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Financial advice for migrant domestic workers from the team at Enrich HK!

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Photo courtesy of Enrich HK

Did you know that March is a really special month for us at Enrich HK? That’s because March 8 is International Women’s Day, celebrating the incredible achievements of women. While many companies in Hong Kong and around the world celebrate March as ‘Women’s Month’ to recognise the women in their workforce, we believe it’s important to also recognise that 98.5% of Hong Kong’s migrant domestic workers are women, who make huge contributions to our society. We celebrate and applaud you guys for all the incredible work that you do!

The campaign theme for International Women’s Day this year is ‘Choose to Challenge’ – highlighting the importance of challenging misconceptions and biases, so as to work towards gender equality. As women, you play multiple roles. Aside from being domestic workers, you are mothers, daughters, sisters, partners, entrepreneurs, leaders, teachers, and much more. This month, we want to explore how you can choose to challenge your circumstances and build confidence in yourself – because you have so much to be proud of.

Recognise your worth
‘I’m only a domestic worker.’ We hear this quite often from women who first join our workshops at Enrich. Let’s challenge this! Now, we know, of course, how important your work as a domestic worker is to support your family, but did you know that migrant domestic workers contributed a staggering HK$98.9 billion (yes, billion!) to Hong Kong’s economy in 2018 through the value of their work.

The work you do is absolutely crucial and Hong Kong would be a very different place without you. Many of your employers would not even be able to go to work without you around. You might have skills in elderly care, child-care, special-needs care, pet care, house management, cooking, cleaning, tutoring children, first-aid, and so much more, and these are all extremely valuable.

Many women, whether they are domestic workers or CEOs, underestimate themselves. As women, we often feel like we’re not doing enough or that we’re not making a difference. But we are! What we really need is to believe in ourselves and recognise our value.

It’s time to challenge how you see yourself, and confidence is the key! Start off by changing how you talk to yourself. Have an affirmation that you repeat when you feel unsure. For example: ‘I have the power to change my life!’

You can also change the way you communicate with your family, friends and employer, so that you look and feel more confident. For example, make eye contact when you speak to show that you are actively listening and that you are interested. Practice standing up straight and tall – fear makes you try to look as small as possible. You look more confident when you hold your head up, and straighten your back and shoulders. Also, when you speak, use your hands purposefully – if you fidget or tap your feet, you appear less confident. Breathing deeply can also help you focus and stay strong. If you’re about to have a difficult conversation, or if you’re having a moment of self-doubt take a few slow, deep breaths.

Most importantly, remember to set goals for your own development. Visualise what you personally want to achieve in the future, whether that’s to study further, own a business, or achieve a fitness target. Whatever it is, set the intention and save for it. You can use your time as a domestic worker to make your dreams happen. Isn’t that an empowering idea?

Know that you have rights
Over the years, we’ve seen how confidence and good financial management go hand in hand. If you have faith in yourself, you will feel empowered to take control of your finances, manage difficult scenarios and reach for your goals.

Let’s challenge how you see your role in the family. Start by thinking about yourself as a ‘breadwinner.’ Traditionally, this is a label that was most often given to men, but times have changed that. As a female domestic worker you probably earn more or as much as the men in your family. Many of you might even be the sole breadwinner in your family. That role is a stressful one, but it’s also empowering – you work hard to bring money in and you should have a say in how it is spent.

Now’s the time to have a confident, empathetic conversation with your family about money – discuss your goals with them, and try to understand their fears and concerns. Talk to your partner about the long-term benefits of working though these issues together – after all, the sooner you can achieve your goals, the sooner you can go home for good. An important lesson here is for you to learn how to say ‘No.’ If you think the money you are being asked for would be better saved or spent somewhere else, say so with confidence. If a certain expense is a ‘want’ and not a ‘need,’ say a kind, but firm ‘No.’

Many of our Enrich graduates have learned to draw clear lines when it comes to finances – they keep their savings in bank accounts in their own name, and ask their family to provide receipts for major expenses or even ask for a basic monthly budget before sending the remittance. This shows them where their money goes and how much their family actually needs. And it also teaches their partners and children back home about financial management.

At the end of the day, remember that as a breadwinner, you are a leader and you can choose to challenge your circumstances. Invest in yourself by joining classes which can help you learn better financial management or leadership. You’ve already overcome so much, especially with the difficulties of the pandemic, so know that you are strong and resilient. Happy Women’s Month!

Enrich HK is an award-winning Hong Kong charity providing financial and empowerment education to migrant domestic workers. For a free, confidential one-to-one financial counselling session and to learn about the courses on offer, visit www.enrichhk.org. If you have a question you would like to have answered on this page, email [email protected].

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