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  • Felix Onyango

Raising the Voices of Domestic Workers in the Face of COVID-19

Center for Livelihood Advancement (CFLA) Kenya

Center for Livelihood Advancement (CFLA) Kenya equips women migrant workers with survival skills as they move to work within and outside Kenya. In the wake of COVID19, while there is need to observe some set of health protocols, domestic workers continue to face challenges in accessing basic preventive commodities like masks, sanitizers, gloves and soap due to their low economic status and the challenges of balancing livelihood needs.

The situation of domestic workers is further exacerbated by the nature of their work, which exposes them to working in other people’s homes and even more often working in multiple homes. This means that they come in contact with people, items and services that could be harboring the virus, hence increasing their risks. While continued working exposes them to risks of COVID-19 infections, women domestic workers are in a situation where they are compelled to willingly continue going out to work because their families depend on them for survival.

With most employers and their children at home coupled with the demand to maintain high hygiene levels to keep COVID-19 away, domestic workload has increased. Several cases have been reported of women domestic work being increased without pay, while others have been denied their pay. Many of them have also experienced different forms of discrimination, violence and sexual abuse at the hands of their employers.

Through media advocacy, distribution of critical needs such as hygiene kits, information on gender-based violence hotlines and documentation of experiences of domestic workers, female domestic workers are now able to use a toll-free number to report any forms of violence they’re experiencing in their work.

The experiences of female domestic workers were developed into a video, which caught the attention of the Kenyan National television NTV which did a story on how domestic workers are coping with COVID-19 on July 2, 2020 further making the issues affecting domestic workers an active agenda that is informing the response programme of the Government and other stakeholders. It was also an opportunity to call for the inclusion of domestic workers in broader human rights policies.

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