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Migrant Rights

History of Exploitation: from Slavery to Domestic Work

An interview with Sheila Bapat
“The roots of domestic work are deeply connected to the history of slavery in the U.S. It’s no accident that a vast majority of domestic workers were African American women to begin with, and increasingly now, immigrant women of color.”

 

Interview by Preeti Shekar

Sheila Bapat, author of Part of the Family? Nannies, Housekeepers, Caregivers and the Battle for Domestic Workers’ Rights offers remarks on domestic workers' rights. Learn about the challenges and successes of South Asian worker organizing efforts in the United States.

Claiming Our Voice Panel Discussion

Panelists and organizers at the screening of the film Claiming Our Voice

“We have women power, people power, but we don’t have paper power.” Gulnahar Alam
 
“Unfortunately, the way the non-profit system is set up is that it does not affirm working class leadership, and I think that’s something that we have to really think about and reflect upon.”
Yalini Dream

Claiming Our Voice Panel Discussion and film screening with Gulnahar Alam (lead organizer and founder of Andolan: Organizing South Asian Workers), Jennifer Pritheeva Samuel (filmmaker & director of Claiming our Voice), YaliniDream (performance artist featured in the film) and Sheila Bapat (author of Part of the Family? Nannies, Housekeepers, Caregivers and the Struggle for Domestic Workers' Rights) offer remarks on domestic workers' rights. Learn about the challenges and successes of South Asian worker organizing efforts in the United States. The discussion is moderated by Preeti Mangala Shekar. This event was co-sponsored by Reimagine Race, Poverty and the Environment and ASATA (Alliance of South Asians Taking Action) and held at Oakstop Coworking in the heart of downtown Oakland.

Organizing for the Rights of Filipino Women


Tina Shauf is a community organizer and youth worker. She was born in the Philippines and raised in Los Angeles county. She is currently the Chair of Babae (meaning “woman” in Tagalog), a grassroots volunteer-based organization of Filipina women in San Francisco dedicated to supporting and empowering Pinays through critical education, leadership development, and community building. Shauf is also an active member and representative of the General Assembly Binding Women for Reforms, Integrity, Education, Leadership and Action (GABRIELA-USA), a grassroots-based alliance of more than 200 organizations, institutions, and programs of women all over the Philippines seeking to wage a struggle for the liberation of all oppressed Filipino women and Filipino people in general. GABRIELA-USA is the first overseas chapter of the Philippine-based organization, extending the Filipino women’s mass movement to the United States.

Christine Joy Ferrer: What issues are Babae and GABRIELA-USA currently prioritizing? And how do they impact low-income and communities of color where you live—especially Filipina women?
Tina Shauf: We’re taking on issues in the Filipino community, for women particularly, through the Voices of Women versus Violence Against Women (iVOW) campaign. Under the GABRIELA framework, Violence Against Women is defined as seven different things, including economic exploitation, political repression, sexual abuse, and domestic violence. So it’s multifaceted.

Also, Babae is co-sponsoring the Care Project at the Filipino Community Center in San Francisco where a group of caregivers comes together to understand better the conditions under which caregivers work. All of them are immigrants; they’ve left the Philippines because they had to support their families.

Four thousand people a day leave the Philippines— 70 percent are women. A lot of the jobs they take on are domestic work, caregiving. In a room full of Filipinos, if you ask, “How many of you know a caregiver or are related to a caregiver?” most would probably raise their hand. So we see a need to take this on.

Related Stories: 

We Can Labor With Love

Immigrant Women Inspire New Forms for Organizing


The United States remains a prevalent destination for 52 percent of the world’s migrants.[1] A majority of these migrants are women[2] from Mexico, India, China, and the Philippines[3] and many bring with them valuable knowledge gained from popular movements in their home countries.  In the United States, they soon confront a dilemma that has challenged leftist organizers doing mass-based organizing who have built membership bases within tax-exempt nonprofit corporations whose political scope is limited by law.  Migrant women have been pointing toward new solutions to the challenge and laying the groundwork we need to seriously confront the global economic interests preventing us from building a society that meets all of our needs.

One such woman is domestic worker and organizer Bernadette Herrera, who is on a mission to build a grassroots, all volunteer, membership organization of Filipino domestic workers and caregivers in San Francisco.

Related Stories: 

Favianna Rodriguez

Women of Color in the Movement
Excerpt from an interview with Favianna Rodriguez

Favianna Rodriguez (favianna.com) is a celebrated printmaker and digital artist based in Oakland, California. Her composites, created using high-contrast colors and vivid figures reflect literal and imaginative migration, global community, and interdependence.  

As a young Latina I felt invisible. I am the daughter of immigrants and grew up in communities of color most of my life. I felt that my immigrant family, our communities were invisible. Yet, we all carried the brunt of what was happening to the economy in the country and even throughout the world. We were experiencing the effects of injustices in our own community. The injustices I saw as a child, the racism that I experienced via the media or the school curriculum, the xenophobia directed at my parents... angered me in a way that I didn’t have words for. Art became a way for me to talk about those experiences, reframe them, and do something positive. Making art was a way to have a voice and an empowering way to fight back, instead of acting out on my internalized oppression.

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