Silver Rose Awards 2021: Solidarity and Unity are key to support domestic workers’ struggles worldwide

On 18 November 2021, SOLIDAR and the S&D Party in the European Parliament held the 2021 edition of the Silver Rose Awards. This year, the ceremony was organized in the framework of the prestigious bi-annual event of the GLOBAL PROGRESSIVE FORUM, a three-day event where key progressive figures from all over the world meet and discuss common and forward-thinking ideas and solutions for the future. 

What better framework for our Silver Rose? An occasion where we celebrate and highlight the important work of progressive civil society actors and activists fighting for human rights across the globe. Amidst a pandemic which has shaken the core of our societies, health systems, economies and individual lives, we deemed it even more imperative to acknowledge the people who kept fighting for fundamental rights. We wanted to reflect on this unprecedented and difficult period in the choice of the Silver Rose Award winner. SOLIDAR’s Board was unanimous in choosing Myrtle Witbooi and the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF) for the Lifetime Achievement prize.  

Ms Witbooi and the IDWF supported millions of domestic workers who were at the frontline throughout the pandemic and in many occasions lost their source of income. Domestic workers, despite the key role they have in our societies, are subjected to precarious working conditions, with their work often not being recognised as such. In light of these factors, they had to keep working at significant risk during the height of the pandemic. Moreover, many countries still have to ratify the ILO Convention C189, which recognises and ensures decent work for domestic workers, which this year celebrated its 10th anniversary. 

Yet, thanks to the work of the Federation, led by Myrtle, domestic workers are uniting, showing solidarity, and supporting each other in their respective countries and transnationally. As Myrtle said during the ceremony: “We are so proud that today we have a domestic workers federation, controlled by domestic workers themselves and mainly by women workers. We brought together workers of the world, with different struggles, migrant, urban, all types of workers”. 

She added “The most important part of our federation is unity of all workers, if one suffers in a country, we stand together and we support them in that country. We are now in the middle of this struggle, we want to reach the point where we gain freedom for all domestic workers!” 

Her message was not only to workers worldwide, but to employers too: “We call on all organisations to support us, and also go back to their workers. Employers must go back to the people working for them and ask them questions, especially because sometimes they have no idea who works for them, and sometimes they don’t even know their names. We need to challenge employers, organisations, and all those people that also say they believe in IDWF, as it is not just about funding but also about your solidarity, support us in our campaigns.” 

Regarding Convention 189, she argued: “We must cherish Convention 189, it is ours, we must be jealous about it, it belongs to us, we fought for it, we cried for it, and we have to make it real. We need to keep talking about it.” 

Myrtle was awarded in the European Parliament by S&D MEP Udo Bullmann, member of the EP Committee on Development, and SOLIDAR Secretary General Mikael Leyi. Our Secretary General commented: “SOLIDAR is grateful and proud of standing side by side with Myrtle, the Federation and domestic workers worldwide and we will continue our work in supporting them as best we can. Domestic workers are key actors in our societies, that languish with extremely high socio-economic inequalities and a climate crisis and emergency that will impact the most vulnerable people. We need to stand with domestic workers and support them as we fight for social justice through a Just Transition for all.” 

This year, the ceremony took place in a hybrid format, but we look forward to the possibility of once again holding this significant event in person with our Progressive Family and the Winner next year. 

If you want to re-watch the ceremony or if you missed it, you can view it on the S&D YouTube page: Global Progressive Forum 2021 | Day 2 PM