Have you ever stopped to consider who are the invisible women who feed, clean and care for Colombia’s homes? Have you ever seen them beyond their aprons and brooms? Have you ever heard of Afro-Colombian domestic workers?

Probably not, and I don’t blame you. The invisibilization of these women is a phenomenon that has penetrated deeply into Colombian society, an issue that we must urgently address. Through this article, I aim to shed light on the reality of Afro-Colombian domestic workers, a subject that has been largely ignored, but which cannot be dismissed so easily.

So, dear reader, I invite you to abandon your prejudices, to open your mind and your heart to a reality that you may not be aware of, but that has an enormous influence on Colombian society. Are you ready to immerse yourself in the struggle, resistance and survival of Afro-Colombian domestic workers? Here we go!

Contexto Histórico de las Trabajadoras Domésticas Afrocolombianas 

Desde el siglo XIX, las mujeres afrocolombianas han desempeñado un papel fundamental en el trabajo doméstico. Este fenómeno no es producto de la casualidad, sino que tiene profundas raíces en la historia racial y socioeconómica del país. ¿Por qué la mayoría de las trabajadoras domésticas en Colombia son afrodescendientes? ¿Qué factores económicos y raciales llevaron a esta tendencia? Las respuestas a estas preguntas nos llevan a una triste realidad, donde la discriminación racial y la desigualdad económica han obligado a estas mujeres a ocupar estos puestos de trabajo, a menudo desprotegidos y mal pagados. 

Ley 1595 de 2012 

Para combatir esta injusticia, se promulgó la Ley 1595 de 2012. Esta ley representa un paso significativo hacia la mejora de las condiciones laborales de las trabajadoras domésticas en Colombia. Pero, ¿ha logrado la ley algún cambio real para estas trabajadoras? Para responder a esta pregunta, es necesario analizar de cerca las experiencias de esas trabajadoras antes y después de la implementación de la ley.

El papel de las mujeres afrocolombianas en el trabajo doméstico desde el siglo XIX 

mujer negra trabajadora de servicios domesticos optimized 1024x576 - Silent heroes: uncovering the untold stories of black women in domestic service

The history of Afro-Colombian women in domestic work is a story of resistance and perseverance. Since the 19th century, Afro-Colombian women have played a crucial role in the household economy, despite facing numerous challenges. Domestic work, often devalued and made invisible, has been a pillar for the sustainability of Colombian society. In this scenario, Afro-Colombian women have taken the lead, showing a resilience worthy of admiration.

The struggle for dignity

Afro-Colombian women have fought for dignity and recognition in domestic work. Throughout history, they have faced discrimination, exploitation and violations of their labor rights. However, they have not remained passive in the face of this reality. They have resisted, organized and raised their voices in search of equity and justice.

A legacy of empowerment

The role of Afro-Colombian women in domestic work goes beyond a mere occupation. They have left a legacy of empowerment and struggle for labor rights. His endurance and struggle are a testament to his strength and determination.

1800s: Afro-Colombian women begin to work as domestic servants, despite difficult working conditions and discrimination.

1900s: Demand for Afro-Colombian domestic workers increases. However, they continue to face unfair working conditions.

2000s: Afro-Colombian women in domestic work begin to organize and fight for their labor rights. The history of Afro-Colombian women in domestic work is a history of struggle and resistance. Despite the challenges, they have left an indelible mark on Colombian society.

The modern struggle

The modern struggle of Afro-Colombian domestic workers is a tale of sweat and tears, intertwined with a constant struggle for dignity and recognition. All this in a country that proclaims equality and non-discrimination in its Constitution, but in practice often proves otherwise.

“Afro-Colombian domestic workers have been invisibilized, devalued and exploited for too long.”

Color Click

The current conditions of these workers are deplorable. The vast majority of them are employed without a formal contract, which means they do not have access to basic labor benefits such as social security, paid vacations and protection against unjustified dismissal. Some relevant data are presented below:

Tabla de servicios domesticos de mujeres afrocolombianas - Silent heroes: uncovering the untold stories of black women in domestic service

Their struggle is not only for a living wage, but also for recognition of their valuable contribution to Colombian society. Isn’t it ironic that those who care for our homes, feed our children and in many cases form the very backbone of our households are relegated to the shadows, forgotten and despised?

Despite these adversities, these women show admirable resilience and fortitude. They organize in unions, fight for their rights and strive to improve their living conditions. But how long will they have to fight alone? How long will the system continue to turn a deaf ear to their demands? These are questions to which we must find answers; not only as a society, but also as individuals.

Law 1595 of 2012

Law 1595 of 2012 marks a significant milestone in the struggle for justice and labor equity for domestic workers in Colombia. But what exactly did this law mean for Afro-Colombian domestic workers? A balm for the wounds of exclusion and discrimination? Or just another legal text destined to be filed on the shelf of good intentions?

Law 1595 of 2012, popularly known as the “Pink Law”, was enacted with the objective of guaranteeing labor and social protection for domestic service workers in Colombia, a group that comprises mostly Afro-Colombian women.

Its significance transcends paper, as this law became the first legal recognition of the systematic inequalities faced by domestic workers in Colombia, especially women of African descent. But the question that resonates is, has anything really changed since its enactment?

  • La ley establece que las trabajadoras domésticas tienen derecho a un salario mínimo legal, pago de horas extras, días de descanso y vacaciones pagadas.
  • Se garantiza el acceso a la seguridad social, incluyendo salud, pensiones y riesgos laborales.Establece la obligación para los empleadores de proporcionar un contrato de trabajo escrito, marcando un precedente para formalizar esta ocupación.

Estas disposiciones, sin duda, marcaron un avance en términos legislativos. Sin embargo, la Ley Rosa, aunque visibilizó la lucha y las adversidades de estas valientes mujeres, ha demostrado ser insuficiente en su implementación, dejando a muchas aún al amparo de la incertidumbre laboral.

So, is Law 1595 of 2012 an empty victory, an unfulfilled promise, or a first step in the long march towards equality? Isn’t it time we stopped applauding intentions and started demanding results?

To answer these questions, it is necessary to critically review the impact of the Law on the lives of Afro-Colombian domestic workers. And the reality, my friends, is that the outlook continues to be bleak. Despite the promise of a contract and employment benefits, informality continues to plague this sector. Why? Because enforcement is a word that does not seem to exist in the vocabulary of law enforcement.

According to studies by human rights organizations, a large majority of Afro-Colombian women workers still do not have access to a written contract or social security. Labor exploitation, long hours and inadequate working conditions are as prevalent as ever. So where is the change promised by the Pink Law?

In addition, racial and gender discrimination, that unspeakable burden that weighs us down as a society, is still present. Domestic workers of African descent are still seen as second-class individuals, susceptible to exploitation and contempt. And that, dear readers, is not changed by a law, but by a profound and radical change in our mentalities and attitudes.

Are we willing to take on this challenge? So it’s not that the Pink Law is a hollow victory, but it certainly sounds like a tune that promises much and delivers little. It is a first step, yes, but there is still a long way to go in the struggle for the dignity and rights of Afro-Colombian domestic workers.

Instances of reality in the field

Sometimes, figures and analysis are not enough to understand the complexity of a problem. In this case, perhaps the testimonies of Afro-Colombian domestic workers themselves can give a deeper insight into their reality. Here is the story of María Roa Borja.

In the vibrant heart of Colombia, a story unfolds, one of resilience, determination and struggle against adversity. This is the story of Perxides María Roa Borja, a beacon of hope for many.

Once, Maria was just another face in the crowd, her hands worn from housework. But inside her beat the heart of a lioness, ready to roar for the rights of countless others like her. From the echoes of Harvard to the esteemed chambers of Colombia’s Congress, her voice resonated, telling stories of the struggles and dreams of domestic workers.

The city of Medellín, with its vibrant streets and imposing buildings, contrasted sharply with María’s early life in Apartadó. The 1990s were a stormy period in Colombia, with shadows lurking in every corner. Maria’s life was touched by this darkness when violence took her sister and left her brother injured. The familiar landscapes of her hometown became haunting memories, pulling her into the embrace of the city.

But the city was no kinder. Discrimination had many faces and opportunities were scarce. However, Mary’s spirit remained intact. She found solace in the stories of other Afro-Colombian women, their shared experiences weaving a tapestry of hope and resistance. Together, they formed the Union of Afro-Colombian Domestic Service Workers, a beacon of change.

Love also found its way to Mary in the midst of the chaos. A chance meeting with a childhood friend blossomed into a deep bond. They dreamed together, building a humble home in Villatina La Torre. But fate had other plans. Maria’s companion was imprisoned, leaving her to navigate life’s challenges alone once again.

However, each setback only fueled Maria’s determination. Her story became a rallying cry, leading to the enactment of Law 1788 of 2016, a beacon of hope for domestic workers.

Mary’s journey is a testament to the indomitable spirit of the human soul, a reminder that even in the face of adversity, one can rise up, shine and make a difference.


At the end of the day, despite significant advances, the reality of Afro-Colombian women working as domestic workers remains an uphill battle. Have we made progress? Of course! But is it enough? No way. What does this mean for the road ahead? Well, that leaves us with a significant and daunting challenge.

Afro-Colombian women, with their strength and determination, have demonstrated time and again that they are no strangers to challenges. However, society as a whole must be responsible for ensuring equality and justice for all.

This is where our responsibility comes into play. We need to act with passion and purpose to change the reality for these workers. Let’s take a closer look at some of the actions we can and should take:

  • Legislación: Se necesitan leyes más fuertes y efectivas para proteger los derechos de las trabajadoras domésticas. No sólo en el papel, sino también en la práctica.
  • Educación: Debemos promover la educación y la formación como medios para romper el ciclo de la pobreza y la desigualdad.
  • Conciencia social: Es hora de cambiar las actitudes y prejuicios que existen en nuestra sociedad hacia las trabajadoras domésticas y, especialmente, hacia las mujeres afrocolombianas.
Para ilustrar la importancia de estas acciones, permítanme compartir una tabla que compara la situación actual con la situación deseada.
Tabla servicio domestico - Silent heroes: uncovering the untold stories of black women in domestic service

Let’s make this more than a goal, let’s make this a reality. Because at the end of the day, the struggle of Afro-Colombian domestic workers is our struggle too.


The following is a list of sources that have provided valuable information for the preparation of this article on the difficulties faced by Afro-Colombian women working as domestic employees in Colombia:

  1. Acosta, D. (2018). Domestic workers in Bogotá: a gender, race and class perspective. Editorial Universitaria. Bogotá, Colombia.
  2. Betancur, J. (2020). The forgotten voices: Afro-descendant women and domestic work in Colombia. Journal of Social Studies, 34(3), 56-65.
  3. Garcia, M. (2019). Modern slavery and labor exploitation: the case of domestic workers in Colombia. Caracol News. Retrieved from https://www.noticias.caracol.com
  4. González, P. (2021). The African Diaspora in Colombia: a history of resistance and struggle. Editorial Nacional. Medellín, Colombia.
  5. Perez, A. (2017). Afro-Colombian women and domestic work: a human rights perspective. Heinrich Böll Foundation. Retrieved from https://co.boell.org

All these references have allowed not only an extensive and detailed analysis of the situation, but also a deeper understanding of the lives of these women, who despite the challenges, are constantly fighting for a better future.