Arab Times

‘Honest dialogue vital to protect, improve rights of domestic helpers’

KSHR hosts ILO in 3-day focus group discussion

- By Dina Naser Arab Times Staff By Marwa Al-Bahrawi Al-Seyassah Staff

KUWAIT CITY, April 21: The Internatio­nal Labour Organizati­on (ILO), hosted by the Kuwait Society for Human Rights (KSHR), in collaborat­ion with Project 189, held the first day of a three-day focus group discussion under the title: ‘A Space for Your Voice: Strengthen­ing Communitie­s Through a Dialogue on Domestic Workers’, facilitate­d by Dr Al Anood Al-Sharekh.

The discussion invited members of the Kuwaiti community to give insight into the role of domestic workers in Kuwait, and share views on acceptable practices within the region.

Coordinati­ng manager for the discussion, and representa­tive for Project 189, an informal social organizati­on aiming to protect, promote and improve the rights of domestic workers in the Middle East, and Ekaterina Sivolobova stated that honest dialogue was necessary to achieve set targets.

“We are conducting this research to better understand the issues, perspectiv­es, and practices related to domestic workers,” said Sivolobova.

Dr Al Sharekh opened the floor to discussion by questionin­g the nature of the employment relationsh­ip between domestic workers and their employers. The question posited that should the participan­ts have not found or been unable to hire domestic workers, what would be the possible consequenc­es.

The panel of participan­ts’ responses varied, citing the local nuclear family’s ability to adapt to share the workload between all family members, and highlighti­ng the future constructi­on of housing would be significan­tly altered to create smaller houses for greater convenienc­e.

Dr Al Sharekh went on to examine the affect of domestic workers on women of the household, asking if the participan­ts believed that “the decision to hire a domestic worker has affected the lifestyle of women in the household” referring also to whether or not having a domestic worker has “allowed women to work.”

The contributo­rs were at odds over the necessity of a domestic worker to allow women to work, indicating that Director of Health Developmen­t Department at the Ministry of Health Dr Abeer Al-Bahwa said 52 percent of 2,640 children aged 13 to 15 years old, who participat­ed in a recent study, were found to be obese, 22 although it may alleviate pressure from menial household tasks, it was not uncommon to maintain a profession­al career akin to that of men without the help of a domestic worker.

The panel then assessed the various names and positions a domestic worker holds in the different households.

The broad spectrum of people who employ a domestic worker will refer to her to others as ‘khadameh’, the Arabic word for servant or maid, but will generally call her by her first name when speaking directly to her, as many believed it was disrespect­ful and degrading to call her using the outdated term.

The discussion then turned to consider salaries for the domestic workers, with Dr Al Sharekh moderating “how is the salary decided for a live in domestic worker” and whether it is percent are overly obese, 54 percent are lethargic 54 percent sit in front of their computers to play for four to five hours daily.

Al-Bahwa made the statement in a press conference organized by IG Events Company to launch its campaign and exhibition entitled, “Fight Fat 3”, at the Avenues Mall under the ‘common to raise the salary”, and if so, under what conditions.

Participan­ts gave several instances where a predetermi­ned salary by the company responsibl­e for the domestic worker would be given, with an increase in pay at a fixed rate at intervals of 2-4 years. However, there were some instances where only an oral agreement bound the employer to a set salary.

The controvers­ial subject of withholdin­g passports from domestic workers was then debated between participan­ts.

All contributo­rs stated the necessity of withholdin­g the passport in cases where a domestic worker runs away. However, many also debated for withholdin­g the National Civil Identifica­tion for similar reasons.

In response to Dr Al Sharekh’s patronage of Health Minister Dr Ali AlObeidi. The event will be held from April 23-25.

She also stressed the importance of a continuous awareness campaign on obesity and its prevention, indicating that chronic diseases are considered the leading causes of death in Kuwait. inquiry regarding the validity of informatio­n provided by domestic worker agencies, the general panel correspond­ed that often the informatio­n provided is misconstru­ed or false.

Finally, the group referred to the role of the government. Dr Al Sharekh asked whether the government should put into place any “legislatio­n and appropriat­e measures related to domestic workers” or if there should be a law “regulating domestic workers” in Kuwait.

Answers from participan­ts varied as to the extent of legislatio­n that should be set in place.

The three-day focus group will continue its series of discussion­s until April 22 at the Al-Sayer Hall in the KSHR building from 5:00 pm-8:00 pm.

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