NEWS – The NGO Training Hong Kong’s Helpers in Financial Literacy 2

For most people, work ends after they leave the office, cram into the MTR to head home or to meet friends or family for dinner. For Hong Kong’s domestic workers, reprieve from work happens only on Sundays, when the women have 24 hours each week to be themselves. For most women, this involves relaxing, running errands, or chatting with friends in the park. Most people would not choose to spend four hours of their sole day off in a one-room office in Sheung Wan learning how to budget and plan their finances.

Yet that is exactly what dozens of women who attend Enrich’s financial literacy programs do. This particular Sunday, the women are attending a basic financial literacy course, which promises to teach the women the necessities of saving and making smart decisions with their money.

Domestic workers meet at Enrich on Sunday

Domestic workers meet at Enrich on Sunday

Enrich offers several programs, including business development, assertive communication, and asset building – to huge success. Of their participants, 93% express greater confidence in managing debt and 100% say they are in a better financial position than before the course.

Ping Bevan, a bubbly woman from Bangkok, points the women towards dozens of cards neatly laid out on a desk that describe goals such as “I’d like to be able to support my family/parents” and “I’d like to stop worrying about money every day.”


NEWS: A Break Through? Judge in Erwiana Case Calls for Review of Live-in Rule 2

Friday morning Law Wan-tung, the 44-year-old housewife who was found guilty of abusing Erwiana Sulistyaningsih and Tutik Lestari Ningsih, was sentenced to 6 years in prison.

Speaking in the Wan Chai District Court early Friday, the Honourable Judge Amanda Woodcock made ground-breaking statements slamming the live-in rule and collection of illegal agency fees as having facilitated Erwiana’s abuse.

Judge Amanda Woodcock on the 'live in rule'

Judge Amanda Woodcock on the ‘live in rule’

“In my view, such conduct could be prevented if domestic workers were not forced to live in their employers’ homes,” Judge Woodcock said. “The choice would make all the difference.”


BLOG – HK Helpers Campaign Recommends Two Must-Read Articles

HK Helpers Campaign commends the South China Morning Post team behind the new multimedia project A maid’s tale: The story of one woman’s struggle to become a domestic helper.’

What Hong Kong’s domestic worker community go through is rarely documentary so comprehensively. This first-rate piece of journalism tells the story from start-to-finish.

Reporting
Kristine Servando

Video and reporting
Robin Fall

Editing
Alex Millson
Patrick Boehler


Hong Kong Agency that Placed Erwiana Still Allowed to Recruit Domestic Workers 1

Chan’s Asia Employment Agency, which placed Erwiana with her employer Law Wan-tung, is still recruiting Indonesian helpers to place in Hong Kong homes. Erwiana was placed with her employer after two previous domestic workers left within six weeks and six months respectively. The Hong Kong Labour Department stated that it found “insufficient evidence” that Chan’s Asia had violated regulations under the Labour Department.

Ms. Lo Fung Chi was the manager of Chan’s Asia Recruitment Agency during the time in question and was a witness for the prosecution that helped find Law Wan-tung guilty of abusing Erwiana and another domestic worker. She left Chan’s Asia shortly after police took her statement in April of last year.

6CcYZsq.jpg (655×130)

On Erwiana’s contract, Chan’s Asia Employment Agency was named as her employer. Defence lawyers for Law told the court that the agency had kept both Erwiana’s passport and HKID, though the agency denied that it kept Erwiana’s documents. During the trial, the court heard that in order to send Erwiana home to Indonesia, Law lied to the agency, telling them she was taking Erwiana on a trip to China, in order to retrieve her documents from them.

The Honourable Judge Amanda Woodcock found that the testimony of two agents was “measured and deliberate” and served to avoid implicating themselves in any criminal wrong-doing.


EDITORIAL – Erwiana is Not An Isolated Case, It’s The Tip of the Iceberg

As featured in the South China Morning Post.

The former employer of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih was convicted in the District Court on Tuesday of a multitude of violent crimes that left the Indonesian domestic helper a shell of her former self. The physical and psychological abuse she endured was horrific. She had little left in terms of her physical integrity and fought hard to hold onto her humanity.

Yet, since Erwiana’s case came to light barely a year ago, the Hong Kong government has taken little to no action to constructively address the inequities, discrimination and risks that foreign domestic helpers face.

The government continues to hold to the status quo position, arguing that the prevailing policies, legislation, administration and due diligence practices do not require any real change. Erwiana’s case exposed blatant shortcomings of the system, which regulates and supposedly protects foreign domestic helpers. And yet the government has been reluctant to take concrete steps to provide greater protection.

It is apparent that the government has treated Erwiana’s case as a one-off incident, a statistical outlier. It apparently continues to fail to recognise that Erwiana’s case is one of a multitude of cases of abuse of varying degrees suffered by foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong. Such abuses include non-payment or partial payment of wages, denial of statutory holidays, psychological abuse, intimidation, and acts of violence, including sexual violence.

An Amnesty International report published in late 2013 found that almost 60 per cent of all foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong were subjected to verbal abuse by their employers. Almost 20 per cent suffered violence at the hands of their employers and, in 2014, the Equal Opportunities Commission found that 6.5 per cent suffered sexual abuse.


NEWS – Justice Served: Former Employer found Guilty on 18 Charges

The packed court room broke into applause after Judge Amanda Woodcock convicted Hong Kong woman Law-Wan-tung on 18 charges for inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent, assault and criminal intimidation of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih and Tutik Lestari Ningsih.

0hHfR3U.jpg (1024×576)

“I am sure she (Erwiana) was telling the truth,” said Judge Woodcock as she read her findings the room full of journalists, activists, and friends. “I believe her testimony in its entirety,” citing credibility as a crucial issue in her findings.

“When she left Hong Kong, she was a shadow of her former self,” said Judge Woodcock, citing Erwiana’s sunken eyes, swollen eyes and faces and wounds. Some of Erwiana’s injuries were caused by prolonged exposure to water and cleaning solutions, however over a dozen other injuries were not accounted for by this explanation. The attempt by the defense to pass Erwiana’s skin problems off as acne were “desperate and fanciful constructions,” said Woodcock.


INTERVIEW – ‘No One is Just a Worker': Exclusive Interview with Author Nicole Constable on Hong Kong’s Domestic Workers

Dr. Nicole Constable, the author of ‘Born out of Place’ and ‘Maid to Order in Hong Kong’, shares her research on Hong Kong’s domestic workers. She discusses their struggles to maintain a balance between family life and work, the decision some domestic workers make to work illegally in Hong Kong, and the social exclusion and discrimination they often face.  

Dr. Nicole Constable

Dr. Nicole Constable

HK Helpers: A premise of your book is how difficult it is for domestic workers to be both a good worker and a good wife/mother/daughter. How does the requirement that domestic workers ‘live-in’ affect the family life of domestic workers even when they are already far from home?

Nicole Constable: It depends a lot on the conditions of the live in situation. If the situation is good and the worker has time off and privacy and enough hours to sleep and the ability to keep in touch with a family back home, it sometimes isn’t too bad – especially if she is being paid her legal salary. If she has, in the worst situation, no privacy and is not allowed to use a phone or contact her children or spouse during the week, it can be a serious problem for them. It means they don’t have the same support network and they are not as happy as they would be as workers if they were able to live out or have more privacy and time to themselves.

If they were able to live out, it wouldn’t be as much of a problem because they can keep in touch with family members regularly on their own, without someone overhearing what they’re saying or misinterpreting their tone of voice. The contact with people back home is such an important source of support and pleasure and the well-being of workers that if they were able to have live out or have better conditions as live-in, they would better balance the life of being a worker and still being a family member at home.

The problem is, often they are expected to be workers 24-7 or be on call as workers 24-7 and the live in situation perpetuates that kind of set-up. If they were allowed to live out, I think potentially they would be much better and much happier workers that have more balanced lives.

HKH: Did the women you interviewed complain about their living conditions in Hong Kong?

NC: My earlier book, Maid to Order in Hong Kong, was based partly on interviews with them and speaking with women at the Mission for Migrant workers and I heard many, many, many complaints about work conditions and housing conditions and I saw many pictures of very unpleasant places where people were forced to sleep. I kept in touch with many different organizations and people in the wider domestic worker community that had a lot of access to what I would consider very inappropriate housing.


BLOG – ‘Live-in’ Rule Hurts Helpers & Employers 8

This week, 20 immigration officers visited Ma Wan village on Park Island to arrest four domestic workers, whose crime was living under a different roof than their employers.

Two employers of one of the women were also arrested and later released on bail. The male employer told the South China Morning Post: “Some employers that have a live-in nanny make them work up to 18 hours a day and some I know don’t even get a day off.”

An immigration officer reported that the four women were arrested on suspicion of making false representations to an immigration officer. Under clause three of the standard employment contract, both parties agree that the domestic worker will live at the same premises as the employer.

According to the Hong Kong Labour Department, infringing clause three is akin to making a false representation to an immigration officer, and carries a maximum punishment of $150,000 in fines and 14 years in prison. Domestic workers accused of the same could be black-listed and deported. By contrast, in the recent trial against a local Hong Kong employer for grievous bodily harm with intent, the accused faces a maximum jail time of seven years if found guilty.


EVENT – ‘The Vagina Monologues’ – in support of HK Helpers Campaign

We are very pleased and proud to announce that all ticket proceeds from this year’s V-Day performance of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ will go directly to HK Helpers Campaign. Thank you to the producers, actresses and crew for volunteering their time for this event.

Performances will be held between February 11th and 14th at 8pm each night at the Premium Sofa Club, 212-216 Wing Lok Street (West Side) Basement, Fui Nam Building, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong [Map].

Tickets available now online for HK$200 (or $250 on the door). All proceeds will go to support HK Helpers Campaign’s three, simple, winnable campaign points.