Project Pitch and Q&A
Watch Dhobi Women Network's World Justice Challenge project pitch and join WJP's World Justice Challenge 2021 Community Forum to ask questions to project representatives, explore additional resources, meet new colleagues, and more. Join the discussion and help us build stronger rule of law values, institutions, and communities around the world.
The project protects the rights of women domestic workers working within the suburbs of Nairobi and who are currently unable to fend for themselves due to the ongoing pandemic that saw their employers send them home. The women are arrested every day by city askaris (law enforcement officers) as they sit around neighborhoods with the hope that some employers can call them for a day's job like cleaning the house. When arrested, they are charged with loitering and littering the environment and detained illegally for more than 24 hours. Organizations that used to come to their aid have slowed their operations.
Women domestic workers work in an unregulated environment, which exposes them to violations in regards to employment rights, unfair remuneration, and bad working conditions. This group of workers are employed casually without any form of written agreements, and, as such, the terms of engagement are limited to an individual commitment to the tasks and payments. The Inua Mama Fua project tries to address the vulnerabilities faced by women domestic workers in urban towns. With the ongoing pandemic, the cases of abuse are increasing each day as the women are exposed to underpayment and arbitrary arrest by police and county officials for alleged loitering on the street with an intention to commit a felony. Due to lack of proper and well-coordinated communication channels to protect their rights and report any form of abuse, the majority of the women domestic workers end up not only being arrested but also being unfairly accused with lack of legal representation. The outbreak of COVID-19 continues to make the situation worse since many have lost jobs and employers are no longer engaging their services. The few who are lucky to get some form of casual work end up without full pay or no pay at all. Domestic work is isolated and coupled with the lack of a proper system of collective organizing, the few strides that have been made in protecting the rights of such workers have been watered down as a result of the ongoing pandemic. Many organizations working on gender-based violence have reported an increase in gender-based violence cases across the country, with the majority being reported in Nairobi and other towns. Therefore, proper coordination and organizing using ICT can act as an enabler in reporting and intervening where rights are being violated.
Dhobi Women Network launched the Inua Mama Fua project in April 2020 to help solve some of the problems highlighted above. The project is currently being implemented in Nairobi County and has entered into partnerships with national partners such us Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW), Tandaza Foundation (a church-affiliated organization), and Kituo Cha Sheria (a legal advice centre), who collaboratively assists in addressing human rights abuses reported by the women as well as facilitates the process of access to justice. The partnerships have so far helped the organization link the women to essential services such as psychosocial counselling services which has helped several women to call in and talk to counselors. The counselors helped them acquire knowledge and skills on stress management. CREAW has assisted a lot in adopting DWN members into the cash transfer program that helped receive some money every month, and, with that, they have been able to buy food and feed their families.
The food products donated by Tandaza Foundation and distributed to 300 women such as ugali flour (maize flour), cooking oil, and green grams brought smiles to the mother's faces as they confessed that now their children were going to be able to have at least a meal a day for a period of one month. The face mask and sanitizers distributed also provided them with some form of security. They attested to the fact that now they can walk freely and comfortably without being harassed by county askaris for lack of wearing masks. A few of them reported that at least some employers felt more comfortable to call them back for casual jobs once they realized that the women were taking precautionary measures of walking with sanitizers in their handbags and using the sanitizers before touching their gates or doors.
DWN has also strengthened its working relationship with both Kilimani and Kileleshwa police station where these women are taken after arrest. The organization has taken the opportunity over time to educate and sensitize the police officers on the nature of hardships these women endure. This has brought some level of understanding in terms of treatment of these women with dignity whenever they are arrested.
Project Impact and Potential for Scaling, Replication, and Sustainability
DWN envisions scaling up its operations in the counties of Kisumu, Nakuru, Muranga, and Mombasa. These are some of the major towns that employ casual laborers. As much as the trade union handling these issues—the Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Education Institutions, Hospitals and Allied Workers (KUDHEIHA)—has satellite and labor offices in these counties, access to justice is not facilitated as required and the majority of employers and employees are ignorant of their rights. DWN proposes to develop a USSD platform that will enable the organization to reach and sensitize the domestic workers on labor rights requirements and procedures for decent work. Funding through this award will help in finalizing the development process of the platform and launching it in at least two major towns.
The USSD platform provides an easier avenue for replicating well-coordinated and organized platform that can reach any target audience who has a basic phone in any part of the country. According to the Kenya 2019 data census report released by the government, 10,425,040 females own phones. This number includes both employers and employees, therefore, creating an avenue for reaching the desired audience through tailor-made and well-coined advocacy messages geared toward creating better working environments and decent pay for all casual domestic workers. The USSD will therefore act as a powerful tool for data collection as it is widely accessible on any kind of phone. The platform will be suitable for connecting with this marginalized group, collectively organizing them and influencing the path to policy change in recognition of the importance of the work they do and its contribution to the economy and society.
The USSD platform will allow users to register for our services, enhancing the customer onboarding experience by adding services such as SMS and voice prompt feature as the platform grows. The users will be expected to pay a small fee for the services but the fee will be quite minimal compared to the normal process of accessing justice and searching for valuable information. By using technology, this will also help reach a wide range of target audience not only local but national and regional including migrants. Due to violations that the domestic workers face in the line of duty, technology will reduce abuse and harassment by police. In case of violations, they will be able to contact a hotline number for action and be rescued through GPS, which will track the employers/perpetrators.
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Representatives of World Justice Challenge 2021 finalist projects are on hand to answer your questions. Join our online Community Forum to engage with finalists, share resources, and network with other members of the rule of law community. Submit your questions now and get ready to vote for your favorite project—voting opens in mid-April!