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Inua Mama Fua
Dhobi Women Network, Kenya
ABOUT: The project seeks to enhance and promote Access to Justice for casual women domestic workers (Dhobi women). These women reside in informal settlements and walk for long distances in search of potential employers in rich neighborhoods who pick them by the roadside and lead them to their homes where they perform domestic work such as cleaning, cooking, babysitting, and other household chores which in most cases are not guaranteed.
They experience a series of harassment ranging from underpayment, delayed payments or no payment at all by their employers, arbitrary arrests and illegal detention by police under the guise of loitering, sexual harassment at work, and even in some circumstances, the women are coerced to perform inhumane acts such as washing dead bodies. Regrettably, without any appropriate mechanism for reporting these heinous acts and the lack of adequate knowledge on their rights, they have found themselves at crossroads not knowing how to access justice in the event of violations.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, these women were accused of violating containment measures and other government directives geared towards curbing further spread of the virus. They were roughed up and taken to forced quarantine leaving their children unattended. Also, their potential employers were hesitant to let them into their homes in fear of contracting the virus. This resulted in massive job losses which meant they could not meet the basic needs of their families.
In order to address their plight, Dhobi Women Network developed a USSD code to enable casual women domestic workers to access available domestic work at the comfort of their homes using their mobile phones. The code is user-friendly as it offers explicit navigation instructions available in languages that they can understand, that is, English and Swahili, thus guaranteeing them jobs that are safe, decent, and reliable.
The USSD code has an additional component of reporting mechanism in case of any human rights violations and with contacts of our partner CSOs, government institutions, police, and the Director of Public Prosecution thus expediting access to justice. Additionally, the availability of data for both Dhobi women and their employers makes the follow-up procedure effective in case of any violation between either party.
We anticipate that in the event of a scale-up, Dhobi Women Network will roll out this feature in other Counties in the country to offer the requisite support to Women Domestic Workers who have for the longest time been denied access to justice due to lack of a convenient mechanism for seeking domestic work.
Learn more about this project on the World Justice Challenge website.