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Getting to know the Domestic Workers’ Movement in México through CACEH

A few weeks ago CARE’s Impact Growth Strategies teams visited México during a global meeting which was arranged in order to discuss the challenges and learnings of these regional initiatives over the past year.

During these days we had the opportunity to meet with CACEH (Domestic Workers Support and Training Center) and SINACTRAHO (National Domestic Workers Union), partners of the Impact Growth Strategy in Latin America and the Caribbean – the Equal Value Equal Rights program.

People from different parts of the world, Asia, West Africa, and Southern Africa gather together to learn more about the Equal Value, Equal Rights program, which seeks to advance the rights of millions of domestic workers in the region. Equal Value, Equal Rights is a regional initiative that currently is being implemented in Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. In México, although CARE does not have an office, the program has managed great advancements along our partners, CACEH and SINACTRAHO.

CACEH is an organization that has been running since 1988 and which seeks to empower domestic workers in México through technical, professional and political training.  It is from CACEH that SINACTRAHO’s domestic workers are trained to achieve social dialogue with key actors in order to demand and guarantee their human and labor rights.

On the first day we had a chance to visit them, we went to SINACTRAHO’s office, a fist holding a telephone was located outside their building. It was the symbol from the telefonistas[1] syndicate. We did not enter the building yet this gave us a sense of the country’s long struggle for education, land rights, labor rights, and popular mobilization in spite of the government’s violent repression. Going up the fifth floor a wall was painted with two fists, each holding brushes and a hammer, the clenched fists, symbols of unity, strength, defiance and resistance were present throughout our visit.

CACEH had prepared a timeline in which they showed us their work. Since 1988, domestic workers in México started organizing in order to denounce the abuses they endured, at first they gathered together in parks on Sundays, they did not have a space nor the means to get one any time soon. However, in 2000, Marcelina Bautista, founder of CACEH was able to support some domestic workers through the MacArthur Scholarship for political learning – during this time they were able to provide political training for 40 domestic workers in México. Their work was hampered sometime after the scholarship ended, “we didn’t have money nor knew how to apply for projects and so some associates left”, explained Marcelina. In 2005, through Fondo Semillas[1] they were able to get other funds to continue their project and a year later Marcelina joined as the general secretary for CONLACTRAHO(Confederation of Domestic Workers for Latin America and the Caribbean), they were established as a movement for domestic workers and a model of regions like Asia and Africa.

“We were afraid, we were on the streets, trying to make our work visible, but we were afraid to shout anything during a protest”

Although, CACEH’s work was more visible, they were still afraid of being seen on the streets, or shouting during protests, “we were afraid, we were on the streets, trying to make our work visible, but we were afraid to shout anything during a protest”, explained Marcelina. This has changed a lot, now domestic workers are seen and recognized as a strong block during demonstrations, they march alongside large syndicalist groups, every year on the 1st of May.

CACEH meets on Sundays every two weeks with domestic workers to provide training on human rights, violence, human development, unions’ rights, and unions in general. Their work with the media has been key to position their demands, especially regarding the ILO 189 convention, which aims to set dignifying labor standards for all domestic workers. They have run international and regional campaigns to press governments to ratify this convention, like the campaign in 2014 “Our Rights Have No Borders”, which got media support and government support in word, however no policy.

In 2016, CACEH started working with CARE and helped the organization connect with similar domestic workers’ group in countries like Colombia and Brazil. Their partnership with CARE has allowed them to build their capacity and train promoters across five states in the country. CARE has become a key ally for CACEH, promoting and supporting regional spaces and platforms where different domestic workers’ organizations can exchange, debate and position demands.

During this first meeting we were able to meet other of their key allies like the journalist and writer, Ricardo Rafael, members from Hogar Justo Hogar – an organization found by employers focused in changing the conception of domestic work among employers themselves, academics like Mary Goldsmith – key in the research of domestic work in the region, and members of Méxicos Posibles, a platform which seeks to build trust through dialogue and listening between different civil society actors.

Ponte los guantes por los derechos de las trabajadoras del hogar. Members of CARE’s team wearing the gloves “for domestic workers’ rights”

Later on that afternoon, we were able to see CACEH and SINACTRAHO’s work first hand. We were invited to the Mexican Senate to a Cuarto de Paz “Peace Room” – where domestic workers, congresswomen, journalists, employers, NGOs, diplomats and members of the media discussed the domestic work pending agenda.

Conversations ranged from the perceptions of the film ROMA, to the social security pilot program for domestic workers, which was about to be launched in the country. They all discussed CACEH as a benchmark for domestic work in the country. After 20 years of struggle and resistance, domestic work is seen as a historic debt, a pending agenda, an agenda that proposes changes that are not only dignifying for domestic workers but “that are helping the country bring change and dignify the work for all women” as Tania Turner, from Fondo Semillas expressed during the senate session. 

There is no doubt that CACEH’s perseverance and determination have been pivotal in the positioning of the domestic workers’ agenda in several sectors. Their work has been able to get amplified by Alfonso Cuarón’s recent film, ROMA, which has helped them further in their agenda. On our second day with CACEH and SINACTRAHO, we were able to watch the film with them and discuss it afterwards with them. Roma is a film that, although set in the 1970s, represents a reality that is still holds accurate for many domestic workers in the country, and the region.

Roma is a film that stars Cleo, a young Mixtec domestic worker employed by a middle-class family in the neighborhood Roma, in the midst of the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s (PRI) dominance and patronage, the student Tlatelolco massacre, and violence in the country side over land, class, gender and race relationships are analyzed and questioned. CACEH and SINACTRAHO have been using the film to raise awareness among domestic workers, employers, members of the senate, in universities and in various different spaces. The film, has allowed them to broaden the conversation regarding the discrimination domestic workers and indigenous people are subject to in the country.

“In so many ways we were like Cleo but we are not like her anymore because now we know our rights and we can demand them”, expressed Marcelina.

If you wish to know more about CACEH you can visit their webpage: here

Or donate to their project: here


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