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Human Rights Award 2010

Marcelina Bautista Bautista, Mexico

Political context

Articles 23, 24 and 25 of the General Declaration of Human Rights establish the right of every person to a fair wage, social security, reasonable limitation of working hours and regular paid holidays. However, millions of domestic staff, predominantly women, are denied decent working conditions and the protection that goes with them. Domestic service is particularly widespread in Latin America, the region with the most egregious social inequalities. Besides poor and exploitative working conditions domestic workers often have no social insurance. Their right to form trade unions is hindered or even denied. Domestic workers in many countries are not covered by labour legislation, making this excluded occupational group particularly vulnerable to labour and human rights abuses. The ILO aims to adopt a binding international agreement in 2011, laying down minimum standards for »decent« work for domestic employees.

In Mexico, the state of domestic workers’ labour rights is appalling. Around 2 million Mexican women work in households, sometimes in conditions of near-slavery. Since 1930, domestic workers have been calling for an adequate wage and an eight-hour day. Mexican labour still does not recognise domestic service as »work«: it is described as »help« given to the employer, which must be carried out at the latter’s direction. According to some estimates, only around 5 per cent of the 2 million domestic workers have a written contract. Only around 0.01 per cent have social insurance. Apart from the fact that domestic workers have no kind of social protection, because of their status outside the law they often receive less than the statutory minimum wage.

The Award winner

In bestowing its Human Rights Award on Mexican Marcelina Bautista the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung is honouring her commitment to the struggle against the unfair working conditions under which domestic workers – also in other regions – suffer.

Marcelina Bautista is Secretary General of the Confederation of Domestic Workers in Latin America and the Caribbean (Confederación de Latinoamérica y el Caribe de las Trabajadoras del Hogar – CONLACTRAHO) and founder of an advice centre for domestic workers in Mexico (Centro de Apoyo y Capacitación para Empleadas del Hogar – CACEH). In her position as Director of the CACEH advice centre she fights, under difficult conditions, for legal protection and trade union representation for domestic workers in Mexico.

The award ceremony will take place on 2 December 2010 from 15.00 to 18.30 h at House 2 of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Berlin, Hiroshimastr. 28; the laudation will be held by Michael Sommer, President of the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB).

Listen to our interview with the awardee

Further Information:
Reasons for nominating Ms Bautista for the Human Rights Award (PDF) Programme of the Award Ceremony and Panel Discussion Press Release (available only in German) FES Publications on the subject of domestic workers From »Good Spirit« to Employee? Strenghtening Domestic Workers' Employment Rights in Latin America by Katharina Meier, FES Berlin 2010 Open publication as pdf Las otras caras de la crisis von Rebeca Salazar Ramírez und Hilda Salazar Ramírez International Gender and Trade Network, Mexico 2009 Open publication as pdf Guiá de organización sindical von Jorge Robles (Hrsg.), Fundación Friedrich Ebert, Mexico 2009 Open publication as pdf Strenghening Labour Rights in Domestic Work: Experiences from Latin America Mary Rosaria Goldsmith Connelly et al, Fundación Friedrich Ebert Uruguay, 2010 Open publication as pdf Links "Women's Economic Empowerment" - Portrait of the award winner Decent Work for Domestic Workers ITUC on Domestic Work ITUC Interview with Marcelina Bautista Intl. Domestic Workers' Network Women in Informal Employment El Proyecto FES Sindical Regional The Human Rights field at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (in German)