Belgien: Jeanne Devos

For children the time is now.

— Jeanne Devos

Sr. Jeanne Devos (born 1935) has dedicated her life to the rights of children in India since 1965. In 1985, she founded the network National Domestic Workers' Movement (NDWM) in Mumbai. Today she is co-coordinator of this growing movement against slavery of women and children in 18 Indian states. As a deputy of the Bishops Conference of India to the United Nations and Unicef conferences, she fights against child labor, child trafficking, child prostitution, and child soldiers. On her initiative, the NDWM has also done relief work in the areas of India hit by the tsunami of December 2004.

Jeanne Devos, born in Belgium in 1935, is a sister of the Roman Catholic Congregation ICM. She has dedicated her life to the human rights of children in Mumbai, India, since 1965. “I have always been interested in human rights and the dignity of every person. I felt that my actions should empower the most vulnerable and discriminated. For this reason I opted for domestic workers – be it women or children – because they had no voice, no rights, which is my understanding of slavery. What got me working was the inhuman situation of those women and children. It touched and hurt me as a woman. The urgency started after meeting a 13-year-old girl who was raped, pregnant, and had aborted – without understanding what had happened to her," Jeanne Devos recalls. "In 1985, I founded the network National Domestic Workers' Movement in Bombay to break slavery. Today this movement in India works in 18 states and 28 languages. The strategies are personal contact and breaking isolation; organizing domestic workers in groups to build solidarity; crisis intervention; legal aid; providing educational opportunities; campaign against trafficking; and public awareness. We believe that individual and group empowerment is the main objective of the movement. We work from a human rights and child rights approach. The main obstacles the network faces are the privacy of private homes – invisibility of domestic workers, power of money in a system that wants cheap labor, and traditional myths that hide slavery. We get our strength from the resilience and collective power of domestic workers and team work. It is my vision of a peaceful future to get domestic workers out of slavery into human dignity and justice.”

Welfare Trust for Women and Child Domestic Workers National Domestic Workers’ Movement (NDWM) Misereor