Catherine Lawrence

Catherine Lawrence
CAPI Intern: May 2012-December 2012

Cate worked for six months as Program Assistant with the Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) in Quezon City, Philippines. This placement is part of CAPI's Students for Development Program, funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Cate is currently studying Dispute Resolution at UVic, after completing an undergraduate degree in Commerce at Queen's University. She is passionate about human rights education and advocacy, particularly in relation to the rights of migrant domestic workers and their families.

Blog entires

Diplomacy Training Program - Doha, Qatar (Dec. 5, 2012)

With the World Cup coming to State of Qatar in 2022, it is predicted that approximately one million migrant workers will be moving to the country to take part in multiple infrastructure projects that will be happening in the next 10 years (The Peninsula, 2012). With this in mind, a collaborative effort between all stakeholders is imperative to ensure fundamental human rights are respected for all migrant workers

This October, I was fortunate enough to be invited to Doha, Qatar to document the Diplomacy Training Program (DTP) and join an informal dialogue with the missions of several origin countries. The following gives a brief overview of each program.

Diplomacy Training Program

The DTP is an independent NGO founded in 1989 established with the goal of building the human rights capacity of advocates in the Asia-Pacific region and Indigenous Australia (P. Earle, personal communication, October 14, 2012). Through sharing knowledge on international standards and mechanisms, advocates have a greater ability to champion their causes and initiatives (DTP, 2012).

This program in particular, was held on 14-18 October, 2012 at the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) of Qatar building and was hosted by the DTP, Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), the Asia-Pacific Forum, and NHRC of Qatar; it also represented the first DTP on migrant rights in a GCC country.

Trainers and delegates worked together throughout the week to discuss international human rights standards and understand how to better employ various intergovernmental processes in advocacy initiatives. Participants worked with each other to develop their own network with other governments, TUs, NGOs, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), and embassies in origin and destination countries. Groups were also tasked to develop realistic action plans to effectively work toward their advocacy goals using their developed understanding of the intergovernmental processes and newly formed network within the social movement.

Informal Dialogues with the Missions in Qatar

With the support of Open Society Institute (OSI), MFA has also been working with missions from origin countries in West Asia to develop initiatives that will further promote the migrant rights movement in destination countries. In this respect, MFA has organized a series of informal dialogues between missions and CSOs from origin and destination countries. Through these dialogues, it is hoped that CSOs and missions will work together to advance the movement. The goal of the dialogues is to ensure county-specific recommendations are developed through the cooperation and the consideration of all relevant stakeholders.

Earlier this year, MFA had the opportunity to host an informal dialogue in Jordan and meetings in Lebanon in partnership with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and MFA member organizations. The success of these sessions influenced MFA to repeat a similar session in Qatar. A two-part dialogue was conducted with missions, NGOs, TUs, NHRIs, and government officials from across Asia to come up with realistic initiatives that will enhance the social movement in Qatar.

The first session, “The Role of Diplomats and Labour Attaches”, was held during the DTP. In this session, three representatives from missions in Qatar discussed their current initiatives, challenges they are experiencing in providing adequate services to their citizens, and what opportunities for collaboration with other sectors and missions they foresee. CSO, government, media, and NHRI representatives from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, the Philippines, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were then invited to ask questions to the panelists.

For the second session, the Philippines Embassy organized a roundtable dialogue between nineteen mission, government, CSO, media, and NHRI representatives from across Asia. This opportunity allowed for a more informal dialogue allowing for a more intimate discussion of some of the challenges the missions were experiencing. It also highlighted opportunities for the missions, CSOs, NHRIs, and government to work together.

The two sessions resulted in a comprehensive list of initiatives that encourage increased collaboration amongst the missions, NGOs, trade unions, media, and governments represented.


Both of these sessions reemphasized the importance of integrating sectors advocating for similar objectives.  Through identifying common interests, values, and future opportunities, groups were able to better coordinate their advocacy efforts with respect to migrant workers’ rights. The participants were able to share best practices and identify common areas of concern. I hope new spaces for collaboration will be revealed to help each group achieve their respective goals.


Diplomacy Training Program (DTP) (2012). The Diplomacy Training Program – Making a Difference. Retrieved from 

The Peninsula. (2012, October 15) . Qatar needs one million foreign workers: ILO. The Peninsula. Retrieved from

Nepal Program (Nov. 6, 2012)

Most recently, I had the opportunity to work with the Solidarity Center and MFA team on a program in Nepal to develop a national strategy to provide decent work for Nepali domestic workers. The two-day workshop was comprised of multiple sessions aimed at both informing and empowering participants in their work toward ratifying ILO C189. Approximately 50 Nepali domestic workers and local representatives from trade unions, CSOs, and international organizations attended the event. Once again, the goal of the program was for the delegates to create their own action plan to promote and protect the rights of domestic workers by planning initiatives that target the public, employers, government ministries, and domestic workers themselves.

The previous program I wrote about focused on addressing the ratification of C189 on a regional level. This program really focused on what specific initiatives were needed in Nepal to ensure the rights of domestic workers were protected at the national level.

Context: Domestic Work in Nepal

There are a number of challenges that civil society has in ratifying the Convention. Many advocates have indicated the current political situation, the caste system, and the lack of government statistical data as significant barriers to the ratification of C189 and implementation of R201 recommendations. On the other hand, proponents of the convention have expressed the need to intensify awareness efforts.

Traditionally, domestic workers have been referred to as "slaves", "maids", "servants", "das/dasi", or "kamlari" (Gautam & Prasain, 2011, p. 8). It has been linked to issues of class, caste, gender, urbanization, and social prestige. Many have indicated people choose to become domestic workers because of poverty and a lack of education opportunities. Although these themes permeate all societies to some extent, there are also some context-specific provisions related to domestic work in Nepal that should be considered.

Children as Domestic Workers

In Nepal, approximately 63.5% of domestic workers are under the age of 18 (Gautam & Prasain, 2011, p. 26). Nepali laws and policies state the minimum employment age is 14, however government statistics include children ages 10 and above (Gautam & Prasain, 2011, p. 26). Despite the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 2000, many children are required to engage in domestic work to support their family.

Gender Dimension of Domestic Work

It is also important to acknowledge gender with respect to domestic work in Nepal. Although the majority of domestic workers in Nepal are female, there is a significant group of male domestic workers under the age of 18 as well (Gautam & Prasain, 2011). For the most part, both male and female domestic workers are required to do the same work. Although all domestic workers experience the same struggle to uphold their labour rights in the informal sector, workers also each face distinct challenges based on their gender.

Migrant Domestic Workers

Migrant domestic workers are not exempt from these challenges. UN Women estimates there are 244,000 Nepali women working abroad (The Himalayan, 2012). In response to the extreme abuses and rights violations of Nepali migrant domestic workers, the Nepali government banned women domestic workers from working abroad in 1998 (Gayathri, 2012). In 2010, the ban was finally lifted amongst talk of ILO C189 (Gayathri, 2012). Most recently, however, the government instated a ban on women domestic workers under the age of 30 from going to the Gulf countries in an effort to decrease the number of cases of abuse (Gayathri, 2012). Despite the these bans, women are still going abroad as domestic workers in prohibited areas; meaning, not only is there an increase in irregular migration, but also less protection for this vulnerable group.

Need for Change

Current estimates state there are approximately 162,302 domestic workers working in Nepal at the moment (Gautam & Prasain, 2011, p. 6). This session was organized to recognize domestic work as a decent and dignified profession and to develop a realistic action plan to address the barriers that are currently preventing decent work from becoming a reality for domestic workers in Nepal.

Reflections from the Workshop

One common theme that was reiterated throughout all the sessions was the need to internalize the domestic workers' struggle. Delegates were reminded that it would only by lessening the gap between "victims" and "advocates" that the movement would build the critical mass necessary to initiate change. Through this internationalization process, we could truly witness the paradigm shift needed.

The idea of internalizing the work we do, or the causes we promote is so important to any situation in which the goal is to motivate change on a broad scale. I hope this is a lesson I carry out throughout my work here at MFA and in the future.


Gautam R. P. & Prasain J. N. (2011). Isolated within these walls. Kathmandu, Nepal: GEFONT.

Gayathri,  A. (2012,  August 15). Nepal urged to revoke ban on young women migrating to Gulf.

International Business Times. Retrieved from  young-women-migrating-gulf-747690

Himalayan News Service. (2012, August 8). Philippines ratifies ILO Convention 189. The Himalayan

Times. Retrieved from

Migrant Forum in Asia. (2012). From Aspiration to Realization: ILP Convention 189 Decent Work for

Domestic Worker. Las Pĩnas City, Philippines: mplus printgraphics.

UN Women Conference (Nov. 6, 2012)

As with the other CAPI interns, I have been fortunate enough to witness the variety of ways civil society is working toward the global ratification of International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 189 (C189) on Domestic Workers and the implementation of the provisions in Recommendation 201 (R201).


The international community has long acknowledged domestic work, yet it was only on 16 June 2011 that the International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted Convention 189 and Recommendation 201 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers at the 100th Session of the International Labour Conference (ILC) (MFA, 2012). ILO C189 became the first binding international instrument to recognize domestic work as work, entitling domestic workers the same rights and privileges as other workers in the public sphere. R201 is a non-binding instrument that serves as a guide for strengthening national laws, policies, and practice.

At the ILC, the majority of states agreed to the creation of the Convention. This being said, as of October 1st, 2012, only three countries have ratified the convention (Uruguay, the Philippines, and Mauritius), despite the overwhelming support from ILO members at the ILC.

One of Migrant Forum in Asia's (MFA) focuses has been on hosting national and regional consultations and workshops to encourage civil society organizations (CSOs), domestic workers, trade unions, and government officials to work together to ensure the implementation of the provisions outlined in ILO C189 and R201.

A Strategic Conversation on the Protection of Asian Domestic Workers

One of my very first projects was to work on a regional conference hosted by MFA in conjunction with UN Women called "A Strategic Conversation on the Protection of Asian Domestic Workers". MFA facilitated a conversation allowing civil society groups, trade unions, government ministry representatives and leaders from several international bodies from across the Asia-Pacific region to share their strategies of engagement and experiences with various regional and international intergovernmental processes.

The objective of the conference was to use a rights-based model to promote and protect domestic workers' rights by engaging with the following eight intergovernmental processes: the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Committee for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their families (CMW), ILO (C189 on Domestic Workers), the United Nations General High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development (UN HLD), the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), the Abu Dhabi Dialogue (ADD), the Colombo Process and the ASEAN Committee on Migrant Workers (ACMW).

Representatives from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), trade unions, international organizations, and government ministries from across Asia and the Middle East were able to come together to share their experiences with each of the regional and international processes. Resource persons included government officials, members of UN treaty body committees, and representatives from CSOs, ASEAN, the ILO and UN Women. Through the resource persons, open forum discussions, and workshops, participants were able to share their experiences, develop realistic recommendations for future engagement as well as strengthen the rights' advocate network in the Asia and the Middle East focused on domestic workers' rights.[1]

The meetings resulted in a consolidated list of engagement objectives and recommendations to follow-up on. The general consensus was the need to continue building the capacities of domestic workers and rights advocates on effectively engaging with each of the processes. Secondly, participants agreed that because of limited resources, it was important for parties within the network to collaborate efforts on national and regional levels to engage effectively with the various forums. A detailed program of action was developed by the delegation to reflect these goals through specific future initiatives.

Reflections on the Conference

Many of the organizations that attended have limited time, financial, and personnel resources. Some delegates expressed their willingness to become more involved, but did not feel they had the necessary background knowledge of how to participate effectively. This concern really emphasized the importance of having these regional programs. The real benefit of the program was in how it provided the necessary encouragement to the all organizations to get involved in each of the processes.

Each of the resource persons' presentation and the workshops allowed the participants to develop a better understanding of each of the processes. Organizations that had previously engaged with the processes were also able to share their experiences and provide useful tips those who were new to the mechanisms.

This program was really the first opportunity I had to see how important capacity building programs are to the civil society community. Through this two-day workshop, organizations from across Asia and the Middle East were provided a wealth of knowledge, resources, support, and examples of how they could run their own campaigns on the national, regional, and international platforms.

The two-day workshop really allowed for everyone to participate in developing a comprehensive action plan to ensure the promotion and protection of domestic workers' rights. Rather than prescribing solutions, the delegates were able to formulate what would work best for them given the national, regional, and international contexts. Each of the groups in attendance were then able to bring the knowledge and educational resources they received back to share with their respective organizations. Once the ideas were collated, the final list was decided upon through a consensus process. Despite the size of the delegation, the process actually went quite quickly, and allowed everyone to voice their opinions about the final list of initiatives. This cross-sectorial, collaborative approach really addressed the complexities of providing decent work for domestic workers allowing for the creation of a realistic action plan.

As a result, this program reinforced my belief in capacity-building initiatives for advocates and domestic workers themselves is the way forward to ensure the proliferation of domestic workers' right to decent work. I hope to participate in more programs like this in the future!


Migrant Forum in Asia. (2012). From Aspiration to Realization: ILP Convention 189 Decent Work for

Domestic Worker. Las Pĩnas City, Philippines: mplus printgraphics.

Interview with Adam Tran on his internship in India (May 3, 2012)

I had the opportunity to speak with Adam Tran, another CAPI intern, about his future placement as a Research Assistant in Kerala, India.

Listen to podcast (MP3).