International Domestic Workers’ Network

In October 2013, the IDWN transformed itself into the first global union organization in the world run by women: the International Domestic Workers' Federation (IDWF). Read more.
International Domestic Workers

The details below offer an account of how the global network of domestic workers was formed, its purpose and its triumphs.

The IDWN brought together domestic workers’ unions and associations from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, North America and Europe. The IDWN:

  • assists in the organization of domestic workers’ unions where they do not yet exist
  • serves as a clearinghouse for the exchange of information
  • organizes mutual support and solidarity to advance common political aims (international standards, national legislation)
  • represents domestic workers at the international level
  • secures the support of the wider labour movement for each of these objectives at the international level

Formation of the IDWN

In November 2006, the FNV (the Federation of Dutch Labour) and the NGO IRENE, together with an international steering group consisting of WIEGO, among others, co-organized an international conference, Respect and Rights: Protection for Domestic Workers, in Amsterdam. Conference participants recommended that a working group explore the formation of an international network. In 2007, it was decided that the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers (IUF) should play a lead role in establishing a network to promote domestic workers’ rights and to lead a campaign for an ILO Convention on domestic work. In 2008, with support from the WIEGO network, the IUF facilitated the establishment of an interim Steering Committee for the Network, the development of an action plan and launched a campaign for an ILO Convention.

In 2009 the Steering Committee was consolidated and the name IDWN adopted. It was agreed that only trade unions and other membership-based organizations of domestic workers have the right of decision making within the IDWN. Organizations that address the issues of domestic workers through research, direct service or advocacy (but do not organize domestic workers as their main activity) and agree with IDWN principles are invited to join the network without voting power. They also agreed on a draft constitution which would need updating in the process of building the network. This process of updating the constitution and formalizing the IDWN began in earnest following the victory at the ILO in June 2011. The IDWN will hold its Founding Congress in Uruguay in October, 2013.

IDWN Activities

The IDWN led the campaign to have the Decent Work for Domestic Workers Convention adopted at the International Labour Conference (ILC) in 2011 (see more about this campaign). From its inception in 2008 through Convention 189's adoption, the IDWN worked globally, along with regional and national domestic workers' organizations, trade unions, NGOs to mobilize workers, and advocate with decision makers in government and unions.

In addition to attending numerous meetings and marches, the IDWN produced informational and advocacy materials such as a pamphlet prepared in advance of ILC 2011: Myths and Realities about Domestic Workers.

The IDWN has embarked on a new phase in its development. With the adoption of Convention 189 it has turned its attention to ensuring the provisions are implemented. The campaign focus is now on getting national governments to ratify the Convention, incorporate its provisions into national legislation and struggle for its implementation. At the same time the Network is consolidating and extending its membership base, developing its structures and working towards its official launch in the near future.

The IDWN launched its website, www.idwn.info, which provides news and information about domestic workers organizing around the world, and about campaigns and activities. It offers the latest publications on domestic workers, as well as resources that organizations can use for their education programmes and organizing activities. 

Other documents:

  • Yes We Did It! (written by Celia Mather and produced by WIEGO and IDWN) is the story of how domestic workers and allies achieved the C189, the Convention for Domestic Workers’ rights. Read it in English or Spanish
  • During the 2010 ILC, the IDWN participated in a side-event with the German Commission for Justice and Peace/Kolping International, International Catholic Center of Geneva (CCIG), Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), Caritas Internationalis, and the International Catholic Migration Commission. They produced Reports on the Rights of Domestic Workers.
  • At Cotonou in August, 2010, participants from Benin, Togo, Niger, Senegal and Burkina-Faso determined to advocate for the adoption of a ILO Convention for Domestic Workers. Read the Cotonou Workshop Statement.
  • IDWN, with IUF and WIEGO, produced Domestic/Household Workers Demand Respect and Rights (also published in Spanish, French, Portuguese, Russian and Chinese).
  • A Platform of Demands was produced for the 2010 ILC.

For more information:

Structure of the IDWN

The IDWN is based at the IUF in Geneva. It has an International Coordinator and four Regional Coordinators: Africa, Latin America, Asia and Caribbean. The regions are represented on the Steering Committee, which is the decision making body of the IDWN, by the following domestic worker organizations:

Africa
South African Domestic, Service and Allied Workers' Union (SADSAWU); regional coordinator Vicky Kanyoka (vickykanyoka@yahoo.co.uk)

Asia
Asian Domestic Workers' Network (ADWN) Regional Coordinator Ip Pui Yu "Fish" (fiship@hotmail.com)

Caribbean
National Union of Domestic Employees (NUDE), Trinidad & Tobago; Regional Coordinator Ida Le Blanc (domestic@tstt.net.tt)

Latin America
Confederación Latinoamericana y del Caribe de Trabajadoras del Hogar (CONLACTRAHO) (Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Household Employees); Regional Coordinator Marcelina Bautista (marce_baumx@yahoo.com.mx)

North America
National Domestic Workers' Alliance (NDWA); Coordinator, Jill Shenker (jillndwa@gmail.com)

Europe
(Interim) FNV Bondgenoten; coordinator Rebecca Pabon (R.Pabon@bg.fnv.nl)

The IDWN is led by a Steering Committee. The leadership roles – chair, vice-chairs, secretary, financial monitor and supervisor of international coordinator – rotate each year. Current information can be found on the IDWN site.

Staff and Technical Support

The IDWN - now the International Domestic Workers' Federation - is supported by the IUF and WIEGO.