Red Thread welcomes Guyana’s ratification of ILO Convention #189 recognizing domestic workers as workers and launches a grassroots women’s self-help information and support service for domestic workers and other low-waged women workers
Red Thread welcomes Guyana’s ratification of ILO Convention #189 recognizing domestic workers as workers. Guyana is the first country in the region to take this action, which the Caribbean Domestic Workers Network, of which Red Thread is a member, has been lobbying for in its six member states (Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, St Lucia and Guyana). The next step now for Guyana is implementation.
Today we are also announcing our intention to begin a self-help information and support service for domestic workers and other low-waged women workers. Conventions and laws will make no difference in real life unless those whom they are supposed to protect make them live. This is the goal of the new service we are planning, not to provide “expert” advice but to enable those of us who are domestic workers and other low-waged women workers to understand and make use of the laws in our own individual and collective defence. The model will be the same as Red Thread’s drop in/outreach centre for women and children in violent situations, which has led to the formation of a Domestic Violence and Rape Survivors Self-help Group. The two will work in collaboration with each other.
We have already received some training from an official of the TUC in the laws governing wages and conditions of work for low-waged women in Guyana, and on September 7th and 8th held the first in what will be a series of workshops where women from the Red Thread Centre and eight women from communities in Demerara, Berbice and Essequibo will learn not only about the laws but the policies and institutions dealing with labour rights, as well as the rights of domestic workers under the Caribbean Single Market and Economy/Free Movement of Persons.
The decision to launch the new service was timed for September 7th because that date was chosen by the CDWN to honour Clotil Walcott, who was the founder of the National Union of Domestic Employees of Trinidad and Tobago (NUDE) and the grassroots Caribbean woman who did the most to win recognition for domestic workers in Trinidad and Tobago and the region. We chose to set up the service in Clotil’s name and in the name of Cora Belle, another grassroots woman fighter and former domestic worker. Cora, who was a founder member of Red Thread in 1986, died one year ago on September 9th 2012. The two knew each other, because Clotil brought her experience and organizing skills to Guyana as she took them everywhere she thought they could serve the interests of domestic workers. Representing Red Thread at Clotil’s funeral service on November 20, 2007 in Trinidad, Cora spoke to the direct connection between Clotil and us when she said: “Clotil Walcott inspired us even before we met her. It was her work in Trinidad and Tobago campaigning for domestic workers to be recognized as workers that spurred us on to try to organize with domestic workers in Guyana for fairer wages and working conditions. We invited Clotil to come and meet the domestic workers we had started to meet with and she immediately agreed. When she met with the women she told them and us about her experience organizing with domestic workers in Trinidad and Tobago and advised us to organize. Although we failed in that first effort because we did not know how to overcome the fear the women felt about losing their jobs in an economy where jobs for grassroots women were even scarcer than in Trinidad and Tobago, we learned a lot from Clotil that we never forgot. We are using what we learned from her up to now in our campaigning for a living income and affordable access to goods and services for housewives, domestic workers, shop assistants, security guards, bartenders, old age pensioners, women on public assistance – Guyanese women of Indian, African and Amerindian descent who are unwaged and low-waged.”
The Cora & Clotil self-help information and support service for domestic workers and other low-waged women workers will start at the end of the month, the exact date to be announced.