Published: 04/11/2013

Domestic workers are organizing globally to challenge their public invisibility and slave-like working conditions, and have now transformed their international network IDWN into a worldwide federation. The transformation was decided by representatives of 48 domestic workers’ organizations from 42 countries at the founding congress of the International Domestic Workers’ Federation (IDWF) held in Montevideo, Uruguay October 26-28

During the many workshops participants exchanged experiences with organizing and organization building at national, regional and international levels, the campaign to ratify ILO Convention 189 and enforcement of rights, social protection schemes and collective bargaining. The ideas developed in the workshops were fed into the five- year Action Plan which was adopted unanimously on October 28.

Delegates also adopted the constitution of the new federation and elected an Executive Committee in which each region has a representative. The leadership of the IDWN steering committee received the confidence of the congress to continue as leaders of the IDWF for the next five years: Myrtle Witbooi, SADSAWU, South Africa, President; Ernestina Ochoa, IPROFOTH, Peru, Vice-president; and Elizabeth Tang, Hong Kong, General Secretary.

The IDWF will maintain its close links to the IUF, which provided the organizational basis for the IDWN, and to WIEGO (Women in the Informal Economy Organizing and Globalizing), which has given continuous support. The IDWF will seek the authorization of the IUF governing bodies to establish a special group within the IUF.

With the support of the organizing committee, which included the IUF regional office, the national center PIT-CNT and the domestic workers’ union SUTD, the government of Uruguay declared the Congress an event of national interest. The Congress, which took place in the City Hall, was opened by the mayor of Montevideo and representatives of the government and the trade unions, and was closed by the president of the republic. Uruguay was the first country to ratify Convention 189 and has a well-established domestic workers union, one of the first to negotiate a national collective agreement.

Among the many guests and facilitators were representatives of the ILO, WIEGO, ITUC/ITUC-TUCA, the Latin American regional domestic workers’ network CONLACTRAHO, the Global Labour Institute, Peru’s Flora Tristan Center, the International Federation of Workers Educational Associations and Human Rights Watch.

More information and photos from the Congress are available at