Mums and Maids for Day Off
TWC2 (Transient Workers Count Too), an advocacy group in Singapore, has partnered with Ogilvy Singapore to run a controversial awareness-raising advertising campaign, “Mums and Maids”. Launched to coincide with International Workers’ Day, or Labour Day, on May 1, the campaign is designed to urge employers of domestic workers to grant them a weekly day off. The commercial at the centre of the campaign brings together a selection of mothers and the maids who look after their children, comparing their awareness of their children’s aspirations and everyday lives. The ad points viewers to the site igiveadayoff.org where employers are able to check out the facts and pledge their commitment to giving domestic workers their legal days off.
TWC2’s initial explanation…
“We in TWC2 and other migrant-worker rights organisations have been engaged in such a campaign for more than ten years. The latest figures from the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) estimate that approximately 40 percent of Singapore’s 222,500 domestic workers do not have a weekly day off, despite a law coming into effect in January 2013 making it mandatory. Approximately 40% of Singapore’s 222,500 domestic workers do not have a weekly day off, despite a law coming into effect in January 2013 making it mandatory. The underlying theme of O&M’s film seeks to convince employers to give domestic workers their day off by showing that domestic workers’ absence is not an inconvenience, but an opportunity for parents (represented by mothers for stylistic consistency) to bond with their children. While that is true, TWC2’s belief is that a day off is a basic right any worker should have, independent of and separate from such a functional motivation of their employers. We would add that family bonding is the responsibility of both parents. This is a provocative video that will arouse debate. We at TWC2 hope it will contribute to a constructive re-examination of employers’ relationship with their domestic workers.”
The I Give A Day Off campaign was developed at Ogilvy Singapore by creative directors Eugene Cheong and Nicolas Courant, copywriters/art directors Fabio Montero, John-John Skoog, KaiRong Ku and Marcos Gemal.
TW2 Follow Up Statement
TW2 released a statement on 27 April in response to the mixed reception for the Mums and Maids film.
Multiple viewpoints have been expressed on the short film made by Ogilvy & Mather, “Mums and Maids”, which urges employers to give domestic workers their due day off. TWC2 agreed to partner with O&M in launching this.
Four days after its launch, the campaign video has reached more than 2.6 million viewers worldwide, according to O&M’s tracking. Never has the issue of domestic workers’ right to a day off been discussed on this scale and generated so much buzz. This is what we hoped for when we lent our support to the campaign. At the same time, we would like to acknowledge all views about the film, which was after all meant to be provocative. Many people liked the film and thought it was effective in bringing attention to the issue of domestic workers’ right to a weekly day off. Others thought that the message of the day off for domestic workers was confused by the emphasis on parents spending more time with their children. Still others were angered because they believe it shows mothers in a bad light by portraying them as inadequate parents, and by not mentioning the father’s role.
Going into collaboration with O&M, we are clear in our objective, which is to make people aware of the magnitude of the problem: that 40% of domestic workers in Singapore still do not have a weekly day off. We urge employers to reflect more constructively about their relationship with their domestic workers and treat them with the respect they deserve.
Anticipating that the film would draw flak from some quarters, we shared our concerns with O&M, and they were receptive even at a late stage since TWC2 were not involved in creating the film.
O&M also told us that the families portrayed in the film had participated in the film because they wanted to do their part to advocate for domestic workers’ rights. We jointly applaud these women and their families for their contribution to the cause.
Whether you liked the film or not, let’s not forget that as a society we have failed miserably in our treatment of domestic workers. Many domestic workers toil day in and day out without the fundamental labour right of a weekly day off. We have been campaigning for this for more than a decade.
Much still needs to be done to shift mindsets and change underlying structures in our society so that domestic workers are treated fairly and have the same employment rights as other workers. We hope that the public will continue to support us in this endeavour.