A new documentary on Hong Kong’s domestic workers has gotten off to a strong start, raising US $12,430 in the first few days of its Kickstarter campaign.
The film’s makers hope to shed light on the “sacrifices and struggles of migrant domestic helpers working to create a better future”.
The documentary will follow a choir of domestic workers in Hong Kong called the “Unsung Heroes” as they prepare to perform “I Wish I Could Kiss You Goodnight”, a song about leaving their children behind to provide them with a better life.
The Domestic Workers Roundtable (DWRT), a conglomeration of domestic workers NGOs and interest groups formed in 2014 (including Hong Kong Helpers Campaign), has announced a delegation to Manila to meet with counterparts to discuss illegal agency fees, loan sharks, and access to justice for abused domestic workers in Hong Kong.
The delegation, led by Legislative Councilwoman Emily Lau of the Democratic Party will arrive in Manila on August 2 for four days of talks. Supporting her are Allan Bell, Chairperson of the DWRT and David Bishop, co-founder of the Fair Employment Agency, an organisation for migrant workers in Hong Kong that charges them no fees for job placement.
The term “domestic helper” has achieved near-universality in Hong Kong, but not all “helpers” are happy with its connotations of subservience.
In a recent survey conducted by HK Helpers Campaign in Central and Victoria Park, 72 per cent (60 out of 83) foreign domestic workers from the Philippines and Indonesia said they preferred to be called “domestic worker” instead of “domestic helper.” Those preferences are at odds with the terminology used by the government and major newspapers like the South China Morning Post, which exclusively use “helper.”
Activists and NGOs say “helper” suggests a lower and unequal role for workers, even while advocacy groups like the Campaign continue to feature it in their titles because it is more recognizable.
Domestic worker agencies in Hong Kong have a long history of charging exorbitant or illegal fees to recruit domestic workers from overseas. However, a handful of ethical agencies have emerged in recent years to set a bold new precedent: no fees to workers, only employers. Most visibly, there was the Fair Employment Agency (FEA), founded by HKU professor David Bishop and Scott Stiles. While other agencies drive domestic workers into debt bondage in practically open defiance of the law, FEA, a nonprofit, has set out to restore ethics to a business model that forsook them long ago.
The International Labour Organization is hosting a photo exhibition entitled “No one should work this way”, to highlight the plight of domestic workers who have been abused during their time working in Hong Kong and beyond. The exhibition runs until July 31, 2015 at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Central.
‘Beth’, now 20, from rural Philippines, abused in Manila.
“My employer would bang my head on the wall and she would throw hot water on me. She would burn my skin with cigarettes. She said this was the punishment for my sins.”
Among the professionals who went to work this Sunday were counsellors, chiropractors, Taekwondo instructors, and a dentist. But they did not go to their offices. Instead they set up shop beneath tents on Chater Road, offering their services for free to domestic workers enjoying their day off
They were there as part of “Give Care to Caregivers Day,” organised by the Mission for Migrant Workers (MFMW) and held three to four times a year. Started in 2011, the event is designed as a way for the people of Hong Kong to show appreciation for domestic workers and the work they perform.
Hong Kong’s Filipino community celebrated the 117th anniversary of the Philippine Independence Day on Sunday along a main stretch of Central’s Chater Road.
The all-day programme included a marching band, troupes of men and women in tribal-wear, folk dances and singing, and even a visit from Bishop John Tong of St. John’s Cathedral. The celebration came a day after the country’s officially recognised date of independence on June 12th, in order to coincide with domestic workers’ Sunday rest day.
My Life in a Box tells the story of two young mothers that live together, have faced similar losses, and yet inhabit worlds that could not be further apart.
For Good have brought together NGOs and domestic workers for a kitsch music video extravaganza – a local take on ‘We Are Family’ by Sister Sledge. Hk Helpers Campaign, Christian Action, Fair Employment Agency, Filreflex, Komadrona, St. John’s HIV Education Centre, The Grace Notes, Unsung Heroes, and dozens of individuals took part on Migrants Health Matters Day earlier this month.