A transnational view on domestic workers’ organising for labour rights and against violence



In correspondence to the coming into force of the ILO C189 in 2011, scholars and activists have increasingly turned their attention to domestic workers’ groups investigating the original forms of organising that this traditionally ‘unorganisable’ workforce has managed to develop across different contexts in the last decades.
The transnational domestic workers’ movement arguably represents a unique case to study the ways in which social change in the field of gender violence may be produced intersectionally. vidence suggests that, while domestic workers globally articulate their claims in the labour rights field, their struggles keep at the center the issue of violence – symbolic and material – that they are subjected to, at work and outside, also on the basis of their intersectional subordinated social positions – as migrant women, ethnicised women, or women of lower classes and caste. Labour organising in this case appears to go hand in hand with self-help work around self-image and identity, and domestic workers’ movements mobilise deep emotions related to stigmatisation, shame and silence.
The present paper addresses these questions by taking a comparative look at domestic workers organising in the nine countries involved in the DomEqual project: India, Philippines, Taiwan, Italy, Germany, Spain, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil. We focus in particular on how transnational relations were and still are played out in these movements around the ILO C189, and how they are relevant to their current involvement in the preparatory work towards a possible new ILO Convention on violence and harassment at work. We try to assess the encounters, the tensions and the collaborations taking place at the regional and the international levels on issues of violence against domestic workers, both among domestic workers’ groups and between these groups and other governmental and non-governmental organisations working in the same field or in close-by fields, namely in relation to race and caste, migration and trafficking, women’s rights, labour rights, and disability.