In several countries and in collaboration with the authorities, the IDAY network is launching surveys on the worrisome situation of domestic workers. These surveys underpin a vast regional campaign for the regularisation and professionalisation of this sector.
Since 2010, IDAY, a network stemming from African civil society, advocates for the recognition of domestic workers and their access to education and vocational training. These are key to their personal and professional development and to the protection of their rights.
IDAY members have worked relentlessly for years to report on their situation and highlight the scope of the issue to the African authorities and international stakeholders. In the framework of the regional campaign launched by IDAY, several advocacy and sensitisations activities have taken place in Africa and in Europe, including the production of the documentary The Invisible Workers (2011) which tells the life of these forgotten workers. The ILO 189 Convention entering into force this year enhances this action in favor of setting up the relevant protection and training mechanisms.
There are currently an estimated thousands of hundreds of people in domestic work throughout the continent, many of whom are children and youngsters. Most domestic workers are faced with long working hours with little if any pay, without social protection nor recognition. Many of these youngsters must drop out of school to work and are being denied the opportunity to carry on with their studies when they work as domestic help.
Access to education and training for domestic workers is not just a matter of fundamemental rights. It is also a key social and economic challenge for a continent undergoing deep mutations. The IDAY approach, which consists in giving value to this profession through training whilst improving its legal framework, addresses simultaneously the challenges of protecting these workers from abuse, establishing their professional duties and compatting child domestic work below the legal minimum age.
IDAY-Burundi recently succeeded in convincing its government to collaborate for a national survey on domestic workers, to be launched at the end of March 2013. This initiative is supported by several international organisations that acknowledge both the urgency of collecting accurate data on this phenomenon and the value of the IDAY network’s work, which is rooted in the solutions brought by African civil society.
IDAY-D.R.Congo, IDAY-Rwanda, IDAY-Uganda, IDAY-Kenya, IDAY-Guinea and members of the network in Ivory Coast and Nigeria are working along the same lines.
IDAY-DRC has actually just completed a pilot survey in Kinshasa with 950 domestic workers. It confirms that this form of modern-days slavery is closely linked to factors such as poverty, the absence of regulation, illiteracy, domestic workers ignoring their rights and lacking any kind of consideration from their employers. In Kinshasa, the majority of these domestic workers are female (93%) and are aged on average between 13 and 18; some of them are even below the legal minimum working age. Their most pressing demands revolve around capacity building and enhancing and protecting domestic work. This small sample only confirms IDAY’s initial assessment, now voiced by numerous key players. A national survey now needs to be conducted.
Goreth Kanyange, an iconic figure of this fight in Burundi and the President of IDAY-Burundi and the CAD (Convergence pour l’Autodéveloppement des Domestiques) did not wait for these conclusions. For years she has been providing literacy and vocational training to hundreds of domestic workers, with tremendous results: their working conditions are improving as employers recognise the value of the quality services provided by their employees. Real employement relationships are taking shape around the values of competence, respect, dignity and self-confidence. The work of Mrs Kanyange, who was recently awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Order of the Belgian Crown, now gets increasing attention from the authorities and development stakeholders.
Based on this long-lasting local expertise and in close collaboration with all interested parties, IDAY will pursue its campaign for all domestic workers in Africa to be protected and fully recognised – at last.