42 years old, Peru; Master in Administration and Financing.
Domestic employee and member of the Active Domestic Service association in Madrid

“I came to Spain 17 years ago, with the contract, visa and everything. Only once here I realized that the contract was fictitious and that in reality I had to find a job. Supposedly I was going to work in a supermarket ... At that time this was done a lot in Spain, there were agencies and companies that made fictitious contracts and sold it to you for € 200-300 and with that you could obtain a visa. This was fixed for me by some relatives who were already in Spain, if I knew that it is like that, I would not have come, that is clear.

In Peru I already had my diploma and studies done, I have a degree in administration and finance, but my mother fell ill with cancer and undergoing cancer treatment in my country is very expensive. So I decided to come here, so I could help her. It's hard to make this decision, let's see, nobody leaves their country because they want to, but because they have a goal, a need. But leaving everything behind: your family, your profession and starting everything from scratch in a country you don't know ... it is hard.

I got my first job within 3-4 months of being here. I was already desperate and accepted the intern position. I was 23 years old and I had to take care of Ana, a 42-year-old quadriplegic woman. I had to move her, bathe her, change her diaper, change her position, take her to the shower and everything, she could not move at all, just her head. She used to say: I am the head and you are the hands - and the truth is that we got along very well. I was working for her for 3 years and I left because my husband, who also came, already began to have a more stable situation at work and I wanted to try to homologate my studies and look for something in my profession. As an intern, you can't do anything, you may have free time only on the weekend and what can you do on a weekend? 

To make recognize here diplomas from Peru is a horror. They ask you a lot of things and although I did and brought everything, it turned out that I would have to study for almost 3 more years to obtain the same diploma that I had already done in Peru. With my sick mother whom I had to continue helping, studying for 3 years was a luxury I couldn't afford.

So I went back to looking for work, but this time I got jobs in supermarket and then in telemarketing. We were fine but everything changed with the crisis in 2007. My husband couldn't find any work here, and finally he left ending up in Miami, working in a restaurant. I was forced to go back to domestic workers and caregivers sector, because it was the only one which allowed me to work a few hours a day and take care of my girls in parallel. And since then I have stayed in this sector.  

For the last three years I have been working for an elderly couple: a man with Alzheimer's, who died last September due to Covid and his wife, who has vision problems. Conditions are relatively good: 8 hours a day from Monday to Friday for € 1000, but the important thing is that my boss is a very grateful person. It is a pleasure to work for her, she respects me, she always thanks me for everything, she makes sure that I don’t work overtime. And it is not usual ... In this sector many do not value the work you do. They believe that here comes a machine and in three hours it will do ironing, cook for the children and leave your house sparkling…. Not only do people not value us, they don't value their own parents either. What concept do you have of giving your mother a decent life and care, if you pay and treat so badly the person you employ to take care of her?

There are many people who have money but for something other than the decent salary of the employee they have at home…. But there are also families that cannot pay a normal salary to a caregiver. The government has to help these families too. I like this job. It is very beautiful, you give your love and everything, but it is also very ungrateful because from one day to the next you can be fired or if your employer dies, you are left without nothing because we do not have the right to unemployment benefit ...  

It is what makes me angry in this work: all the discriminations and the fact that people do not value it. Any other job has its rights recognized. Why is it not the case for us? Why are we discriminated and not given the rights we need? I work, I contribute my 8 hours, I pay taxes, I do my part. Why don't I have the right to unemployment, to a work accident benefit? The Social Security system does not cover occupational risks, if you get sick or if you have an accident it is your problem. This sector needs to improve many things…. We have a long way to go, even thought we have already been fighting for years. In 2011 they told us that we are part of Convention 189*, but they did not ratify it, so… we continue in the special regime… We are in 2021 and they have a lot of intention, but nothing happens…. The only good thing is that more and more people find out about our situations,  all this because we move a lot ...

Retirement is another big problem. We contribute to the Social Security System by modules. First tranche for example is, say € 200-400, second € 410-700 and third € 710-900. If you earn € 700 you stay in the second tranche and your contribution will not be total but half of what you have actually worked. 

There are other discriminations, which I am now discovering. For example I have been here for many years and I even already have my Spanish nationality, still I cannot request any credit at the bank. With my husband we are thinking that we are going to stay here; my daughters were born here and for them this is their country. So we are trying to apply for a loan to buy a flat because the rents are very high. And they don't give it to me because I don't have a payslip from my work. Even though I have my regular income because my boss pays me my salary regularly by making a deposit in my bank account, I don't have the payslip and therefore I can't ask for any loan. In our sector, they don't give you payslips... The Bank told me that without this paper and, taking into account that there is a lot of instability in this sector, no credit is contemplated. It is pure administrative discrimination. 

I think we have to fight for our rights. In our sector there is a lot of misinformation, there are many colleagues who do not even have time to find out, or do not rely on a network such as an association, which is very important to me. I met SEDOAC because I was in a job where I felt very exploited, and I needed someone to tell me what my rights are, and someone to tell me if what they ask of me is normal or the one who does not understand anything about work is me. And I started looking. I found SEDOAC and there I learned many things. I went to workshops with lawyers, with psychologists and I was empowered. Now I know my rights and can react when someone does not respect them. I even made a complaint 3 times and won each time. Employers sometimes think they can do anything and they can't. We also have our rights.

The first complaint I made was because they fired me from one day to the next. On Friday they told me that on Monday they no longer need me. I tried to explain to them that they should have given me a warning period but there was no way they would understand. I had been there for only 6 months so it was not a matter of a lot of money, about € 300 no more, but I spoke with the SEDOAC lawyer and I decided to report mainly because it is the only way for them to learn and so that the others who will come after me will not suffer the same abuses. 

Here you have to come with a very cool head and mentally prepared ... I had papers from the beginning and after 5 years I even obtained nationality. But if you come without papers it is very hard. The immigration law says that you have to be in Spain for 3 years to be able to opt for regularization by social rooting. How do you want me to be in your country for three years if at the same time legally I have no right to work? What am I going to do during these three years? Am I going to live on air? Am I going to live on the street? I also need a roof and need to eat. That is why there are so many abuses, because people without papers are often desperate and accept any condition. The "no" you can say when you have a roof and when you have something to eat and many have neither. And now in the pandemic, things are even worse.

*Convention 189 on domestic workers of the International Labor Organization, 2011; it has not been ratified by Spain yet.

Para saber más: Entrevista con Edith, la portavoz de la Asociación SEDOAC (Servicio Doméstico Activo) en Madrid.

Hanna Jarzabek - Photography & Documentary Storytelling

Documentary photographer and Multimedia Storyteller specialized in projects addressing discrimination and societal dysfunctions, with accent on Europe.
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