"½domestic work continues to be undervalued and invisible and is mainly carried out by women and girls, many of whom are migrants or members of disadvantaged communities and who are particularly vulnerable to discrimination in respect of conditions of employment and work, and to other abuses of human rights."
ILO Convention Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers, 2011Domestic workers are some of the most exploited workers in the world. When children are involved in domestic work they are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation as well as often missing out on valuable basic education.
ChildHope is working with young domestic workers to address exploitationIn Peru we work with local partner NGOs Proceso Social, Amhauta and Calandria on a project to eliminate the worst forms of child labour.
As part of this project these NGOs are working in Cuzco and San Martin to raise awareness about the risks involved with domestic labour.
The project is working to ensure girls who are engaged in domestic work are not being exploited or abused whilst also enabling them to access suitable services and education.
Most of the girls involved in the project live with families who employ them to washing clothes, cook, clean and look after young children during the day.
In many cases their own families live in towns or villages far away, leaving them alone.
Although a few of the girls say they enjoy their work, many miss out on schooling and cases of exploitation and abuse, both physical and sexual, are common.
The local partner NGOs are providing girls with a safe place to meet and discuss their experiences, teach them about their rights, as well as providing educational support so they do not fall behind in classes.
As one girl mentioned "the project enable us to reflect about what we want, get out of bad situations and change our way of thinking'. Christina, 15 years old.
For those girls that are particularly in need, the project provides psychological support and in extreme cases the girls are referred to state provided child protection services to help them to escape dangerous situations. This is not an easy task.
Due to its informal nature, domestic work has only now been protected by the same labour laws as other formal forms of work. Domestic workers often have few avenues to seek help, making their situation often invisible to those organisations that aim to assist them.
For our local partner NGOs in Peru identifying the most vulnerable girls creates a huge challenge, and without sufficient services and state resources available to protect their rights, referring them on to such valuable services is not always possible.
"History is being made" Recognising the Rights of Domestic WorkersThe adoption of the ILO Convention on Domestic Workers is therefore a landmark occasion for the rights of all domestic workers including the children we work with.
As the Director General of the ILO, Juan Somavia, claimed:
"We are moving the standards system of the ILO into the informal economy for the first time, and this is a breakthrough of great significance½History is being made." (ILO, 2011)The new convention creates the same basic labour rights for domestic workers as other workers. This aims to ensure domestic workers have clear conditions of employment, a minimum wage, sufficient amount of rest and reasonable working hours, whilst also requiring States to take steps to protect domestic workers from abuse and violence.
It also provides special measures to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable domestic workers such as children and migrant workers, requiring States to set a minimum age for domestic workers which is consistent with the ILO worst forms of Child Labour Convention of 1999, and existing national laws.
States are also obligated to ensure that work performed by child domestic workers "does not deprive them of compulsory education, or interfere with opportunities to participate in further education or vocational training" (Art 4).
While Peru does have existing national legislation on domestic workers there are significant gaps relating specifically to the rights of child domestic workers.
International Law for Social Change?ChildHope welcomes the adoption on this new Convention as it will provide a legal framework for organisations involved in the fight against exploitation and abuse of all domestic workers.
New laws alone do not always lead to social change and it is important for organisations to work towards changing attitudes and challenging the social norms and stereotypes that perpetuate the practice of exploitative domestic labour.
We hope that this new Convention will allow advocates of child domestic workers rights to hold governments accountable for providing much needed services aimed at their safety and security.
We encourage the Peruvian Government to recognise the importance of this invaluable instrument and be among the first states to sign up to the convention.