She understands the language of humanity, of the heart, and with smiles, Spanish and speaking with her hands, she got anywhere, even in a small village on the outskirts of Dakar, in Senegal.
That is where we met Ernestina. She is attentive, observant, petite, athletic woman. She is calm and confident, she listens before she speaks, with her ears, but also with her heart, and she was more than excited to come to Africa, the land of her ancestors, from where they left to be enslaved in AvyaYala many, but not so many years ago.
In Lima, Peru, where she lives with her family and her beloved community, Ernestina has been collaborating for years in a school for women leaders and political empowerment that the Instituto de Promoción y Formación de Trabajadoras del Hogar – IPROFOTH (Institute for the Promotion and Training of Domestic Workers) has been running with the self-managed work of the domestic workers themselves. This is a platform with more than 40 years of experience in supporting domestic workers in Peru and is part of other networks for the positioning and political advocacy of domestic workers at the international level. One of these is WSM, with whom Ripess works hand in hand through the INSP!R Network, a platform in defence of universal social protection for workers around the world and especially in the global south. Domestic workers form a large international community that is increasingly advocating in an organised way for rights that have been denied to them throughout history; due to a tradition of disregard for care work around the world carried over centuries by patriarchy and the idea that cleaning, cooking, giving birth, caring… is not work.
Ernestina and these workers who are part of IPROFOTH organise themselves to train each other in the knowledge of their rights, to support each other when they need help with their children, to create self-employment initiatives to which they want to include the prism of the Social Solidarity Economy; or to contribute to political advocacy in demand of the extension and application of their rights that until recently remained in the domestic sphere. This concept, the domestic , is brought up a lot by Ernestina when it is translated into other languages: ‘In Peru and Latin America we are not domestic workers, we are trabajadoras del hogar (home workers?) because we are not domesticated‘. They want to get out of this meaning that is still used in other parts of the world because they are not domesticated.
Ernestina carries the strength of the collective in her heart as a Leonese African. With her words she inspires us to create better worlds and with her actions, which include putting out her body during the strong Peruvian uprisings, saying goodbye to her children without knowing if she would return, she makes us believe that the world can be a better place. More humane, more caring, where solidarity is present.
The music that accompanies the piece is by Susana Baca, an Afro-Peruvian artist; and the song is called María Landó, after her mother, who was a domestic worker.