Hivos Southern Africa

Southern Africa

Hivos at the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women

The vast majority of women work in informal sectors, and we are seeing an increasing feminisation of labour migration, both of which raise opportunities as well as challenges for women’s economic empowerment. With this year's theme, Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work, the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61) is the moment to give voice to migrant women in domestic work and women at the low end of value chains, like horticulture.

Since women’s work in informal economies is often regarded as having little or no meaningful economic value, and is frequently not or not fully visible, women are easily exploited and their labour rights violated. The invisibility of their work means that compliance with labour laws cannot be verified, let alone improved.

Worldwide, 7.5 per cent of women are in paid employment doing domestic work, and in the vast majority of countries domestic workers are not covered by labour laws, even though domestic work forms a substantial part of the informal economy.

At this year’s CSW61, Hivos wants to intensify dialogues on securing rights and protection for women in informal work and to highlight the impact of illicit financial flows on women and girls in Africa in particular.

On 13 March 2017, 08:30-10:00 at the Community Church Center, Gallery Room, New York, Hivos’ Women’s Empowerment Team, together with the Programme for Women’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, will host a parallel event on female migrants in domestic work titled “I work without Rights, Do you care?”. While the difficult circumstances that push women into global care work and the crippling isolation they suffer as migrants are acknowledged in international rights instruments, much more needs to be done to achieve the goals of "safe and responsible migration policies" and "decent working conditions" for migrant domestic workers as stated in SDG 8.

The UN Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, will deliver the keynote speech.  This gathering brings together governments, domestic workers, CSOs and international trade unions in one panel discussion. The session is intended to highlight the realities of female migrants in domestic work by stressing the importance of the recognition of domestic work as part of women’s economic empowerment.  

Strategies aimed at ensuring rights, protection and breaking the isolation of migrant domestic workers will be discussed by the International Domestic Workers Federation and the International Trade Union Confederation. We will provide a platform for trade unions, NGOs, politicians, experts and international policy makers to share lessons learned on economic empowerment of migrant domestic workers. Together we aim at ending up with a concrete action plan to ensure rights and protection for migrant domestic workers, using among others Hivos’ Shelter Me project as an example.

For more information about the session, please see the invitation (pdf) in the right sidebar. The event will be held at the Community Church of New York (see map).

On 14 March 2017, 12:30 - 14:00, at the Armenian Cultural Centre Room: Vartan Hall, Hivos will join a panel discussion convened by FEMNET, discussing Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs).  These are defined as the unrecorded and mostly untaxed illicit leakage of capital and resources out of a country. Increasingly, Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) is an issue that cannot be ignored by CSOs and policy makers  because it  has featured prominently in the SDGs, FFD3, UNCTAD as a key financing issue that needs urgent redress mechanisms. Specifically. women’s voices are minimal in policy discussions around trade, and resource allocation and mobilising women to engage in the discourse on IFFs has been a challenge. 

Hivos’ perspective relates to the opaque tax concessions granted by Southern governments to businesses and the poor financial accountability along global horticultural value chains, both of which contribute to a lopsided benefit-sharing model across the value chain actors. Hivos will seek to demonstrate the difficulties occasioned by this phenomena in the broad discussions of a value chain living wage, and as regards the government’s role in providing social amenities for vulnerable communities in labour catchment areas and, particularly, its impact on the woman worker.