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Empowered in Hong Kong
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Nepal: A Narrow Escape

In Hong Kong, domestic helpers are often denied basic employee rights, like equitable wages and time off. Helpers for Domestic Helpers is empowering workers to stand up for their rights, and Empowered in Hong Kong is one example of their work.

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Produced by Deborah Acosta.

Learn more about Helpers for Domestic Helpers.

Originally featured in the ViewChange Online Film Contest.

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Segment 1

HOLLY ALLAN [Manager, Helpers for Domestic Helpers]
I think it's the trend all over the world; it's the feminization of migration. Now, more and more, women are the ones who are leaving the country to become domestic workers abroad, or to become nurses or work in service industry. There's a huge problem among foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong, and especially among the Filipinos, who are my countrymen. They're those who are denied rest days. Some of them don't even get any rest days for months, but there are other cases, like underpayment of wages, physical assault cases, sexual abuse cases, general ill treatment. More of the Filipino domestic helpers who come to Hong Kong are more educated. Some of them are even teachers, engineers, nurses. The reality is there's no job opportunity for them in the Philippines, and, even if there's a job for them, the job in Hong Kong will probably pay more.
CRISTINA CARRASCAL [Filipino Domestic Helper]
When I came here in Hong Kong ... oh no, that's a big problem. My work start in around 6:30 a.m. If I cannot finish the work, she angry. I cannot also eat breakfast; I don't have time. How I can do? What was I supposed to do? My first employer has the house on the 44th floor. Sometimes, if my employer's very angry with me, I don't know how can I do. Sometimes, how if I can, I can jump the building, cause nobody can help you. I called the consulate, Philippine consulate, but they said, "You must need to finish one month notice." So I go to the HDH [Helpers for Domestic Helpers], and I asked for Ma'am Holly. I told her all my problems. Ma'am Holly said, "Are you ready to break your contract?" Okay, I'm ready. I give up.
HOLLY ALLAN
Women are easier to take advantage of. The men who come to us for help, they're more assertive, So, I guess, yes, women are more vulnerable to abuse.
CRISTINA CARRASCAL
Then, month of June, I go to the labor tribunal: me and my employer. Only one time, and she paid. She paid all what I claimed. Then, Helpers for Domestic Helpers will help me to find another new employer. Now, I like Hong Kong, because my employer's good. Also, the baby is very smart, and she's good. I have own bedroom. I have toilet. I have holidays, every Sunday. All holidays, my employers give it to me. At first, I am afraid. I don't have information before. But HDH, you know, explain with me how can I do, so I follow lots of steps. Then, after that, no more. I'm strong. I'm not afraid, because I know how can I defend myself, the law in Hong Kong. That's the start for my new life here, a new job, and it's good.
HOLLY ALLAN
I guess it's not only specific with foreign domestic helpers. You don't see many women in high places in Hong Kong, or even in the government. So, generally, anywhere, I think, in the world, women are treated as second-grade citizens.
CRISTINA CARRASCAL
Maybe someday, I'll make one business in the Philippines. A small restaurant, maybe. My own business. Because, not all the time, I am helper here in Hong Kong.