Domestic Workers Association of Zimbabwe wins the ILO Skills Innovators Challenge

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Winner of the ILO Innovators Challenge proposes to empower domestic workers with skills that respond to their current working world.

HARARE (ILO News) ‘A truly surreal moment when the ILO Director General mentioned my work’ said Ms Mendy Lerato Lusaba, as she reacted to winning the first ever ILO Skills Innovators Network Call that was launched in 2019. Ms Lusaba is leader and founder of the Domestic Workers Association of Zimbabwe (DWAZ).

Founded in 2017, DWAZ is a membership based organization which brings together any Zimbabwean working as a domestic worker in and outside Zimbabwe. Currently, it has members in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana and is growing. Its aim is to empower, capacitate, advocate and support the domestic worker. Ms Lusaba’s human resources background made her realize the skills gap in the sector, and stood up to the challenge.

“With the Domestic Workers Association of Zimbabwe (DWAZ), the vision has always been to have the domestic worker sector formalized as it is one of the oldest and important professions. The sector has never gotten the recognition it deserves with domestic workers still struggling”, mourned Lusaba.

She further said that some people employ domestic workers from marginalized backgrounds and bring them to a ‘privileged’ life. However, the transition is not easy for most of them, both technically and psychologically. It was with this in mind that the idea of the Domestic Worker Center was birthed to bridge the gap; to ensure education, training, advocacy and psycho-social support to empower domestic workers and to ensure they have access to decent work. The vision is only starting, we want a domestic worker school in Zimbabwe and in every other African country.”

By applying for the ILO Skills Challenge, Lusaba says they were simply trying their luck by sharing their vision. They believe that that they can do better for the domestic workers, through both face-to-face and online courses

“The award is so personal and emotional because the journey has been long and painful. Our team is made up of novices, amateurs, volunteers and simply dedicated people. We do not have the resources that is the big offices, big money, big degrees or big networks. We are a simple team that is simply dedicated to domestic work. We have knocked at many doors, banks, corporates, hotels, embassies, name them, we have knocked. Only a few opened their doors to us and today, feels like the big brother is here saying , we are here , we have seen your struggles and we will carry the burden for you and for that we are grateful. Thank you ILO”.

The announcement was made by the ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, during the annual ceremony to mark World Youth Skills Day. The 2020 Day’s theme was “Skills for a Resilient Youth in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond ”.

“Warm congratulations to the Domestic Workers Association of Zimbabwe (DWAZ) which has stood out from the large number of proposals received worldwide,”said Srinivas Reddy, Chief of the ILO Skills and Employability Branch.

As well as the overall winning project, 10 projects that made it to the semi-finals (two from each region) will be offered membership to the ILO Skills Innovators Network, which brings together innovators, governments, employers and workers organizations, TVET institutions, academics, and development practitioners, to share ideas and experiences and encourage innovation in skills development.

This first ILO Skills Challenge Innovation Call sought individuals and organizations to share innovative ideas and solutions to address the skills mismatch challenge.

The Call attracted 473 proposals from 96 countries, representing a wide range of participants, including TVET institutions, employers and workers organizations, start-ups, NGOs, research institutions, and young people.