UPDATE: As promised, here is Milagros Navarra's speech from the opening of The Grand Domestic Revolution

For context, see previous BLOG post: 



The Journey of Justice for Domestic Worker (J4DW)
Speaker: Mila Navarra


  1. Part of my personal letter
  2. Background of J4DW
  3. Problems encountered by DW
  4. Solutions and Activities - explanation of our Art work
  5. Workshop
  6. Poem

“If not only for my greatest love for you I would not have worked abroad as life here is not a bed of roses as people think and assume of.  It entails a lot of hardship in order for one to survive.”

Ladies and Gentlemen these are the first few lines of my first letter to my family.

I’ve been a member of Justice for Domestic Worker (J4DW) for quite some time. I came to know the J4DW in the year 2012. And I join the organisation. Basically, J4DW was established on March 2009. It’s been four (4) years of its existence.  J4DW is an organisation of migrant Domestic Workers who are working in private houses in the United Kingdom. We are mainly women but we also have male members.  We came from different nationalities- countries like Philippines, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Nigeria and others and yes, we came from different background yet we unite ourselves with one mission and vision to form a group that would cater or address our needs, problems and dream. We were driven by poverty from our countries of birth. We seek to support ourselves and give our families a decent livelihood. Along with our journey; however we experience slavery, inequality and discrimination. Wherein fact, some of us had escaped from abusive employers, we were left with no choice - as it was our only means of surviving. As an individual we are weak, we have little voice. We were often unable to exercise our own freedom and rights.  Our passport were taken from us by employers, we were made to work long hours sometimes without pay, our salaries were often delayed, we suffered verbal abuse and physical assault, severe mental threats and sexual harassment.  

I could just recall those countless sleepless nights I had as a domestic worker under a diplomatic household. I have no rights to change employer. Hence, I have to be patient. I was often threatened by my security of tenure especially when I was about to renew my visa. And worst the sexual harassment. I was coward at that time and never speak about it. I just close my eyes for fear of losing my job. It took me some time to recover those fears I had but luckily I was thankful I found J4DW and for my GP therapy as it had help me a lot in regaining my trust and confidence to myself and to others. Justice for Domestic Workers has indeed played a vital role in my recovery.

Finding one another and sharing our experiences is a great refuge. Together we unite to campaign for our freedom, rights and justice. Migrant Domestic Workers continue to seek recognition for our contribution as carers to children, elders and  household management. In fact J4DW won as Finalist for Campaigner for Social Justice  Year Award 2013. We contribute to the British economy and society.  We continue to search for ways to overcome our isolation and vulnerability and we demand respect as workers and as human beings. It is very degrading to note that we are seen by others as little. I remembered one of the comments in Facebook about us housemaids. This was in connection with the current Miss World pageant. The comment goes to wit: ….I did not know those maids have anything else in them.  They are poor, smelly, cleaning toilets and uneducated. They are less privilege everywhere. Oh yes, we maybe smelly because of cleaning toilets but we also have the right even to win a beauty pageant as well;  as our beauty comes from within.

In April 2012, however, new legislation was introduced denying future migrant domestic workers their rights as workers.  The maximum stay is 6 months, with no right to change employer.  This makes it impossible for workers to access employment tribunals or other legal help when they are abused by their employer.   As our slogan reads - slavery by another name. It is indeed slavery. Isn’t it?

Hence, there is the need for J4DW to launch a campaign to restore our rights as workers.

And so here we are. We campaign for rights and welfare of Migrant Domestic  Workers. We participate in rallies, conventions, dialogues where we could express our position, our side and our stand on some issues. Right now our coordinator Marissa Begonia is in New York attending the United Nation Higher Level Dialogue.

Last Sunday, we travelled to Manchester to attend the Conservative Party Conference. Where we rallied against NHS (National Health Service) cuts and we air out our voice to restore the rights of Domestic Workers.

Likewise, we conduct education and trainings to enhance the members’ skills. To equip Domestic Workers to adapt the new environment and cultural differences in  the United Kingdom and to improve our quality of life.

Every Sunday, we have classes and courses going on. Such as Information Technology, Computer, English Literacy, Art classes. Currently, we have the Fashion Designing and Union Representative Courses.

Indeed it is very inspiring to see my fellow Domestic Worker improves- from being a non-reader to becoming a reader, from a poor speaker of English to a communicative speaker. How they establish their confidence now in speaking English as they mingle with the public is such an inspiration and a great motivation for me.

Let may take also this opportunity to emphasize that those art works that is being exhibited in the gallery here in Ljubjana, Slovenia is a product of our art classes.

In addition, we also have the big painting entitled “Tree” which is exhibited in one of the galleries in London.

J4DW join and coordinate in collaboration with other bodies of the government and agencies and community groups. Unite – our mother union organization that is supportive in our endeavours. TUC - who is always ready to give us helping hand.

WEA/ Evelyn Oldfield - they gave us trainings and courses. Kalayaan - who gives us advices and works along with us in resolving cases of our members. The Showroom -  they conduct workshops for us. ASK (Actie Shone Kunsten) - a group of cultural workers working in affinity with domestic workers. We also do Skype Conference and reach out and coordinate and make dialogue with other Domestic Workers Group Internationally. And yes, not to forget the City of Women and Casco. The groups who made it possible for me to be here in Slovenia. Thank you so much for inviting J4DW. It is indeed a great pleasure to be here. And others.

We invite speakers to update us with the changes of laws and other issues affecting us to put an end to our isolation and vulnerability. Last month, we invited a solicitor to provide us updates of the present Immigration law changes. The union prepares Domestic Workers for public speaking and mobilize ourselves for meetings and demonstrations. To enable us to oppose all injustices, inequality, discrimination and slavery. We appear in the Parliament to lobby our proposed bills. We also talk to our local MPs and Government officials. Finally, we also pamper ourselves by going to some tours, picnics in the park, and other social events.

It is our paramount objective to be recognized of our significance to our contributions to the world economy through care and support we provide for HIS family, HER  family, YOUR Family.

Ladies and Gentlemen, shall we just remain in silence and perish? NO!!! As we can do something to improve the status of the Domestic Workers Internationally.

GO!!! -  for the RATIFICATION OF THE ILO CONVENTION 189.        

Once again, good evening and I wish you all the luck and blessings in YOUR  endeavour and  in OUR endeavour.


As an added bonus, here is a sound recording of the above transcript for your listening enjoyment: