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Year: 2009 Type: Report Language:

The organization of women domestic workers in Brazil reveals a process of collective empowerment at work in a society where gender, race, and class inequalities intersect, giving rise to complex mosaics. Analysing processes of empowerment in these circumstances calls for abandoning universalizing visions of women and recognising differences and inequalities beyond gender in multiracial and multicultural societies. Women domestic workers face class contradictions in establishing harmonious relationships with women bosses, who are also participants as workers in unions and other political spaces. This contradiction creates difficulties in constructing a common agenda for the advancement of domestic workers' labour rights. This paper presented to 'Pathways: What are we Learning?' Conference, held in Cairo from 20-24 January 2009, draws on participatory research with women domestic workers in the city of Salvador in north-east Brazil, and aims to analyse some of the consequences of the articulation of gender, race, and class inequalities in their lives, how these inequalities obstruct women's pathways of empowerment and what women domestic workers are doing to seek greater rights, recognition and justice.