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Open Access Publications from the University of California

'Making Visible the Invisible': A Glimpse into the History, Evolution and Current Dynamics of Domestic Work Relationships in Sudan


Domestic work is defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as: ‘work performed in or for a household or households within an employment relationship’. Domestic work has largely been an invisible and mysterious occupation, considering that this kind of work takes place in private homes.  Like many other countries, Sudan benefits greatly from the social and economic contributions of domestic work. However, very little is known about the marginalisation, and exclusion of domestic workers. This article attempts to expose the history, evolution and current context of domestic work in Sudan. It traces the history of domestic work to the practice of slavery in Sudan, when slaves were mainly used as domestic helpers. It then analyses the contextual factors that influenced the evolution of domestic workers from slaves to servants before examining the current political, legal, economic, and socio-cultural context in which domestic work takes place. The article concludes with empirical findings on the relationship between domestic workers and their employers in Sudan.

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