From where I stand: “Domestic workers should also be entitled to a salary during times of crisis”

Ana Paula Soares, 27, has been her family’s breadwinner since 2017. When the COVID-19 crisis came to Timor-Leste, she lost her income as a domestic worker with no way to support her family. Her story reflects the hardship that millions of women now face, as workers in the informal economy.


Ana Paula Soares stands in front of her family’s house in Ermera, Timor-Leste. Photo: Courtesy of Natercia Saldanha
Ana Paula Soares stands in front of her family’s house in Ermera, Timor-Leste. Photo courtesy of Natercia Saldanha


I always wanted to pursue a university degree, but I could never afford it. Instead, I started workingto sustain myself and my family.

For the past year, I’ve been working as a domestic worker in a household in the capital Dili and I live with my employer. I got the job through the non-governmental organization Working Women’s Center Timor-Leste (WWCTL), which supports employment opportunities, training and advocacy for domestic workers.

Now that Timor-Leste has announced a State of Emergency because of COVID-19, I’ve been asked to take a one-month break and go back to my family. . The manager at the Working Women’s Center had a discussion with my employer, and I was informed one night that I would have to return to my village the next morning. I was told that I could return to work on 27 April when the State of Emergency was over. However, with more COVID-19 cases registered, I am no longer sure if I’ll be allowed to go back to work by then.

I am waiting for the call, and I’m hoping that things will get better so I can have my job back. Otherwise, I’ll have to stay at home and help my family look after our kiosk to earn some money.

It’s hard to make money at this time. People who work at the office, they continue to work from home and earn their salary regularly; but domestic workers cannot. Domestic workers should also be entitled to a salary during times of crisis.

Some of my domestic worker colleagues are still working, only five of us have been asked to take a break. Some didn’t even receive their salary when they were asked to stop in the middle of the month. I wish all employers would treated their employees equally.”

SDG 5: Gender equality
SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth

Ana Paula Soares is a 27-year old high school graduate who migrated to the capital city of Dili, Timor-Leste to work as a domestic worker. With the country announcing a State of Emergency and quarantine measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 , she and other domestic workers have lost their only source of income, overnight. She is advocating for domestic workers’ right to get economic support during this crisis. As the recently launched UN Secretary-General’s Policy Brief shows in developing economies, the vast majority of women’s employment – 70 per cent – is in the informal economy, with few protections against dismissal or for paid sick leave and limited access to social protection.