This project aimed at improving the conditions of migrant domestic workers in Europe and raising awareness of the issue.
This project has used the innovative method of forum theatre with groups of Migrant Domestic Workers across Europe in the RESPECT network very successfully. The MDWs taking part have been empowered to tell their stories, to learn drama skills and to create 'scenes' or a short play showing their collective experiences. Through using the technique of forum theatre, solutions have been offered and tried out in the safe space of the 'stage'. The project has created the opportunity for MDWs to learn new skills and to develop self-confidence, body language and eye contact. Through the performances of the theatre, the Transnational Conference, the media coverage (including a slot on CNN 'Inside Europe') many decision-makers and others have come to know of the situation for MDWs across Europe, and have pledged to help support the fight for rights for MDWs.
Migrant women are mostly employed in private households in Europe. Research carried out during the 1999/2000 Respect Project demonstrated that migrant domestic workers across Europe suffer from a similar range of violence (physical, verbal, sexual, racist) which remains invisible and unreported. These workers, usually women, do not have information about services available or are too scared to approach them, and many services are not open to undocumented women. Even when the women have the support of organisations, they feel isolated in the private households and fear to confront the abusive situations or their employers.
The project comprised a number of distinct actions:
· empowering migrant domestic workers from five Member States to define and discuss violence, and develop strategies for recognising, reporting and managing violence, through drama and role-playing training, workshops, performance and feedback (Kalaayan’s task);
· using the dramas created for public awareness raising;
· producing a video of the project and performance, as a tool for workshops and awareness raising;
· producing a publicity pack and other materials to spread awareness further;
· organising an EU-level conference to disseminate lessons and results from the project;
· reinforcing the RESPECT network working on migrant domestic work issues (set up in earlier Daphne Initiative projects);
· lobbying on this issue at EU level (Solidar’s primary task).
The pilot drama workshop was held in London, UK. With the participants, all migrant domestic workers themselves, a modele of the workshop was produced to be transferable to other European countries. Three experts worked with 20 migrant domestic workers, using the medium of theatre and role-play to explore relevant issues, to improve the participants' ability to negotiate with employers, and to enable them to deal with potentially abusive situations. The stories of the experiences of the participating domestic workers were brought together and one main plot was formed with ‘Ana' as the protagonist. Based on the UK model, theatre workshops were then held in Athens, Paris, Madrid and Amsterdam, using the same games, exercises and techniques as in the UK.
A workshop was originally planned to take place in the European Parliament, but it proved to be too difficult to organise. Since, on the occasion of the Belgian Presidency of the EU, SOLIDAR had already raised awareness of the situation in different forums organised in Brussels, it was decided to hold the workshop in Madrid, Spain, instead.
A 15-minute video was produced which shows the theatre process and the activities during the UK workshop. The video was translated into French, Spanish, Italian and German and distributed to all RESPECT network partners to be used to disseminate the experience of this project and to raise awareness among the public. It was presented to the Multimedia World Forum held in Rome in November 2001.
A competition was held among migrant domestic workers across the UK to design a logo for a project T-shirt. The winning design shows a circle of female migrant domestic workers surrounding two theatre masks that declare “Migrant Domestic Workers: Acting Together'. The logo was printed on a T-shirt, together with the RESPECT logo and the EU flag mentioning the support of the Daphne Programme. 200 T-shirts were printed and given to participants in the project.
A transnational conference: “Migrant Domestic Workers: Acting Together' was organized in London. Participants came from the RESPECT network, migrant domestic workers, NGOs, trade unions, MPs, MEPs, international organisations, and interested individuals. Reports on the workshops were handed out to all participants.
The conference was covered by the media. In fact, throughout this project RESPECT was given a high profile. This was also a result of participating in a number of important European conferences and meetings.
1. This successful project nevertheless gave rise to an interesting lesson about organising partnerships and sustainability: Solidar submitted the proposal while Kalaayan in fact did most of the work implementing the project. This was decided because both organisations are linked through the RESPECT network but Kalaayan does not have sufficient resources to prepare and administer EU projects. Solidar therefore undertook to submit an application, provide administrative assistance and undertake lobbying on this issue at EU level. This was a valid partnership. However, it raises the question of what this means for the sustainability of the project. Solidar did not wish to continue, after the end of the project, to take a core management role either of a follow-up to this project or of the RESPECT network, since its own resources were stretched. Kalaayan was too small to prepare and administer EU projects, although it continues its work in this area at a national level. These are difficult challenges to meet. It is important, though, if the results of a project are to be sustainable, that thought is given to how such issues will be addressed even at the planning stage.
2. Part of the stress on Solidar came from the difficulties involved in working with EU programmes that expect the NGO to work for up to a year against the promise of eventual reimbursement. This is an ongoing problem for many small and medium-sized NGOs and needs to be taken into account when a project submission is prepared.
- Website: http://www.solidar.org (section migrant workers)
- RESPECT Noticeboard newsletter about the project 'acting together' (English, French, Spanish, Italian, German)
- Briefing note on lobbying (English, French, Spanish, Italian, German)
- Briefing note on EU policy on migration and asylum (English and Spanish).