Content warning: This post deals with issues around sexual harassment and abuse and may be triggering for some readers.
Alicia was just 14 years old when she packed her bags and moved from the Andean mountains in Ecuador to work as a nanny, cook and maid for a family in Colombia.
Like many young girls in Ecuador, Alicia started working young. She wasn’t to know that her workplace, which should have been a safe haven, would become a hostage-like experience.
When she arrived on her first day, there was no bed for Alicia, not even a bedroom. She slept on the floor.
Often, she worked from 6am to midnight. Her employers would deny paying her as a cruel form of control. If she was not paid, they said, she could not leave.
Withholding Alicia’s pay also served to coerce her into having sex with the men in the family.
Why must we stop sexual harassment in workplaces everywhere? This video will inspire you. Post continues after clip.
“The brother wanted me to be his lover, his girlfriend, but I told him ‘No’,” she says. “I didn’t think about those things. I was just a child. They told me I needed to have sex with the man in order to get paid.”
When she denied them sex, the abuse only got worse. The family would spread lies about her, telling people she had fallen pregnant to a boy in the local community and subsequently had an abortion. Those around her were told she could not be trusted.
“I just wanted to come back to Ecuador,” she says.
The now 17-year-old Alicia hatched a plan to escape. Her first plan involved grabbing the keys to the family car and driving as fast as she could.
When she crashed and ended up in hospital, this foiled her plan and she had to return to the family. But the second time around, her escape plan worked.
She turned to her first ever employer, a mother-like figure whom she trusted. The woman helped Alicia make it back to Ecuador.
“I was still confused and scared and suffering from all they had told me. The humiliation was hard for me, but my former employer valued me more,” she says.
Today we're launching a petition to demand the Australian Government supports new global labour laws to protect women…
Alicia’s story is harrowing, but it’s certainly not uncommon. More than a third of the world’s countries have no laws prohibiting sexual harassment at work, meaning nearly 235 million women worldwide are left completely vulnerable in the workplace.
And while the #MeToo movement has brought about a reckoning for many women, how does it help women like Alicia? How do we use the momentum we have built to help the women held captive by employees who tell them they have no rights?
#ThisIsNotWorking is international humanitarian aid organisation CARE Australia‘s new campaign pushing for new global laws to protect women everywhere against sexual harassment in the workplace.
CARE Australia believes women of all ages, of all places, and in all kinds of work deserve the right to be protected against sexual harassment at work.
Now you have a chance to make a difference. Women like Alicia need your help, and your signature.