Red Thread to launch self-help support service for domestics

Red Thread organisation will later this month launch the Cora and Clotil Self-help Information and Support Service for domestic workers and other low-waged women. 

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SEPTEMBER 17, 2013 · BY STAFF WRITER · Stabroek News

The organisation made the announcement yesterday in a statement issued to welcome Guyana’s ratification of ILO Convention #189, which recognises domestic workers as workers.

But it warned, “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 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.”

According to Red Thread, training has already been received from an official of the TUC in the laws governing wages and conditions for low-waged workers in Guyana. On September 7 and 8, the organisation 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 7 because that date was chosen by Caribbean Domestic Workers Network (CDWN) to honour Clotil Walcott, who was the founder of the National Union of Domestic Employees (NUDE) of Trinidad and Tobago. Walcott, who died in 2007, had worked tirelessly to win recognition for domestic workers in T&T and the region.

Red Thread said it chose to set up the service in Walcott’s name and in the name of Cora Belle, another grassroots woman fighter and former domestic worker. Belle, who was a founder member of Red Thread in 1986, died one year ago on September 9. Belle had met Walcott in Guyana when she came here at the invitation of Red Thread to meet domestic workers.

The release noted that it was Walcott’s work in T&T “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.”

It added that, “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.”

Red Thread noted that Guyana was the first country in the region to ratify ILO Convention #189, which the CDWN, of which Red Thread is a member, has also been lobbying for in T&T, Jamaica, Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados and St Lucia. The next step now for Guyana is implementation.

http://www.stabroeknews.com/2013/news/stories/09/17/red-thread-to-launch...

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