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Maria Hadjipavlou

Abstract

Out of the 191 million people living outside their countries of origin in 2005, 95 million were women. In Cyprus more than one-third of all migrant workers are ‘domestic workers’. This article focuses on female domestic workers only and specifically on those who work in the households of professional women in both communities. The analysis is based on a qualitative research carried out in 2007 and 2008. Despite the fact that professional women (‘madams’) are economically independent and have taken on the role of second bread-winner in their households, the sexual division of domestic labour and the value system that sustain the patriarchal structures have still remained intact. Thus, Cypriot women’s ‘liberation’ is enabled through the migrant women’s engagement in their households. The migrant women that were interviewed experienced exploitation, abuses, violations of contracts, fear of expulsion, overwork, and violence, but also they developed agency, social networking and assertiveness. A joint struggle is proposed, based on gender consciousness, female solidarity and inter-dependence so that real liberation and social change may be attained. The stakes are different for each person but all connect to the desire for an alternative world of ‘real liberation’ from patriarchal structures, racism, sexism, and capitalist exploitation.

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Keywords

female migrant domestic workers, Cypriot women, 'liberation', exploitation, abuse, racism, women's solidarity

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