“The eyes are the windows of the heart, they say a lot about you,” says Alba Medina. She was born in Honduras, studied journalism and worked for a newspaper for ten years, until the unstable situation in her country and the desire for a better life for her and her family forced her to quit her job. He decided to emigrate and arrived in Spain in 2019, with his attentive and friendly outlook, in search of a job he was sure of. This work never existed, so he went from Madrid to Salamanca and from there to Barcelona, where he currently lives. During these three years, she made a living cleaning houses and caring for the elderly, activities that she had not had until now. “It’s a very extensive and exhausting job, but only undocumented people can access it,” he says, adding, “The pay is low and what we do is not appreciated.”
The story of Alba Medina is unique as a personal experience and common in terms of the frequent situation among those who manage to cross the borders. Groups of housekeepers and caregivers, mostly migrant women, have been asking Spain for years to ratify International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 189, and recently their struggle has paid off. In early April, the Council of Ministers approved the sending to the courts of general jurisdiction of approval of a document that would guarantee the rights of nearly 400,000 people associated with this social security regime. This Convention recognizes “the importance of the contribution of domestic work to the global economy, despite the fact that it is underestimated and affects a particularly vulnerable group, especially women and girls and migrants, who are subject to discrimination in terms of employment conditions.” National legislation should provide that domestic workers migrants hired in one country to provide services in another receive a written job offer before crossing the border and will have to regulate the terms of repatriation of migrant domestic workers after their contract expires.
The searchlight, hitherto switched off, seems to be starting to light up. One of the fundamental achievements will be the right to unemployment, a requirement that this sector is very demanding. The situation was even confirmed by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which issued a landmark ruling in February of the same year in which it concluded that the Spanish legal system was contrary to the European directive on equality of treatment between men and women in matters of social security by depriving domestic workers of entitlement to unemployment benefits. “Those of us who are documented are not eligible for unemployment, and undocumented and unemployed women are at risk of social exclusion and further violation of their rights; There are many companions who have been physically abused,” explains Paula Santos, president of Diverse Migrant Women, a feminist association in Barcelona formed by Honduran domestic and care workers.
The figures of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs do not reflect another 150,000 people (this figure is estimated by the sector, although it may be higher), mostly women and migrants who work informally, without an employment contract and without rights. Internal work is the most extreme case. “You lock yourself in the house from Monday to Saturday, even from Monday to Monday, and you are not even given the two-hour vacation that you are entitled to. Home work and home care should be eliminated, this should not be allowed in any country, because if a person needs care 24 hours a day, the solution must be found where there is joint responsibility, where many aspects come first place. table: schedules, workload and needs as people of those who work. If someone cannot pay an adequate salary, they will have to find a balance between their life and the life of another person, so that both parties can lead a decent life, ”said Santos. The look they get is cold, distant. Working conditions in these cases are often associated with racism, slander and abuse. Alba Medina faced this situation: “Over the weekend, I courted a woman, and she even refused me food, I could not touch anything in the refrigerator or in the kitchen. Another time, in a telephone interview, one person told me that he would sign me a contract later; When I got to his apartment, he told me that it was appetizing, that I would be his caretaker on the outside and his wife on the inside.” The series of unwanted experiences they will face will be endless.
Coming to a country like Spain as a female migrant and getting a decent job is a difficult path. The immigration law requires three years in the same place before they can settle the situation and get a residence permit, but without the situation being settled, they cannot access a job with legal guarantees. The system focus doesn’t seem very sharp. Thus, the only way to generate income is the shadow economy. “You are emigrating not because you want to, but because in countries like mine, the situation is very difficult. Poverty is great and necessity obliges, but you leave your heart, your family, your loved ones, the place where you lived; And when you get here, it’s also not easy to find a job or get documents,” explains Medina. The YA regularization movement, supported by several groups, including migrant women, is collecting signatures to be able to present the People’s Legislative Initiative in the Congress of Deputies for the emergency regularization of all these people.
Team in progress
Until that moment arrives, groups like the one led by Paula Santos continue to share their vision and work with Honduran women. They do this through meetings, conversations, extensive training in social and health care (in collaboration with the development agency Barcelona Activa), Catalan language courses, office automation, accompaniments, cultural and recreational activities. The support they offer is very broad and dozens of participants have taken part in their promotions. And, above all, it is an organic and public support, enlightened by the experience of the women themselves, who have already gone through these processes upon their arrival in Spain. About 600 women feed each other through the various groups they share. Many disciples who observe and act together in the world. Mutual care and support are important in this spiral of cooperation. The Kalala Women’s Foundation has supported them since its inception with financial resources and support. In fact, this organization is currently running a fundraising campaign on its website called #WeAreHere to continue supporting this and other women’s organizations that work for equality, diversity and a decent life for women.
One of the most important projects of diverse migrant women is the Community Feminist House for Domestic and Caregivers (THC), which addresses the needs identified by women who are isolated and have difficult access to housing. So far, 30 women have lived there. They do business together, share lunches and dinners, live together, function as a family. Alba Medina settled here a year ago. “Meeting these wonderful, humane, caring and entrepreneurial women has been a blessing for us, it motivates us to continue,” she explains. In August last year, Medina was infected with COVID-19, and the disease worsened. She was hospitalized for several months, her defenses were reduced. “I had to have a tracheotomy, my lungs were opened, I was intubated, I was in a coma, I was on the verge of death,” he says. A variety of migrant women gave shelter to her father and mother so that they could be near and accompany her. She is still recovering and unable to work, but is very excited to be back at work. In a few years, he dreams of working as a journalist, “and being in the country legally.” Another of his wishes is that people can be streamlined so that they do not suffer from instability due to a small number of job options and can have a decent job.”
“Now I can’t see well in my left eye, I’ll make an appointment with an ophthalmologist.” The vision of Alba Medina is different from what it used to be. But for many reasons, mainly due to the fact that we managed to overcome several difficult situations. “Health and life is the best,” he says. He exudes awareness, optimism, serenity and an extra dose of enthusiasm to get back on track. His deep black eyes are ready to move forward on the road. Those of his comrades as well. Together they give the world the courage it needs to continue to build a less blind system together.
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