Petra Hermillo arrived in Chilpancingo, Guerrero when she was 9 years old. She was accompanied by her parents who were seeking work and better opportunities. Soon after, her father died, and Petra’s mother was forced to “lend” her daughters as domestic workers so the family could survive. That’s how Petra gave up her dolls for brooms and mops.

From an early age, Petra learned to care for the elderly and children her same age. Employers belittled her, gave her spoiled food, didn’t allow her to use the bathroom, and forced her to live in their homes. She also received extremely low wages and was paid until the end of the month.

A long history of informal jobs marked Petra’s life from adolescence to adulthood. Without rest or social security, she managed to help her mother with the expenses, but she wasn’t able to attend school. “Some household employers attempted to blackmail me, allowing me to go to school in exchange for work.”

However, one day an acquaintance invited Petra to a women’s rights talk, where Petra saw a sign that said, ”July 22, International Domestic Workers Day.” Petra was delighted to discover, at age 40, that her work was valuable, and she became convinced that she’d fight for fair treatment—she’d fight for her rights and the rights of so many other women.

“In the meetings, I started to identify some words used by employers and noticed terms that I didn’t like and weren’t right. We wanted to call ourselves domestic workers, not chachas (derogatory, the shortened form of muchacha or maid), servants, cleaning ladies, or nannies.”

In 2000, Petra met other women fighting for the rights of domestic workers, and together they formed a gender economics network. They had no money to travel but managed to organize meetings and talks, and they even went on the radio to raise awareness about one of their major employment issues: the lack of legal representation.

This is how the Red de Mujeres Empleadas del Hogar, A.C. was founded in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, where there are over 57 thousand domestic workers. Petra is one of the network’s founding members, and after 17 years, it continues to build its presence in the region by teaching women about their rights through awareness-raising workshops.

Another space the network promotes is the Casa Solidaria shelter, where women coming in from the mountainous region of Guerrero can stay so they aren’t forced to accept their first job offer and can look for better options instead.

Petra is a pioneer in the fight for domestic workers’ rights, and her effort is as relevant as ever. The Mexican Government has not yet ratified Convention 189 of the International Labour Organization (ILO), which establishes the rights and responsibilities of domestic workers and household employers. But Petra and her organization are not giving up the fight. They will continue to push until the Convention is recognized.

“Fondo Semillas supports the development of domestic workers, and their help has been invaluable.”

The opening of Casa Solidaria, which provides accommodation for domestic workers.

“The working conditions of domestic workers are rarely addressed in public or political conversations. We are in the year 2019, and some workers face slavery-like conditions.”

  • In Mexico, 2.3 million women perform domestic work for pay.
  • 9 out of 10 domestic workers have no written contract or benefits (e.g., end-of-year bonus, paid vacation, health insurance).
  • 63% of domestic workers receive wages so low they cannot cover their basic needs.



Inegi (2017). Encuesta Nacional de Ocupación y Empleo (ENOE) [Primer trimestre de 2017]. Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía. Disponible en:
Fuentes, Mario L. (2017). México social: el invisible trabajo doméstico. Excélsior. Disponible en:
Pulso, Diario de San Luis. (2017). El 99% de las empleadas domésticas en México trabaja sin contrato. Disponible en: