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home alone - campaign latest

After three years of campaigning for a new International Convention on Domestic Work, the Home Alone: End Domestic Slavery campaign achieved a big success. We first secured the adoption of ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, at the International Labour Conference on the 16th June 2011. Then we saw two countries - Uruguay and Philippines - ratify it which means the Convention will now officially come into force.

We would like to thank all our supporters for helping us to achieve this huge milestone in the fight to secure right for domestic workers around the world. You made that happen!

Now we are working hard now to push as many countries as possible to ratify the convention.

Read all about the campaign leading up to its victory!

13 September 2012 - Mauritius ratifies the convention
As the first country of the African region, Mauritius has ratified the ILO C189 convenetion. The ratification was registered on 13 September 2012. Convention No. 189 will thus enter into force for Mauritius in one year's time.

5 September 2012. IT'S OFFICIAL!

United Nations officially announced that after ratification of Domestic Workers Conventions by two countries - Uruguay and Philippines - the International Labour Organization's (ILO) 189 Domestic Work Convention will come into legal force in twelve months time.

6 August 2012 - Philippines ratify the ILO Domestic Work Convention.
Philippines become the second country (after Uruguay) to ratify the International Labour Organization Domestic Work Convetion. This means the the Convention will now come into force in all UN countries!

The Philippine Senate ratified the instrument after President Benigno Aquino III signed it on May 18, 2012.

14 June 2012 - UN officially registers the Uruguayan ratification of the Domestic Work Convention.
Officially only one country to go!

30.04.2012 Uruguay ratifies the Convention
Uruguay became the first country to ratify the ILO Domestic Work Convention. The Uruguayan Senate approved ratification of the Domestic Workers Convention on April 25, after the House of Representatives approved it on April 11. The president issued an executive decree ratifying the convention on April 30.

Uruguay has estimated 120,000 domestic workers. The government adopted a strong national law in 2006 to protect the rights of domestic workers, which includes provisions for an eight-hour workday, adequate food and housing for live-in domestic workers, and safeguards for domestic workers terminated because of pregnancy.

We applaud Uruguay for taking the strong stand for domestic workers. Now we are waiting for the second country to ratify it so the Convention can come into force.

30.09.2011 Tanzania – Human rights defender faces fabricated charges and police mistreatment
Human rights defender Mr Masesa Bandoma is now on bail after being arbitrarily detained and facing ill-treatment while in police custody in Northern Tanzania. Reportedly, he was remanded after pursuing the case of Biela Salvatory in an attempt to discover why she was being held in custody, which he was asked to cease. He is facing fabricated charges of insulting a police officer and disorderly behaviour in court on the 7th of October.

Masesa is a coordinator with the woman’s rights organisation Kivulni, based in Mwanza, and he works with cases concerning the rights of children employed as domestic workers. Along with Front Line Defenders and Children Unite, we at Anti-Slavery believe he was targeted solely as a result of his legitimate human rights work and are concerned for his safety and well-being. We are similarly concerned for Biela Salvatory. For more information, read the full press release.

17.06.11 Emotional scenes in Geneva
Check out the emotional and jubilent scenes yesterday at the International Labour Conference when the Domestic Work Convention was adopted. You can view photos here or watch video coverage here.

Also, Vernon Coaker MP and Denis MacShane MP raised their objections regarding the UKs failure to support the Convention in Parliament yesterday.

We've won our campaign!! Domestic Work Convention is officially adopted
Today the International Labour Organization (ILO) made a historic step forward in protecting up to 100 million domestic workers around the world from slavery and exploitation by officially adopting a new landmark Convention on Domestic Work.

83% of the votes from global governments, employers and workers representatives were in favour of progressing the rights of child and migrant domestic workers and ending their ill-treatment. Domestic workers everywhere are now celebrating the adoption of ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers which will recognise them as proper workers and ensure they are treated the same as other workers. Countries which ratify the Convention will be under obligation to ensure these rights are upheld.

Anti-Slavery International has been campaigning with our partners for a number of years for a dedicated international standard for domestic workers, using our unique expertise on protecting child domestic workers from slavery to lobby for the Convention to address their needs, and we are delighted to see this become a reality today.

However, despite the international community uniting behind the Convention, we are very shocked and disappointed that the UK was one of just 8 countries that abstained from voting in favour of the Convention, standing together with Sudan, Malaysia, El Salvador, Panama, Singapore, the Czech Republic and Thailand who also abstained. Swaziland was the only government to vote against convention.  

Throughout our campaign the UK government has continuously assured us all that it did support the Convention in principle but their tough stance during the last few weeks of negotiations and refusal to vote yes has let us all down. The UK can no longer claim to be global leader in tackling the menace of modern slavery.

Today a new campaign begins with our allies to hold the UK to account and urge it to restore its reputation and ratify the Convention, alongside calling for every country around the world to now enact the Convention.

THANK YOU to everyone who has got involved with the campaign - we could not have done it without you all!!

15.06.11 UK refuses to vote in favour of Domestic Work Convention
Truly shocking news has come to light today from a Government statement that it will not be voting in favour of the ILO Domestic Work Convention tomorrow morning, and could abstain or even vote against it. Very disappointing indeed. Ironically, the Government is refusing to back convention to protect domestic workers from slavery on same day the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith launched and stronly backed an enquiry into slavery in UK.

Read the Guardian's coverage from today on the UK's shock position:

The final vote is taking place tomorrow this space and keep your fingers crossed that unlike the UK most other governments will see sense!!

14.06.11 Domestic Workers alliance in the US speaks out for a Convention

Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance in the US sends her observations on the International Labor Organization’s (ILO’s) meeting in Geneva -

13.06.11 Surprise visit by Michelle Bachelet, head of UN Women

The former Chilean Prisident and head of the new UN agency for women, Michelle Bachelet, made a surprise appearance at the International Labour Conference today where the domestic work Convention is being negotiated. She spoke about the commitment of UN Women to the protecting domestic workers and UN Women's support for the Convention.

Many supportive statements were also made by governments and regional groupings today including EU, Africa, Asia Pacific, USA, Canada, Switzerland, Norway, Swaziland, Australia, Namibia, Russia, Dominican Republic, Kenya, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela.

11.06.11 Read Christian Aid's blog in the Independent
We've been working in coalition with organisations such as Christian Aid to call for a Domestic Work Convention. Read Christian Aid'sblog in the Independent about the need for a Domestic Work Convention -

10.06.11 The text of the convention finally agreed!

A strong convention and recommendation have been included but there is much to do still: it will now be presented to the plenary conference of the ILC and will hopefully be adopted following a two-third majority vote on Thursday 16 June.

The EU adopted a more constructive position over the last days of the committee by putting forward an amendment to the text of the recommendation on domestic workers in diplomatic missions and by submitting a resolution seeking technical support from the ILO in supporting states to ratify and implement the convention.

UK U-turn - After the amendment on protecting diplomatic domestic workers was accepted by both workers and employers groups, the British representative made a statement explaining that the reason why the UK had not backed the amendment (the only EU country to do so) was due to a failure only to get official clearance in time and did not reflect a lack of support for the content of the amendment. The UK ultimately joined in with other EU countries to present the very last amendment on the text, which was included in the recommendation.

09.06.11 Parliament debates the Domestic Work Convention
Some Lords raised Anti-Slavery's concerns in relation to the UK's position on the Domestic Work Convention in Parliament yesterday. You can read the debate here:

Also, a massive thank you to our Geneva Anti-Slavery group who have been helping us so much in Geneva. They have posted lots of photos on their Facebook group of the child champions so take a look:

08.06.11 Domestic Work Convention agreed but more UK problems
Last night at the ILC in Geneva, the discussion on the final text of the Domestic Work Convention was agreed and adopted by the Committee but we will have to await the Plenary and vote on the 15th and 16th June for its official adoption.

But the bad news was that the UK was the only country in the world opposing the text of an article in the Convention that will ensure protection for domestic workers from hazards and accidents at work. The UK made a statement in its own name (it is very rare that countries speak only for themselves) and their decision to stand alone on such an issue is a very hostile act. Apparently there were audible gasps from the other delegates in the room when they read out their statement.

Further to this, the UK was the only one of all 27 EU states that refused to sign up to an amendment to the Recommendation which is guidance accompanying the Convention. This provides for the possibility of agreeing voluntary codes of conduct between countries to prevent abuse of domestic workers working for diplomats and offers resolution procedures in cases of abuse. Domestic workers working for diplomats are twenty times more likely to find themselves in slavery than normal domestic workers. We are hoping these issues will be raised in the House of Lords today.

07.06.11 UK not playing ball!
We’ve just received a further and very worrying update from the ILC today. During negotiations around article 13 on occupational health and safety for domestic workers, the EU put forward an amendment yet again and after a lot of negotiations a consensual agreement was reached regarding the text, including support in the end by the EU. However, the UK decided to make a statement in its own name (a rare occurance for countries to speak only for themselves) to say that they would like to put it on record that the UK cannot agree with the text that was consensually adopted by all other countries. Apparently there was a big sound of disbelief in the room. We need you all to act now ahead of the debate in Parliament tomorrow - you can still email the Business Secretary and tell him what you think.

07.06.11 EU obstructive during negotiations

The EU has put forward over 100 ammendments so far to the text of the Domestic Work Convention, most of which have attempted to weaken the Convention and would reduce the level of protection for domestic workers offered by the Convention, making them the least supportive regional grouping. Furthermore, the UK government is backing most of changes they wish to make! They are not living up to the expectations we had, based on their previous statements. Are they going to throw their weight behind it?

Meanwhile member of the House of Lords are preparing today for a debate in the House of Lords tomorrow regarding the UK's position on the Convention.

07.06.11 Children champions now on their way home

All the Children's Champions are now on their way home and it has started pouring with rain...typical...over the past two days we've held an art workshop with the girls and they made an evaluation of their time here and it has brought up some interesting issues.

Despite having no common language between them the girls got on very well with each other.  They said that they drew strength from the similarities of their lives as child domestic workers.  Although the contexts are quite different in the Philippines, Tanzania and Costa Rica, they were treated much the same by some of their employers and communities (although not all).  They all mentioned that they are considered 'worthless' or 'valueless' by others.  But, although they knew they had suffered, the girls all expressed that, by sharing their stories they gained strength from each other.

They worked hard from day one in a very alien environment, adult and formal - a daunting prospect for most of us let alone for five young women who are suffering from jet lag, finding the food strange and - for four of them - have never left their country before.  It is incredible that they performed so well.  But thinking about it, maybe it is not so incredible - they are driven by a shared passsion and they have a very clear goal (to end the exploitation of their fellow child domestic workers).

The laughter noticeably increased over the past two days - perhaps because the pressure was off a bit.  We learned some words from each of our languages - and it is indicative of the things that were important to the girls that we learned the following words in Swahili - 'sleepy', 'full' (of food), 'article 4 and paragraph 4', 'come on girls', 'pink' (which was pinky) and 'chips' (which was chipsy!!)...that word alone created barrages of laughter.

It was a strong team this year at the ILC, helped considerably the girls' guardians - all committed and caring women - who gently pushed them towards challenges instead of away from them. They are so inspiring!
Posted by Children Unite:

05.06.11The Champions lobbied furiously!
In just four days, Angelina, Angel, Lilbeth, Ginne and Tatiana have become very confident and effective lobbyists and I am pretty confident in saying that I have the feeling of a job well done! The child champions have spent three days at the International Labour Confernecce and in this time they have managed to talk to and present their global views to over 30 governemental delegations, this is amazing! They played an important role in making sure that article 4 (which relates specifically to children) wasn't watered down and delegates understood the importance of the convention to protect child domestic workers globally. It wasn't easy at the begining, it has to be said: delegates have very little time, are constantly moving around and not always used to listening meaningfully to the opinions of children. But the champions worked hard on their messaging, making sure that they were able to present the global views of other child domestic workers within the three minutes delegates were allocating them. I would like to say congratulations to our five fantastic lobbyists for taking up the challenge and reaching out to so many governements. You can post your messages of support and congratulations to the children here.
Audrey Guichon, Anti-Slavery's Child Domestic Work Programme Coordinator in Geneva

03.06.11 Please read Lilibeth's speach to the ILC plenary
You can now read the powerful speech our domestic worker Lilibeth delivered to the plenary of the International Labour Conference yesterday. She also wrote a personal message for the blog. Please read and post your own messages of support to the child domestic workers. They are lobbying like crazy trying to gather support for greater protection for child domestic workers within the Convention and are doing an incredible job for child domestic workers everywhere!

Negotiations are now starting for Article 1 of the Convention which relates to the definition of a domestic worker.

02.06.11 Child champion Lilibeht addresses the plenary session of the ILC

Anti-Slavery has addressed the plenary session of the International Labour Conference through the voice of one of our fantastic domestic worker children chapions. It went extremely well and we think and hope it will have a great impact!

Post your messages to our children's champions now
Our brave domestic work champions who are current or former child domestic workers themselves are getting ready for to share their personal stories to help lobby for a strong Domestic Work Convention that will protect other children in similar circumstances from slavery and abuse, and they need your support to give them that extra bit of courage. Please post your messages to them here on the right hand side so they know you are standing with them all the way -

01.06.11 The 100th session of the International Labour Conference has now officially opened!
The Director General has given his opening welcome note and the president of the International Labour Conference has been elected, so let the negotiations for a Domestic Work Convention begin! Our child domestic work champions are busy preparing their presentation for our side event at 1pm today where they will share their personal experiences. The event is hosted by the UN Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica and the Permanent Mission of Uruguay as well as Anti-Slavery International and Children Unite.

Later, the first session of the Committee on Decent Work for Domestic Workers will start at 3.30pm.

31.05.11 Children's champions and Anti-Slavery arrive in Geneva today
Our amazing children's champions touched down in Geneva today to lobby at the International Labour Conference for a Domestic Work Convention. As current or former child domestic workers themselves, they will be championing the views of over 250 children around the world and sharing their own experiences with ILO delegates. Today they are arriving, tired from long journeys but happy that they're here (in Tanzania they said they were convinced they would not get the visa).  Find out more about the Stand With Us project here.

29.05.11 Global March behind child domestic workers and the ILO convention
The Global March has issued a statement calling for adoption of new Convention and Recommendation.

Global March against Child Labour is a movement to mobilise worldwide efforts to protect and promote the rights of all children, especially the right to receive a free, meaningful education and to be free from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be harmful to the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.

27.05.11 Child Domestic Workers speak out around the world
As part of the Home Alone campaign, Anti-Slavery International has been working with our amazing partner Children Unite to consult with more than 250child domestic workers from Africa, Asia, Central and South America about their views on the proposed new Convention, as part of the 'Stand With Us' project.

You can now read the report about how the current ILO Convention and Recommendation on Decent Work for Domestic Workers would protect them.

Or WATCH them speak out in our film here.

26.05.11 Anti-Slavery meets with UK Government representatives to discuss the Convention

Today Anti-Slavery's Director and Domestic Work programme coordinator met with civil servants to discuss the UK's position on the Convention. Although the UK is supporting the Convention in principle, they want to weaken it by arguing that some very important provisions that would make domestic workers less vulnerable to exploitation and slavery be removed from it. This was our last chance to put across our arguments for having a strong and robust Convention, which they listened too. We will have to wait and see how the negotiations go but as many countries around the world are supporting all the provisions we hope the UK will find theirs a difficult position to maintain.

23.05.11 Great response from Anti-Slavery campaigners
Anti-Slavery International's supporters have given one last big push on the Home Alone campaign front by bombarding the UK Government with emails urging them to fully support the Domestic Work Convention. THANK YOU!!! There is still time to join with them and take action here.

17.05.11 Anti-Slavery's shocking film highlights the trafficking of Nepali domestic workers
Anti-Slavery's and the ITUC's new film 'The Cost of Living' investigates the trafficking of Nepali's into domestic servitude and the construction industry. Unscrupulous agents take huge sums of money from them for work abroad then consign them to slavery and appalling conditions in the Middle East. Many are abused by their employers and some are killed at the hands of agents. Check out the Guardian's coverage and watch the film here.

14.05.11 Home Alone campaign goes to the International Slavery Museum
Today the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool hosted a fantastic panel event in support of the Home Alone campaign to pressure the UK government to support a Domestic Work Convention. We had a great turn out to hear the views of local Liverpool MP Louise Ellman, domestic worker Marissa Begonia (who campaigns for domestic worker rights in the UK), photographer Pete Pattisson (who has documented domestic worker abuse worldwide) and Anti-Slavery's Director Aidan McQuade. The International Slavery Museum has been supporting the Home Alone campaign over the past year by producing an exhibition in support of the campaign. It's up until September 2011 so there's still time to visit!

12.05.11 MEPs say YES we should have a Domestic Work Convention
Members of the European Parliament voted resoundingly in favour today of passing a resolution to voice their overwhelming support for the adoption of a strong Domestic Work Convention. 88% of those present voted yes. Let's hope all EU member states listen - particularly the UK!

10.05.11 Welcome to our Home Alone updates page!
Welcome to our new Home Alone campaign updates. We'll be keeping you up to speed with all the latest developments in relation to the campaign as we approach the final decision at the International Labour Conference in June as to whether we will have a Domestic Work Convention. Let's hope so!

home alone logo

"I wake up at 4am to collect water. Then I wash the dishes, clean the clothes and cook. Sometimes at 8 or 9pm I still haven't gone to bed". Mecheleine (above), Child Domestic Worker, Haiti
©Pete Pattisson /

children in school in Haiti

Domestic workers in the Philippines are often not allowed to leave the house and are restricted from contact with their family and friends.

Many Indonesian domestic workers who migrate to Singapore report working extremely long hours, seven days a week, suffer food deprivation and physical abuse.
©Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

children in school in Haiti

Former child domestic workers at a summer camp organised as rehabilitation by Foyer Maurice Sixto in Haiti
©Pete Pattisson /