The female face of migration

Chandrangani Gunathilaka back safe at home with her family in Sri Lanka. Credits: Laura Sheahen/CRS

Chandrangani Gunathilaka back safe at home with her family in Sri Lanka.
Credits: Laura Sheahen/CRS

The Sister* from Caritas Sri Lanka searches for the women migrant workers who’ve returned home abused and traumatised, their dream of saving a nest egg for their families shattered.

Chandrangani Gunathilaka’s story is one of the worst the Sister has heard. Chandrangani went to Kuwait as a maid in January 2010, paying agents over $200, but quickly fell ill when her employers starved her. Her agents smacked her head against a wall and stood on her chest when she asked for another job. Coughing up blood, Chandrangani made it to the Sri Lankan Embassy.

“ There were many suffering people there,” she said. “Some were burned. Many were beaten.” Chandrangani ended up in a wheelchair.

The Sister, who sets up safe migration programmes for Caritas Sri Lanka, arranged for medical treatment. Chandrangani can now take a few steps and deeply appreciates the Sister ’s help and counselling. “Nobody else came to visit me.”

The Sister draws strength from the Magnificat, which her order reflects on nightly. “Mary stood for voiceless people. These women are uneducated, and cannot stand for themselves. We have to stand for them,” she said.

Caritas does not stop at practical help though. In 2010, Caritas Internationalis launched its “Under one roof, under one law” campaign for equal rights for domestic workers and advocated with the UN’s International Labour Organisation which is drafting a Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. A convention will mean the rights of people like Chandrangani are better protected. The job now? Advocating for its early adoption and ratification.

*Name withheld for security reasons.

Caritas Internationalis

President: Cardinal Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle
Secretary General: Michel Roy

Caritas Internationalis
Palazzo San Calisto
Vatican City State

Reception Desk: + 39 06 698 797 99
Fax: + 39 06 698 872 37

The office is open from Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 5.00 pm.

If you need to contact a staff member outside of office hours in a humanitarian emergency, please call + 39 334 359 0700 or email