a former child domestic worker. I started working at the age of 13. I am one of the hundreds of child domestic workers that Anti-Slavery International has been working with over the past 20 years.

In many countries, domestic work is the only way children can earn enough to feed themselves or support their family. Domestic work … needs to be strictly regulated to stop the abuse that so many of my fellow child domestic workers suffer from.We need to put an end to this exploitation and abuse.

You are being given an opportunity this week to take action that will change the lives of millions of children across the world … We support Article 4 and Paragraph 4 of the current draft of the Convention and Recommendation … In every continent, child domestic workers have expressed their hope for the change that the convention will bring … Young domestic workers are often deprived of an education; this limits their chances for a better life. We therefore think it is very important that our right to education is promoted in Article 4 of the convention. However, full implementation of our right to education will require states to address the obstacles that stop us from attending school …

… Much of our vulnerability to exploitation and abuse comes from our invisibility and isolation in our workplace. We often live far away from our parents, our siblings and our friends … We call on the constituents of this committee to fully support Paragraph 4 of the recommendation. We believe it will help to protect us from hazardous domestic work.

This committee is very crucial to us. We are calling for the adoption of the convention and immediate ratification. We have been ignored and lived in the margins of society for so long, now is the time to protect us.

Commenting on the new convention, Global March Chair Kailash Satyarthi said: “This is a potentially momentous occasion for all organisations around the world targeting the elimination of child domestic labour and an end to exposure to hazardous work, exploitation and abuse of young domestic workers. It is crucial that the voice of the millions of child domestic labourers is hear in this international debate, and we offer our full support to our partner ASI and the Children’s Champions. We are following the work of Domestic Work Committee with great interest and we offer our solidarity to the Workers’ Group and hope that the proposed texts will not be weakened in any way.”

To visit the ILO’s web pages on the ILC, click here

For more information on the Global March campaign, click here

To access the IDWN ILO blog which provides up-to-date information on activities and progress at the ILC and Domestic Work Committee from the perspective of the IDWN delegations, click here

For more information on the ASI Home Alone campaign, click here

For more information on the ASI “Stand With Us” project, click here

To access the “Stand With Us” blogspot providing up-to-date information during the ILC and Domestic Work Committee from the perspective of the ASI delegation, click here