People in Hong Kong have busy lives and rely on domestic helpers so much. But when they become pregnant, they are often unlawfully terminated. Most of the time, employers don’t know about the rights of the helpers and as they need someone to replace them during the maternity leave period, they don’t hesitate to terminate the contract in order to hire a new worker. The problem becomes grave for the domestic helpers and also for their future children. No income, no place to live, no medical support….the list continues. So when they are terminated, they lose everything.
When these children are born, they are undocumented and this makes them prone to trafficking. So many innocent lives are lost. The drawback in the law is that even if the domestic helpers give birth to their baby in Hong Kong, a birth certificate stating permanent residency to the newborn would not be issued. Only the visa status of the mother will be shown. But there is a charity organization by the name of PathFinders which has been helping these pregnant domestic helpers and their babies get a proper life.
What is the role of PathFinders in all of this?
There are about 385,000 domestic helpers who are currently working in Hong Kong. A majority of this number comprises of young women who came from economically backward countries like Indonesia and Philippines. Being terminated from their job brings down their entire world because in most cases, that woman is the sole breadwinner of her family. When she is terminated, her family back in her home country suffers. The situation is not like this in other industries where women receive maternity leave. But when it comes to domestic helpers, the scenario is difficult. Despite legal protections in Hong Kong (being entitled to paid maternity leave), too many of these women are unlawfully fired once their pregnancy is announced or discovered.
PathFinders works with pregnant migrant women and mothers to help them become self-sufficient and to plan for a future in the best interests of their child. They help beneficiaries gain access to services available to them and which they may not be aware of. They also invest resources in filling critical social, health and welfare services gaps as well as assisting beneficiaries with their return home and reintegration support.
A pregnancy is one of the most beautiful times of a woman’s life but it is often not the case for foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong. They are sometimes treated with disrespect and are not allowed to exercise their pregnancy rights. Taking their job away jeopardizes their future. In most situations, these helpers are subjected to several forms of criticism and abuse due to their pregnancy.
When domestic helpers are unlawfully sacked, they are also stripped of all the benefits including health care that they received as a result of their employment. This makes these women ultra-vulnerable. PathFinders is responsible for giving these women shelter, support and food. They can also provide them with legal support. Founded in 2008, this organisation has been assisting mothers and children ever since.
What are the actions taken by PathFinders?
Some of the actions that this charity organisation takes for pregnant domestic workers and babies are:
Help in providing not only proper shelter but also clothing and basic human needs to these people.
Support the women with legal documentation and also to obtain passports and birth certificates for their children.
Whenever there is an issue of child abuse, this charity organisation intervenes and gives protection to the helpless.
Provide necessary counselling to all pregnant domestic helpers.
Give maternity advice to the women throughout and after their pregnancy. In case the women feel that they want to avail adoption services, the organization helps with that too.
Provide education on how the women should deal with their pregnancy and what steps should they take to stay healthy.
They have also partnered with pro-bono lawyers and help with legal cases and filing claims.
Educate domestic helpers on what their legal rights are and how they should navigate the system of justice in Hong Kong.
Run several workshops for migrant workers educating them on the work environment in Hong Kong.
Provide financial assistance and support to the family of the mother who is returning to their home country.
The support PathFinders provides is varied and includes social welfare support and counseling, humanitarian support (eg: food, shelter and clothing), access to healthcare, legal and immigration support, and community education and prevention. When the team have a moment they also push for systemic and policy changes via government, legislative council and United Nations’ committee levels. Their goal and mission will hopefully inspire more people including employers to give their foreign domestic helpers the rights they deserve and are entitled to.
Pathfinders Address and Contact Information
Unit 11C, Worldwide Centre
123 Tung Chau Street
Tai Kok Tsui, Kowloon