By Adrian Lo & Lory Jean Yungco
Hundreds of migrants gathered outside City Hall on Sunday as part of the One Billion Rising global solidarity event against exploitation and violence against women in Hong Kong and in their countries of origin. The rally was organised by the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB-IMA-HK) and local womens’ organisations.
Event organisers say that one in three women around the world will face violence in their homes or working environments in their lifetime – amounting to one billion women and girls.
Migrant workers from Indonesia, Philippines, Nepal, and other countries gathered in Central on Sunday for a march, cultural activities, singing, dancing and a performance of a song called Break the Chain.
Organisers called for decisive action to end all forms of violence against women, and were joined by actress and One Billion Rising global director Monique Wilson.
“The OBRR2018 is a platform to expose through speeches and dances the condition of women suffering from all forms of violence against women, including the violence of forced migration and the labor export program,” Sheila Tebia, chairperson of solidarity NGO GABRIELA HK, said.
She added that migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong come from countries suffering from the onslaught of neoliberal policies created by their own government. She referred to policies such as contractualisation, saying that the practice of hiring employees. who render their services for a finite amount of time, effectively prevents women from having permanent jobs and pushes down wages.
This year’s theme, “Solidarity Against the Exploitation of Women,” also encompassed Hong Kong foreign domestic workers’ campaign for the three W’s: wages, working conditions and worker’s rights.
“We dance, rise and unite in solidarity with women in the global OBRR2018 movement, we raise our voices for our rights and dignity against modern-day slavery and neoliberal policies,” Eni Lestari, AMCB-IMA-HK spokesperson, said.
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) February 12, 2018
Female migrant workers are often displaced and separated from their families and loved ones in their home countries.
Lestari said: “We are calling the Hong Kong government to reform the regulations in Hong Kong, we want better accommodation, we want working hours regulation, we want decent food, and we want the right to change our agency. It is enough to put us into the boxes, in the houses of employers, it is enough to treat us like a slave in Hong Kong!”
Advocacy groups say that Hong Kong’s mandatory “live-in rule” for foreign domestic workers sets the stage for abusive working conditions such as long working hours, lack of privacy, and sleep deprivation.
According to Hong Kong law, it is a mandatory requirement that domestic workers “live-in” with their employers. Contractual terms specify only that “suitable” accommodation should be provided.
A recent study by NGO Mission for Migrant Workers conducted among 3,000 foreign domestic workers revealed that three out of five were not provided with adequate accommodation.
One in 50 domestic workers reported that they slept in areas such as toilets, storage rooms, basement, balconies, roofs, closets or sub-divided common spaces. While 57 percent said they had their own room, a third of those surveyed said their room doubled as space for storage or laundry or was also used as an office, study or a room for pets.
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