Sonu Danuwar, President of Nepal Independent Domestic Workers’ Union
Born in Jhapa in 1985 November, Sonu Danuwar who started off as a helpless domestic child labor is now president of Nepal Independent Domestic Workers’ Union (NIDWU), the first trade union of domestic workers in South Asia. She has struggled a lot to get to the place she is now, to fight for her rights and the rights of her people. She had chosen this path when she was small and along with her, the path has grown and become wider.
When she was seven, her father sent her to work in a man’s home as a babysitter at Dhulabari, however, she had to do everything there, from dishes to clothes. He even used to beat her at times, and when she tried to escape and go home, her father and family forced her to go back.
She left the place and returned home after her father’s death but due to the poor economic condition of her family, she was forced to work as a domestic support in Kathmandu. Two years later in 1998, she found a woman class near her workplace and asked if she could join it. But the lady named Mamta Pandey took her into Non Formal Education (NFE) for domestic child workers, organized by CWISH, a NGO working for domestic child workers. This meeting of her with Pandey became the most significant incident in her life that paved her way to labor movements. She attended the classes regularly and was admitted to the nearby school after three years.
After her days were over at NFE, she and some of her NFE-friends continued to gather together weekly where they would share their pains and pleasures. This Good Friday turned into Gharelu Baal Shramik Manch (Domestic Child Worker’s Forum – DCWF) as they got training on child club management. It was difficult for her to maintain the time for both, household work and gatherings and clubs. She pretended to attend the NFE classes even after its closure for six months. When her employers came to know about it, they did not allow her to go anywhere and increased the work load. But after she showed her employer what she did, her employer mother was supportive for her and suggested her other friends to convince their employers about their rights and duties along with their responsibility.
They formed Gharelu Shramik Manch (Domestic Workers’ Forum – DWF) to continue their struggle for decency and rights of domestic workers. Six months training on unionization and leadership for domestic workers connected to CWISH was conducted by Gerenal Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GeFONT) in cooperation with CWISH and Committee for Asian Women (CAW) in 2006. The purpose of the training was to form a trade union of domestic workers. Her passion to do something gave way to the establishment of Nepal Independent Domestic Workers’ Union (NIDWU) in 2007, under her leadership.
Now the chairperson of Asian Domestic Workers’ Network (ADWN) and joint-vice-chairperson of Internation Domestic Workers’ Network (IDWN), she feels happy about being an internation leader for domestic worker and also for the frequent visits abroad. Although no law defines domestic work as ‘work’, she has been able to fight against tortures and exploitations her friends’ might have to face. Her greatest achievement, as she recalls, is the ILO’s plan to issue Convention on Domestic Work in 2012.
Although she still is a domestic worker, she has more responsibilities and duties on her and she believes, with her determination and harwork, she can fulfill it all. Her determination to work regularly is her key to success. She dreams of every domestic worker getting their own identity, decency and all facitilies that other professionals get as workers, including fixed leave and wages and she believes that this dream of her will be fulfilled after the ILO convention. She is determinant to bring about changes in the world.