Here is the transcript of our Facebook Live on Thursday 16th April to help our community of migrant domestic workers go through COVID-19 challenges.
Hi everyone, I am Jenely, Uplifters Community Building Officer. I am with Marie, Uplifters Founder and CEO.
Uplifters is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering underprivileged communities with online education and peer support. We offer a free online money management course for domestic workers. You just need to click “ Send Message” on our Facebook page to enrol. https://www.facebook.com/uplifters.community/. This is the fourth episode of our Antivirus series and we are very happy to be here with you tonight.
These are challenging times for all of us, especially for our community. Our objective with this Antivirus Video Live is to reply to your questions if we can or collect them and consult with professionals afterwards so we can answer them later. We also want to just be there together, provide comfort to each other in these difficult situations, we will go through it together. Uplifters is first and foremost a community and we will go through these difficult times with you.
Today we are going to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on your relationship with your employers and how to manage your feelings.
We are happy to have Marites Palma as our guest tonight. She is an Uplifters’ alumni and Uplifters team leader. Team leaders are Uplifters alumni volunteering their time to support new students throughout their studies. Marites has lived in Hong Kong for the past decade as a domestic worker. She is a writer and a founder of the Social Justice for Migrant Workers Facebook page. It is a platform for domestic workers who seek social rights, justice and opportunities to help each member while working abroad. Marites was also awarded by the Philippine Consulate in Hong Kong, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office for her positive impact on Hong Kong’s migrant domestic worker community. She is an alumni of the Resolve foundation and a passionate advocate for migrant workers’ rights and gender-based violence.
Hi Marites, welcome to our live broadcast. Thank you so much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it. Your thoughts and guidance is important to us.
Are there any changes in the relationships of domestic workers with their employers? What are the effects of these changes on their working relationships?
Marites: There are changes in the relationships of domestic workers with their employers. It is either positive or negative. There are employers that have been really kind and other employers who have been difficult to work with throughout this pandemic.
You mentioned, “employers becoming good”. Do you have examples in mind?
Marites: Yes, they know how to tackle the situation and they help you cope. They help you to do something at home and they do not just rely on you. Some employers do not even give a mask or hand sanitizer or enough food and rest. How can they be healthy to fight COVID if they are sick? Some employers do not allow their domestic workers to go outside, even if they want to buy food or send money back home.
What is your advice to domestic workers who are facing this situation?
Marites: Many domestic workers are negatively affected. However, for me, acceptance of the situation with deep understanding is the key to settle these feelings. I can give five tips to stay positive in negative situations. First, we need to shift our mindset because negative situations contain a learning experience. Number two is getting support so you won’t have to deal with a negative situation alone. You can share with your loved ones or to your friends. Number three is to focus on what you can control and let go of what you cannot control. Number four is to practice self-compassion. Number five is to remember that this situation will pass.
Since the outbreak started, many domestic workers have been sad that they are not allowed to take a day off, even though their employers are free to go out whenever they want. What would you advise domestic workers?
Marites: Many domestic workers are not allowed to take their day off. My advice is to talk to your employers nicely. We need to accept their opinion about the situation but remind them of our rights as domestic workers. Remind them that we are also human beings and we need to rest just like them. We need to rest in order for us to be happy because if we are not happy we cannot serve their family well. We need to be physically and emotionally rested.
What we’ve heard a lot since COVID-19 started is that people, in general, found out that they all have a very different definition of what common sense is. It can be frustrating because not everyone thinks the same way.
Marites: Everybody wants to be safe. Employers tend to emphasize that they need to wear a mask and bring hand sanitizer wherever they go and to always wash their hands to be safe.
We have been hearing that some domestic workers complain that their employers are not taking enough precautions, have you heard this as well?
Marites: Yes, some employers don’t let domestic workers go outside but the employers invite other people to come to their house. It’s unfair, right? They won’t let you go but to the market. In the market, there are a lot of people and you don’t know where they come from and it’s really a difficult situation. Some domestic workers are happy staying at home as they have TV and internet. However, for those who are not happy, they preferred to go home and terminate their contract.
It’s not only the stress of not being able to go out but it’s also the stress of having a different routine. Employers stay home to work and you have to take care of the children for the entire day because they don’t go to school anymore. Just to change your habits is difficult. What is your advice for that?
Marites: Communication is the key to better understand each other. Good communication is essential in building a positive workplace. We need to show gratitude and appreciation for their care towards us and maintain their level of expectation from us. Honesty is also needed. If we are telling the truth then our employer will always trust us.
For example, I’ve heard that one of our members is feeling so stressed because she can’t do her work as well as before. She said that she used to tidy up the house but now she has to take care of all the children and she has to cook for everybody. It’s just very stressful for her because she doesn’t like it when the house is messy. She was keeping all of this bottled up inside herself and it putting a lot of stress in her shoulders as she would not dare tell her employer that maybe she needs to change her routine.
Marites: Everything changes and we need to accept it. The situation changed because of Covid-19. The situation at home also changed. We just need to understand why we are doing these things and the reason our employers are making the decisions that they make. They are also stressed. We need to open our hearts to them so they can understand what they can do for us. Try to have an open communication with them.
We admire your advocacy and your passion for social justice. Why is this important to you? How can each of us help and contribute to social justice?
Marites: Social justice is very important to me because it is for the welfare of everyone in our community. It leads to satisfaction and pleasure of life, as well as respect to leaders. It is important that people who are treated unjustly that they will rise to seek social justice. Amid the uncertainty and chaos around the globe, it takes courage for us to stand up for what we think is right. Gandhi reminded us in words and action that you must be the change you wish to see in the world. Now is the time to stand united and practice social justice for a better community for all.
How can we contribute to social justice?
Marites: First by spreading empowering information. Listen more. Be courteous and be open to hearing what others think and feel. Have a volunteering spirit, sparing some time to help others in need. Having a volunteering spirit is food for the soul. Support each other so we can inspire others to speak up and ask for help to organizations and individuals they are entrusting to us for help.