Adam Tran

Adam Tran
CAPI Intern: June 2012-November 2013

Adam is currently majoring in Political Science and completing the Intercultural Education Training Program diploma at the University of Victoria. His volunteer experience with the Student Refugee Program has ignited a passion for critically and compassionately learning about migration, human rights, and transformative social change.

Adam was our first intern with Migrant Forum in India and the National Domestic Workers Movement in Kerala, India where he worked as a Program Assistant for 5 months.  This internship is part of CAPI's 2011-12 Students for Development Program, funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Blog entries

Snippets: Onam, Elections, Protests, and Yoga (Dec. 20, 2012)

For my last podcast, I put together a bunch of sound clips that I took over my 6 months in India. From recording a parade on the rooftop of the Diocese of Trivandrum to recording a week long protest in front of the Secretariat, I tried to capture some of my diverse and meaningful experiences! 

Thanks CAPI, NDWM / MFI, MFA, SFD, and everyone else who make such incredible opportunities possible.

Listen to podcast (MP3).

Different Internship Experiences at the Grassroots and the Regional Level (Dec. 19, 2012)

I am currently one of the workaholics in the departure area of the Aquino International Airport in Manila, crowding the electric plug-ins and furiously typing away before it's time to board my flight home (holy cow! already?!) Since the last time that I posted, I have accumulated pages and e-pages of notes, concepts, and semi-finished blogs that I was intending on publishing on the CAPI website. They range from reflections on finding meaning and beauty abroad through working with rights-based organizations (as opposed to tourism) to the documentation of a state-level domestic workers union meeting. I hope to develop, finish, and post these blogs sometime in the near future; however, for my final official blog, I have decided to compare my experiences with working for a grassroots organization in Kerala with a regional coordinating Secretariat in Manila.

Due to early difficulties re: my Indian visa, I decided to spend my final month as a CAPI intern in Manila after my Indian visa expired. I joined fellow CAPI interns, Cate, George, and Chandra (when she found time away from CMA) working with the Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA). MFA is the regional coordinating Secretariat that my host organization in India, the National Domestic Workers Movement / Migrant Forum India (NDWM / MFI), is a member. Membership allows NDWM / MFI to draw upon the power and solidarity of an international movement comprised of migrants-rights organizations that is currently over 200+ members strong. In particular, MFA collaborates with NDWM / MFI on implementing an EU funded project that focuses on issues facing migrants to Oman, including intending, overseas, and returnee migrants and their family members. To implement the EU project, MFA works with members in the Southern Indian states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh, which represent some of the largest migrant-sending areas to the GCC countries. Moreover, MFA supports NDWM / MFI with advocating for the ratification of ILO Convention C189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. Given this strong link between MFA and NDWM / MFI, and my own involvement in some of MFA's activities while in India, I was fortunate to be able to travel to Manila and contribute to another one of MFA's many projects -- hosting the 5th World Social Forum on Migrations in Manila.

After my arrival in Manila on November 13th, I was immediately included into the hectic final preparations for the Forum being held on the 26th-30th of November. It was fascinating to jump right into working with MFA - a Secretariat supporting a network of over 200 members and partners and preparing to host 1800 international and local participants - especially after working with a grassroots organization in India that works directly with migrants and domestic workers at the local level. While similar issues, and even shared programs, contributed to similarities between my experiences as an intern with NDWM / MFI and MFA, working with them allowed me to understand the drastically different experiences interns (and their host organizations) have depending on whether their organization works at a grassroots, national, regional, or international level.

As an intern with NDWM / MFI, I was involved with "on-the-ground" implementation of programs, as opposed to communication and coordination between different organizations. As a result, the relationships that I developed with staff, migrants, and domestic workers allowed me to learn about issues facing them directly, as opposed understanding them on an abstract level. I was able to learn about the challenges that grassroots organizations, organized groups of unorganized sectors, and migrants face on a day-to-day basis. For example, I learned the importance of understanding, training, and motivating field staff so that they can in turn motivate and mobilize groups of domestic workers and migrants given their extremely limited pool of resources. I observed that passionate staff members were able to inspire domestic workers, and they were able to make meetings collaborative, interesting, and often healing. Given the nature of domestic work in particular, this is important because it can be difficult to identify and motivate them given their place of employment being their employer's home. Domestic workers often have to confront employers alone for time off and many have to travel long distances to attend the meetings. After working with NDWM / MFI at the grassroots level, my knowledge of the local issues, South Indian NGO work culture, and interpersonal communication with migrants, domestic workers, and co-workers were nurtured and developed.

On the other hand, my contributions towards many of NDWM / MFI's ongoing projects were limited due to my inability to speak the local language, Malayalam; for this reason, my internship demanded a great deal of independence, creativity, and initiative. While I would have liked to be more involved organizing meetings and workshops, undertaking surveys of domestic workers, and facilitating training sessions, it was simply not possible in English. Moreover, given their small staff and limited resources, I received less feedback and direction. For these reasons, I believe that an intern with a grassroots organization should be particularly willing to learn more from their experiences and the challenges that they face working in a new environment and context. If too much emphasis is placed on skills building from a "work" and "outputs" perspective, they will likely be disappointed and fail to make meaningful contributions to their office and coworkers.  

Even though NDWM and MFA work together on migrants rights issues, working with MFA presented an incredibly different set of perspectives, opportunities, and limitations. For instance, by my second hour working with MFA, I had joined the WSFM's cultural planning committee and was asked to write visa letters while systematizing the Forum's registration list. Due to the transnational culture in the MFA office, experience working with Canadian interns, and, most importantly, English being the primary language used in the office and in communications, I found it easier to fully engage in the work and integrate into existing projects. It was also interesting, once the conference began, having the opportunity to learn from people from all over the world about perspectives and initiatives in their own countries. The WSFM and working with an organization engaged on the international level gave me a birds-eye view of the migrants' rights movement, and I was able to learn a lot of, what is traditionally understood as, "work-related" skills and knowledge due to my direct involvement in their committees and projects.  

However, in comparison with my experience with NDWM / MFI, I found that for the same reasons that I could get more involved with the work at MFA, I was less able to integrate and experience the local culture and specificities. Given MFA's transnational culture and experience working with interns, I found that an internship with MFA allows for less development of cross-cultural communication, learning related to integrating into the local culture, and the growth that comes with working independently. Indeed, most of my learning experience came from "office culture" and work-related issues in the office, as opposed to learning from the challenges of being immersed in a culture overseas.

It is amazing that George, Chandra, Cate, and I all had such different experiences based on geographical location, work culture, and projects that we were put to work on. However, I found that one of the primary aspects that defines the experiences that we had with our host organizations was which level our respective organizations engaged. I am extremely grateful to have been exposed to the learning, challenges, limitations, and rewards that came with working with a grassroots organization in India; I learned from directly engaging with issues facing migrants, domestic workers, and NGOs, while living and working in a new and challenging context. At MFA, I was able to contribute on the same projects and committees as other staff members due to their extensive experience working with interns and English being the operational language. I was absolutely amazed by how much I learned from being in the office for one month; however, I often forgot that I was in the Philippines and had less time/space for personal reflection (due to a demanding work schedule and the transnational culture of the office). I am leaving my internship feeling inspired to learn about and contribute more to advocacy, migrants-rights issues, human rights education, and social work; however, despite my exposure to two different levels, I am still  eager for further opportunities that will guide me towards a clearer understanding of which level I can best contribute.

Introducing the National Domestic Workers Movement (NDWM) / Migrant Forum India (MFI) - Kerala Region (Sep. 23, 2012)

For the past couple months, I have been poring over NDWM / MFI documents and reports from 1999 - present. I have been analyzing, condensing, and synthesizing the documents into a document that provides the history of the movement. The document is almost finished, and it provides a historical account of the founding, growth, evolution, successes, current initiatives, and future plans of the movement. It also focuses on the various programs and campaigns organized over the movement's 13 year history which have been aimed at engaging the public, building the capacity of domestic worker and migrant groups, skills-building, policy-making, lobbying efforts, networking, media-engagement, unionization efforts, etc.

I have tried to emphasize in the document that the history of NDWM / MFI is unique and important because 1) it was the first organization in Kerala that began identifying, organizing, and empowering domestic workers, and 2) unlike other organizations that have recently become involved in issues facing domestic workers, it is a rights-based, secular, and politically neutral organization that has maintained complete focus and dedication towards understanding and responding to the unique needs of domestic workers and migrants.

Inspired by the incredible work done by NDWM / MFI, I decided to write this blog to share some of the office work that I have been doing and to give you a better idea about the wonderful organization that I am very grateful to be interning with. For the purpose of introducing CAPI blog readers to NDWM / MFI, I have edited down introductory sections of the history document that I have been working on. The blog will include the following sections:

  • 1) An condensed introduction to NDWM at the national level
  • 2) An overview of the impact of NDWM / MFI in Kerala
  • 3) Conclusion: The Road Ahead

1.  Overview of NDWM at the National Level

The National Domestic Workers Movement (NDWM) is a rights-based Movement and NGO which is active in 23 states in India, including Kerala. Currently, NDWM's national office is based in Mumbai. They work with domestic workers, child domestic workers, and migrant domestic workers, in order to achieve dignity and justice for domestic work. NDWM focuses on empowerment and leadership, capacity-building, awareness campaigns, justice, intervention in crisis situations, and lobbying campaigns.

NDWM has the following vision:

"To create a just society where all domestic workers are treated as equal persons with dignity, their rights upheld, their contribution towards economy and development is recognized, where they receive just wages for their work, human treatment as persons and as workers and their voices heard in all spheres of life."

Brief history of NDWM at the national level:

  • In 1978, the first comprehensive survey on the conditions of domestic work was conducted by Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI). Before this date, only sporadic efforts were made to learn about the presence and plight of domestic workers in India. The report concluded that they worked in slavery-like conditions throughout India.
  • In 1985, Sr. Jeanne Devos founded NDWM upon her vision to empower domestic workers, achieve justice, and demand recognition of their rights. She based the movement in Mumbai, and it initially spread to Patna (Bihar), Chennai (Tamil Nadu), Varansi, (Uttar Pradesh). This was followed by offices in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and the North East.
  • By 1992, there was a recognized need for different centres to emerge and for networking with like-minded bodies in the area.
  • In 1999, NDWM officially expanded its activities to Kerala and the state-level activities were assumed by Sr. Sally Michael. In 2003, MFI, the sister organization to NDWM, was founded in Kerala by Fr. Eugene Pereira.

Up to present, NDWM / MFI has supported state-level offices, including Kerala, in implementing and coordinating programs. Being part of a larger movement has been beneficial to NDWM - Kerala, and it has contributed to the growing strength and solidarity between domestic workers in different states.

2. Introduction to Issues Faced by Domestic Workers in Kerala and the Impact of NDWM - Kerala Region

Today, NDWM - Kerala is a Movement that is comprised of 3 main bodies. The first two - National Domestic Workers Movement (NDWM) and Migrant Forum India (MFI) - are NGOs which act hand-in-hand in coordinating groups of domestic workers and migrants. The third body - the Kerala Garhika Thozhilali Union (KGTU) - is a trade union which formed in 2008 due to strong efforts made by NDWM and MFI. The Movement is currently working with many groups of organized domestic workers, prospective migrants, overseas migrants, returnee migrants, and their families in the districts of Thiruananthapuram, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Kollam, and Kottayam. While the impact of NDWM, MFI, and the KGTU has been strongly felt throughout Kerala, it has required tireless and dedicated efforts in order to overcome the formidable challenges that come with organizing unorganized sectors of workers.

Initial Challenges and Efforts:

Prior to the beginning of NDWM - Kerala's activities in 1999, the region's domestic workers were voiceless, invisible, and exploited - often shockingly so.  For example, in the Movement's early stages, a child domestic worker at the age of 9 working in the Thrissur District informed NDWM - Kerala staff that every day she was given old stale rice to eat. One day, she decided to give the remainder of her stale rice to her employer's dog, since she was not feeling hungry. However, her employers witnessed this and decided to discipline her by forcing her to eat the rice that the dog did not finish. Although this case is shocking to read, it stands as an example amongst the scores of similar accounts of abuse and torture experienced by domestic workers. In the early days, domestic workers had no power, legal options, or allies who could enable them to fight against these injustices.

Even though NDWM - Kerala's early surveys of domestic workers indicated that severe abuses were commonly happening, it is also true that not all domestic workers were outright physically, psychologically, or sexually abused by their employers. Nevertheless, even domestic workers who were spared severe abuses and violations remained highly vulnerable, since no domestic workers in the state were guaranteed their basic rights. Furthermore, since domestic workers were not recognized or categorized as workers, they were not entitled to minimum wages, safe working conditions, reasonable working hours, holidays, social security, etc.  Moreover, domestic work is traditionally undertaken by already marginalized groups with their own challenges and experiences of oppression, including women, children, the elderly, and migrants. Due to their oppression and vulnerability, they are often illiterate, unorganized, invisible, and exploited. Thus, domestic workers are one of the most vulnerable sectors of workers in Kerala. Until relatively recently, their plight was poorly understood and their issues received little attention or support.

When NDWM conducted the first study of domestic workers in Kerala in 1999, domestic workers were shown to be neglected, invisible, and unorganized. Domestic workers themselves were unaware of their rights and disempowered; employers were not held accountable for creating indecent and unsafe working conditions; the government was not interested in upholding the basic rights of domestic workers; and NGOs, trade unions, and civil society had yet to make serious efforts to identify, organize, and empower domestic workers. After analyzing the results of the survey, NDWM - Kerala has worked hard to understand and overcome the formidable challenges inherent in organizing and strengthening groups of domestic workers who have been disempowered, silenced, and denied their basic rights by a legacy of exploitation and abuse.

After identifying and organizing a few groups of domestic workers and becoming more familiar with the overwhelming issues facing them, we dedicated our activities to develop and pursue the following objectives:

  • Training and Capacity Building of Domestic Workers
  • Advocacy and Lobbying for the Rights of Domestic Workers
  • Raise Awareness Surrounding Issues Faced by Domestic Workers
  • Identify and Take Action Against the Absence or Violation of Rights.
  • Prevent Trafficking and All Forms of Exploitation Against Workers, Migrants, Women, and Children.
  • Network with Other NGOs, Governments, Trade Unions, Academics, and Others with Similar Objectives.


With what started as an attempt to bring light to the issues of domestic workers in Kerala by identifying them, NDWM - Kerala has since made some historic achievements hand-in-hand with domestic workers. So far, around 30,000 domestic workers have been reached and organized by the Movement in Kerala, and domestic work has become a significant issue in the state ever since domestic workers started demanding their rights. The various training programs organized for their benefit have enabled them to take initiative and push for their rights. They have publically announced the dignity of their work and protested unjust working conditions by organizing and participating in dharnas, street plays, rallies, signature campaigns, and advocacy programs. Perhaps most importantly, they are becoming increasingly organized, strong, and confident enough to assert themselves.

As a result of our programs, seminars, workshops, public celebrations, lobbying, advocacy, and networking, the voice of domestic workers has become strong. We are happy to present some key achievements that we have helped realize:

  • November 4th, 2008 - Domestic workers of Kerala became officially unionized as the Kerala Garhika Thozhilali Union (KGTU). So far, 15,000-20,-000 domestic workers have been successfully registered as members, and many contribute as active members. The formation of the union was initiated by NDWM - Kerala, and the Movement provides continued training and support.
  • March 2010 - After years of lobbying, the government fixed Minimum Wages for domestic workers. NDWM - Kerala is currently promoting the fixed wages amongst domestic workers, employers, and the public.
  • Feb 25th 2011 - The government established the Kerala State Unorganised Workers Social Security Board. Since its establishment, Sr. Sally Michael (NDWM - Kerala Program Coordinator) has acted as a board member.
  • June 16th 2011 - The ILO adopts Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers (C189). NDWM - Kerala was present at the Convention in Geneva and organized significant lobbying efforts in Kerala leading up to it, and we are currently promoting its ratification in India.
  • June 2012 - After years of lobbying, the government implemented the Kerala Domestic Workers Welfare Fund Scheme (2011). NDWM - Kerala is currently promoting the scheme and registering domestic workers.

Changing Attitudes:

In addition to the recent recognition of domestic workers in legislation and policy-making, another key factor contributing to NDWM - Kerala's accomplishments has been the changing attitudes of the government, employers, and domestic workers themselves.

Prior to the awareness-building campaigns initiated by NDWM - Kerala, the government previously had a tendency to represent and preserve the privileges of employers; however, it is currently moving towards a more balanced approach. The Labour Department has become one of NDWM -Kerala's most influential allies in the movement to uphold the rights of domestic workers. Political parties are also beginning to take interest in the plight of domestic workers.

The attitudes of employers are also changing. Domestic workers initially felt the need to lie in order to attend NDWM - organized meetings and events in order to protect their personal and job security; however, employers are now, for the most part, willing to give their consent. In many cases employers actively encourage their domestic worker employees to attend meetings, and some use their vehicles for drop-offs and pick-ups.

Through NDWM - Kerala's efforts at organizing and empowering domestic workers, they themselves are becoming increasingly passionate about moving the Movement's agenda forward and pushing for their own basic rights. NDWM-organized events, such as coordinating domestic workers in participating in Domestic Workers Day for the first time (2006), and undertaking the first strike by domestic workers (2010), have encouraged domestic workers that their rights and dignity deserve to be upheld and celebrated.

Today, if employers are not supportive of their domestic workers, or if they act unjustly towards them, the KGTU often intervenes and puts pressure on the employer. Domestic workers are no longer willing to accept abuses, and they are becoming increasingly proactive by drawing upon the power and solidarity of the union. Furthermore, even if employers continue to commit injustices against their domestic workers, there are now procedures that have been passed by the government which can bring legal attention to the issue.

3. Conclusion: The Road Ahead

NDWM - Kerala has played a key role in recent recognition of the dignity of domestic work in the state. The voices of domestic workers, once trapped behind shut doors, are now reverberating from the Panchayat to the international level, and many more NGOs, trade unions, and civil society have become interested in and are contributing to the cause. The experiences of the 9-year-old child domestic worker being forced to eat the left-over stale rice given to her employers' dog in Thrissur and other blatant abuses are, for the most part, no longer acceptable, invisible, or tolerated.

However, even though NDWM - Kerala has accomplished many of its initial long-term goals, domestic workers remain an extremely vulnerable sector of society. There are many more issues that require attention, attitudes that remain harmful, and opportunities for growth that the Movement can embrace.

The following are some of the current objectives of NDWM - Kerala:

  • Increase awareness and promote fixed minimum wages (2010) and social security scheme (2011) for domestic workers.
  • Build the capacity of the Kerala Garhika Thozhilali Union so that it can function without external support.
  • Build awareness and promote the ratification of ILO Convention C189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers.
  • Continue and lobbying for the rights of domestic workers and migrants.
  • Work with migrants and their families to report migrants rights violations.
  • Expand our activities to organize and empower domestic workers and migrants in other districts.

Even as the Movement looks towards the future, it is important to learn from and celebrate its past struggles and achievements. Indeed, many of the historic achievements over the past 13 years should be a source of inspiration and learning for domestic workers and their allies for the years ahead. We will continue to push for the local, national, and international recognition that:

domestic work is work;

domestic workers are workers;

domestic work is not slavery.

Religion in India: Diverse, Amorphous, and Ubiquitous (Jul. 29, 2012)


Here is my second podcast for CAPI after 2 months (!) in Kerala. The end is a bit like a bollywood film or Lord of the Rings: Return of the King; I tried to end it three or four times before finally wrapping it up. 

Hope you enjoy.

Listen to podcast (MP3).

Train Rumbles: Mind Rambles (Jul. 3, 2012)

I am currently sitting on a train, patiently waiting for the coffee guy to come offer me a beverage. Whenever I take my first sip of 'coffee' over here, I am always surprised that the server hadn't asked me, "would you like some coffee with your sugar and milk?" I have had to get back in touch with child-Adam who would be oh-so excited to indulge in the high-sugar content that is found in so many India foods and beverages. That is not to say that I don't enjoy the coffee here! It is delicious, and one merely has to be prepared for a sugar-high instead of a caffeine-kick. I've given my sweet tooth full reign, and it often leads me to the sweet shops and bakeries that are commonly found on busy streets.

Surrounding me are sleeping families and several rambunctious children. As I look out the window, I see a seemingly endless grove of palm trees which occasionally dip into one of the many flowing rivers in Kerala's countryside; grazing cows (my favorite animal) and goats; waving children; women drying laundry on the opposite track; and farmers tending to their rice paddies, tapioca bushes, rubber plantations, pepper plantations, and tea fields.

Seems like the perfect time to reflect on my first month in Kerala as a CAPI intern!

After spending about a week with the Centre for Socioeconomic and Environmental Studies (CSES), there was a bit of a hiccup. Due to unforeseen circumstances, they were no longer able to support me as an intern. So, the CAPI support network sprung into action, and I was quickly put in touch with the Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) network.  The MFA network is currently hosting the other three interns, George (WARBE), Chandra (CMA), and Cate (MFA). After introductions and deliberations, it was decided that I would be officially intern with MFA while being hosted by the Migrant Forum in India (MFI.)

Last week I attended a 2-day South Asian conference in the capital of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, called the  "South Asia Consultation on ILO Convention 189 (C189) on Decent Work for Domestic Workers: A Multi-Stakeholder Consultation for the Recognition and Ratification of C189."

There were around 60 participants representing trade unions, NGOs, civil society, labour ministries, academics, and migrants' rights groups. The following countries were represented at the conference: India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Phillipines, Canada (me!), and USA.

I was responsible for taking minutes, collecting documents and powerpoints, writing a report for MFA, and coordinating the international participants in the morning and evening.

This was the first time that I have ever been engaged with issues concerning domestic work. It was also the first time that I have been exposed to conversations between people who are involved with processes at the International Labour Organization (ILO). It was a great experience, and I learned a lot about coordinating conferences, issues in domestic work, and the various actors involved in migrants' rights advocacy.

Overall, the conference was amazing, and the people that I met there were all wonderful and extremely passionate about their work. Everyone was extremely experienced and had a lot to offer in regards to pushing for systemic change and protecting domestic workers. I could tell that social change is what these people live and breathe! I found this passion to be inspiring, and it was great to learn from diverse and engaged people. I left feeling energized and excited about learning more about pursuing a path that intersects with migrants' rights issues.

I became particularly close with a former migrant worker from Nepal who shared his story with me. He has now returned to Nepal and formed a migrants' rights organization which provides pre-departure orientations and assists overseas Nepali migrant workers who are being exploited and/or abused. I also became better acquainted with my supervisors with the Migrant Forum in India. MFI, like most of the participants at the conference, is involved with supporting and advocating for domestic workers.

Who are domestic workers? They are often referred to as maids or helpers; however, these terms are actually quite harmful to domestic workers. This is because many governments and employers do not consider domestic work to be work. Often, people think that the work that they perform, such as cleaning, is a natural extension of their gender, race, caste, or class. For example, many would assert that it is only natural for women to cook and clean, or that Filipinos are naturally suited for household tasks. In addition, there is much resistance towards accepting that the home should be considered a workplace, and that the owners of the home should be considered to be employers if they are hiring domestic workers. However, the failure to recognize domestic work as work has sever consequences for domestic workers because they are often excluded from legislation that ensures basic labour rights. 

Without legislation and enforcement mechanisms that recognize domestic workers as workers, they often suffer physical/sexual abuse, work exceedingly long hours, do not have social security, are not given maternity leave, receive less than minimum wage, have no right to organize, and are exploited by recruitment agencies. In fact, in 2000, the United Nations Human Rights Council declared that domestic work is a contemporary form of slavery.

Last night, I watched the movie "The Help." Besides featuring a stellar cast (including the ever impressive Emma Stone), it also really humanized the issue for me. The movie features the attempts a young writer to tell the stories of African-American 'maids' during the civil rights movement. The work conditions, racism, prejudice, exploitation, and abuse suffered by domestic workers in the USA prior to the successes of the civil rights movement are still being experienced by domestic workers around the world.

Migrant domestic workers are often even more exploited. Many migrant domestic workers do not speak the local language, have drastic cultural and religious differences, and have no support network in their host country. Therefore, the abuse that they suffer is often more intense and invisible.

Another similarity contemporary domestic workers share with domestic workers from "The Help" is the urgency of which this issue needs to be addressed. The young writer in the movie is told that the civil rights movement had created momentum for the issue, but that the momentum would not last forever. Similarly, there is a lot of momentum right now in support of protecting domestic workers. This is due to the adoption of ILO Convention C189 in June 2011, which recognizes the rights of domestic workers. However, for this Convention to come into effect it needs to be ratified by 2 countries (so far only Uruguay has ratified.) More countries need to be lobbied to ratify the Convention in order for it to become an effective tool for protecting domestic workers. Advocates of protecting domestic workers are currently engaging domestic workers, embassies, employers groups, MPs, Parliamentarians, the media, and other actors in order to continue the momentum and push for ratification and national legislation.

The Conference gave me the opportunity to learn about the ratification process in other South Asian countries and the current challenges facing advocacy groups. For example, I learned that in the South Asian sub-region, many argue that India has a responsibility to pass this Convention to protect its many migrant and national domestic workers within its own borders before attempting to champion rights in destination countries for Indian migrants, such as the Gulf countries and Malaysia. Moreover, smaller South Asian countries have been refusing to consider ratification of C189 until India moves forward.

One small critique I had of the conference is one that I have of almost every conference or presentation that I have ever attended. You know how at the end of presentations when they open it up for questions, half the people can't wait to get their hands on the microphone so that they can talk about whatever they want? You know how they talk at length about irrelevant issues, and the momentum created by the presenter is completely derailed? This was something I observed that surprised me at the conference, especially in a gathering of warriors for justice and  advocates for the exploited! Those who give an ear to those who don't have a voice! That being said, the vast majority of the contributions were very insightful and engaged the other participants. However, I worry when communication, learning, and active-listening are sacrificed in favor of performance, creating and winning arguments, and pushing one's own agenda. 

I think I reacted unnecessarily strongly to these rare moments in the conference because I have developed triggers from previous conferences and presentations that I have attended. This is something that I need to let go! 

On a somewhat related note, I often wonder as a Political Science student why we bother learning about grandiose issues, such as conflict resolution in Israel/Palestine, if we often cannot make compromises or seek to genuinely understand each other at the classroom level when discussing and analyzing these issues. I can't help but question if we have our priorities straight when I listen to fellow class-mates gossip about their friends' relationship problems while waiting for a lecture on UN gender-equality initiatives. I ask myself how can we attempt to heal our broken and exploitative political systems when we are desperately trying to 'get ahead' at the expense of  breaking and exploiting ourselves? I have had one or two fantastic classes which emphasize the personal and inter-personal aspects of engaging in systemic change, starting by modeling it at the classroom level! (most notably: IET 430) It would be fantastic if this approach could become integrated and mainstreamed within other departments.

On another somewhat related note, UVic's Human Rights Educator, Moussa Magassa, often states that people concerned with human rights often focus solely on 'rights' and overlook the 'human' aspect. How transformative it would be if this message was taken to heart by academics, policy-makers, and activists!

Anyways, I am being a bit too prescriptive and pessimistic, and I don't want to imply that this was my impression of the conference! This is what happens when I let my monkey-mind off the leash, and it just strayed far away from what I learned and took away from the conference. Then again, don't rants make for delicious blogging? 

My monkey-mind is now focusing back to the happenings on the train. I can hear the mantra of the coffee guy in the distance: "coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee?, coffee!, coffee, coffee." However, I've had to strain my ears to hear him because the formerly rambunctious children beside me have decided to fill the train compartment with an a-harmonic chorus of screaming and crying.

I think it is time to stop writing.

A month is definitely too long to wait to update my blog as there is so much more that I have to tell you! I'm working on a podcast which should be up soon, and I'm not short on material, so be on the look-out for blog #2!

Goodbye Victoria: Hello Cate! (May 7, 2012)

It is with great excitement that I present this interview with Cate Lawrence. In this - my first foray into the podcasting world - I will be putting Cate in the hotseat and asking her some tough questions! 

Give it a listen to learn more about Cate and her upcoming internship with the Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) in Quezon City, Phillipines. 

And stay tuned for future podcasts and blogs!

Listen to podcast (MP3).