Free-to-host photo exhibition aims to protect domestic workers

‘No One Should Work This Way’ is a free-to-host photo exhibition by renowned photographer Steve McCurry that spreads awareness of the physical and psychological abuse domestic workers can face, and aims to encourage countries to ratify the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Convention №189.

IOM X recently sat down with Mr. Yoshiteru Uramoto, former Regional Director of the ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, who funded the project. Mr. Uramoto is currently Distinguished Professor in the Centre for Global Discovery at Sophia University in Tokyo.

Q. You were the Regional Director of ILO when the ‘No One Should Work This Way’ project was proposed. Can you tell us why you felt it was important for ILO to fund it?

A. I liked the angle of capturing the individual stories of exploited domestic workers across different countries. The plight of domestic workers, and the exploitation they face, is not well known amongst the general public. I felt that this type project would connect with people.

Q. Why is the issue of domestic worker rights so important today?

A. With cheaper flights and access to online job sites, it’s easier for people to travel for work — and this holds true for domestic workers. However, many countries still don’t recognize domestic work under their labor laws, which make domestic workers vulnerable to exploitation and human trafficking. Convention №189 provides more protection for domestic workers, and we need more countries to ratify it. An important step towards achieving this is to increase knowledge and understanding of the current situation for domestic workers.

Q. You organized an exhibition of the ‘No One Should Work This Way’ photos at Sofia University in Tokyo from 6–11 June 2016. Can you tell us how this came about?

A. I am currently lecturing at Sophia University, and learned that ILO Japan was working with the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (JTUC-RENGO) to advocate for the ratification of Convention №189. This meant that all materials related to the Convention, as well as the stories from the photo exhibition, had been translated into Japanese. In addition, the portraits, which were shot by the famous photographer Steve McCurry, were all accompanied by detailed interview material — effectively case studies for students to use. It posed a perfect opportunity for me to help raise awareness about the issue of domestic worker rights on campus.

Q. How was the exhibition received at Sofia University?

A. It was well received. We had a small opening ceremony, which included speeches from the university president, a representative from JTUC-RENGO, ILO Japan and myself. We spoke on issues related to domestic worker rights, such as Convention №189, the role of ILO, lessons learned from the International Federation of Domestic Workers, and the need for policy on the movement of unskilled labour into Japan. Around 40 students and faculty members from the university were present at the opening ceremony.

Q. What steps did you take to encourage students and faculty to visit the exhibition?

A. The photos and stories were on display for five days, and we promoted the exhibition through the events page on the university website, posters around campus and a hanging banner by the exhibition wall.

Q. Did the exhibition have any direct impacts?

A. Yes. It received interest from other universities in Japan. I expect to see the exhibition being held on campuses soon.

Q. ILO encourages organizations to hold the ‘No One Should Work this Way’ exhibition, and offers the materials free of charge. What would you say to someone thinking about holding the exhibition?

A. Do it! It’s easy, cost effective and puts the focus on an important issue. The interview material can be used as a teaching aid on migration and rights issues. We can all do our part to protect domestic workers.

To view the exhibition photos, read the story of each domestic worker involved, and learn how you can host your own event, visit

View a video about the project at

The ‘No One Should Work This Way’ project was undertaken by photographer Steve McCurry and journalist Karen Emmons.

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