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Household Workers Association (ASTRADOMES)

This practice represents a successful case of mobilising for self-help and organising among domestic workers, including migrant domestic workers, in order to support, empower, and raise awareness among their members as well as to advocate government and legal authorities on their behalf.


ASTRADOMES seeks to:

- Educate domestic workers on their rights and responsibilities;

- Organize them for improved working conditions;

- Improve the work conditions and quality of life of domestic workers;

- Represent both national and foreign domestic workers;

- Find a space for recreation and leisure for domestic workers.


Activities, processes and steps involved:

The Household Workers Association (ASTRADOMES) was established in 1991 and is affiliated to the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Women Workers in the Home (CONLACTRAHO). Its members are mainly Nicaraguan, reflecting the large number of Nicaraguan migrant women employed in Costa Rica as domestic workers. However, members also come from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. ASTRADOMES provides the following services:

- A telephone service for domestic workers and employers;
- Advice, support and legal guidance for female migrant workers experiencing labour rights violations;
- A temporary shelter for dismissed workers;
- Training workshops on subjects such as labour rights and duties, self-esteem, sexuality and reproductive health;
- Social events intended to support workers' cultural identity.

Since its founding ASTRADOMES has actively worked towards increasing domestic workers' protection under national labour laws and educating workers and employers on their rights and responsibilities. A number of activities can be highlighted.

From 1994 to 1998, ASTRADOMES formed a partnership with the National Centre for Family and Women's Development (a government agency within the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports) to prepare a series of six training modules:

- Module 1: Hiring
- Module 2: Wages and Christmas bonus
- Module 3: Work shift and vacations earned
- Module 4: My right to health
- Module 5: Migrant household workers
- Module 6: Right to lift without violence

The modules were held in a public park, frequented by Nicaraguan migrants, and were accompanied by posters and announces on the local radio station.

In 2001, ASTRADOMES in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) conducted a survey on working conditions and knowledge of labour regulations among domestic workers and employers in San Jose. The survey findings indicated a general lack of knowledge among workers and employers and little effort to adhere to regulations. These findings were analyzed in a report and formed the basis of an information campaign targeting employers and domestic workers. Three pamphlets were produced on labour and social security rights and the responsibilities of both employers and employees.

Recently, ASTRADOMES filed a motion of unconstitutionality in 2005 in the Constitutional Court of the Supreme Court. The motion challenged the discriminatory treatment of domestic workers in Article 104 of the Labour Law in terms of minimum, hours worked, vacation, and rights to health services and a pension. While any reform of the labour law is still pending, in 2007, the Constitutional Court ruled that there was cause for unconstitutionality in the motion raised by ASTRADOMES. The Court established the right of domestic workers to one full day off per week and the right to enjoy public holidays.

Target beneficiaries:

Migrant and national domestic workers in Costa Rica


ASTRADOMES works with other non-profit organizations, religious groups, other domestic worker associations in Latin American, trade unions, government agencies, and international organizations to advocate for domestic workers' labour and human rights and educate workers on their rights and responsibilities.

Relevant criteria for assessment

1. Respect for migrant worker rights:

ASTRADOMES is an organization dedicated to protecting and advocating for the rights of domestic workers, many of whom are migrants. The association has a record of providing legal and social assistance to workers in need, lobbying for changes in labour regulations, and educating workers and employers.

2. Relevance:

The organization responds to the needs of domestic workers, many of whom are migrant workers, by providing them with information and assistance. Normally these workers are hard to reach and isolated in households.

3. Additional or spill over benefits:

The practice benefits all domestic workers, not only members. The organizations' lobbying efforts also promotes the principles of equality and non-discrimination for migrant workers, by including foreign domestic workers.

4. (Positive) Impact:

The organization's promotion of greater protection and rights of domestic workers, many of whom are migrants, helps minimize the negative consequences of migration. Advocacy by ASTRADOMES contributes to changing perceptions of domestic work as informal and of disputes between workers and employers as a private issue.

5. Potential for replication and extension (adaptability):

There are a number of similar organizations for domestic workers that exist in Latin America, many of which have existed for a number of years and have cooperated with each other. Many of these associations are affiliated with CONLACTRAHO, and adhere to the Confederation¿s regulations. CONLACTRAHO also holds regular meetings to share experiences and practices.

6. Innovativeness:

ASTRADOMES provides a platform for national and foreign domestic workers to lobby for their rights and educate themselves about their rights and responsibilities. Costa Rica has one of the highest percentage of Nicaraguan migrants employed in domestic work among Latin American countries, thus ASTRADOMES has much experience in dealing with issues related to international migrants.

7. Broad-based and participatory:

Membership in ASTRADOMES is open to all domestic workers, regardless of nationality.

8. Sustainability:

ASTRADOMES is a long standing association; it has functioned for 18 years.

9. Effectiveness:

ASTRADOMES is effective in responding to the needs and interests of domestic workers. Advocacy projects promote the consideration of domestic work as equal to other forms of work and domestic workers as entitled to the same rights and benefits as workers in other sectors.


  • Asociación de Trabajadoras domésticas (ASTRADOMES)
    Costa Rica
    Tel: +506 280 1646


last updated on 25.10.2013^ top