Since the early eighties in Chennai, Dr. (Sr.) Jeanne focused on groups of domestic workers trying to give them a voice and listen and respond to the experiences of indignity, abuse and exploitation at the hands of their employers. In 1985, Jeanne started multiple groups in Mumbai and Chennai to organised domestic workers and child domestic workers culminating in the formation of National Domestic Workers’ Movement, which has spread over 17 States.
“I felt that my actions should empower the most vulnerable and discriminated. For this reason I opted for domestic workers, be it women or children, because they had no voice, no rights, which is my understanding of slavery. What got me working was the inhuman situation of those women and children. It touched and hurt me as a woman. The urgency started after meeting a 13-year-old girl who was raped, pregnant, and had aborted, without understanding what had happened to her,”
– Sr. Jeanne Devos recalls.
Sr. Jeanne played an active role in securing recognition for domestic workers at the National level as workers and international level by the UN, through ILO, which declared domestic work as decent work by adopting Convention 180, which spells out the labour rights of domestic workers. She was honored with many awards for her remarkable and dedicated service to humanity. Notable among them are the ‘Peace prize’ in Belgium by national consensus in February 2000 and the Priyadarshini Award for contribution to promoting human rights in 2012. She was also one of the 1000 Women for Peace nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.
She continues to inspire the movement to reach out to all domestic workers and advocate for their dignity, rights and empowerment.