Good morning, my name is Rafaela Pimentel Lara, I am a maid and a migrant for 28 years in Madrid and I am part of the Territorio Doméstico collective, a group that fights for the needs of domestic workers, carers and also migrants who claim documents to improve their working and living conditions. As domestic workers and carers, migrant women, but also local women, we are fighting together so that care work is reorganized and women are not the only ones who have to take care of it.
With the Territorio Domestico collective, we started in 2006 to talk about our work, to give it visibility to take it out of the home and private sphere and to politicize it. We want the same rights as any other worker, we want this work to be socially recognised and we don’t want women to be the only ones to do it. We meet in assemblies where we all have knowledge to share, where we also want to learn from each other and where we really think of ourselves as a collective entity. With the Territorio Domestico collective, we have also formed with other comrades and colleagues a space called “care path” so that vulnerable or struggling people can enter the labour market with better, less precarious, and dignified conditions regardless of whether or not they have documents.
The fact of being a migrant or not having documents strongly affects our work, makes it precarious, determines working conditions because without documents you have no rights. Without documents, you have no power. The life of undocumented migrants is worth less and less because we have no rights and we are invisible, we are not really internal to the society because people do not recognize the importance of the work we do.
The difficulties we encounter in our struggles are different, but those of us who do precarious work and those who have no documents have a big organizational problem. Precariousness and lack of documents hinder our organization, it is complicated because we have to work long hours day and night, often doing work far away and in private spaces where we are alone. Another daily difficulty is the lack of rights at work. But we also believe that by socializing these difficulties and sharing our struggle, we can be stronger.
We believe that a common struggle between groups and collectives from different European countries for regularization can strengthen local struggles. We believe that people who do important work such as domestic work should be regularised. Our struggle is crossed by different struggles such as the struggle for housing, health, education, transport, which are rights also related to documents and which are local problems but at the same time can become international or European challenges and can lead to common policies that guarantee these rights. It therefore seems to us that the fight for regularisation between groups in different countries is very important because it can strengthen and in fact already considerably strengthens the local struggles we are pursuing.
We believe that in order to strengthen local struggles through a transnational initiative, we have to look for a common ground : the issue of labour and working conditions that many migrants experience at transnational level. Regularisation and rights at work are fundamental common elements. As migrants, we perform essential tasks and we are also essential for the economies of our countries of origin, thanks to remittances, we allow our loved ones to resist and survive.
In order to bring together more groups in Europe and beyond, we believe that we must continue to insist on organisation : uniting makes us stronger. We need to think together about strategies to make ourselves recognised as migrants and our work recognised. The common point of our struggles and the starting point of our common path is the demand for regularisation. Collective struggle is essential : we all want migrants once they arrive in Europe to have the same rights as locals, but that is why we need to forge alliances and organize ourselves to build a society where there is no more inequality and where there is no more need to fight for migrants’ social recognition. Documents affect working conditions and force us to do all kinds of work in Europe and the world to survive. This is why we need to call for regularisation. I think this is the key point in the common ground we have now because it is something that is happening everywhere in the world. This seems to us to be a great opportunity to coordinate and put the issue of regularization together : we have been organizing ourselves in different struggles for documents for many years, but it is time to unite. We have to say that our lives matter. We think it is a great moment and to win this fight we have to coordinate from different countries, where as migrant women and men we live the same conditions : we do the same kind of jobs almost everywhere, precarious jobs in vulnerable and invisible conditions. At this moment it is very important to unite and put migrants’ lives at the centre. Documents are necessary to have a better life and our lives are as good as others, whether we are migrants, blacks, women or poor. To win this fight at the European level, we need to stay together.
It is important to articulate the struggles of migrants with the condition and struggle of women, because it is only in this way that we will not leave anyone behind. As feminists, we believe that we need to fight to put our lives at the centre, to build a society without inequalities, where women are not told where they belong, but are at the forefront of the struggle. We need a feminist struggle to build a society that is no longer capitalist, patriarchal and racist.
Thank you all and I hope you can have a meeting that will lead us to a common plan because this is a crucial moment in which to create strategies of struggle that unite us. As women, we are at the forefront of most of these struggles, like the struggles for the right to housing, health and decent work. We are told that our work is essential, but in reality we have no rights. Now is the perfect time to develop a strategy and cross the borders that divide us. Even though we are in different countries, we live in capitalist, patriarchal and racist societies with the same conditions for women, the poor and people living in precarious and invisible conditions : it is time to fight together !