When Ileana left for Costa Rica at age 30 to work as a domestic worker, she never imagined that after 20 years she would return to Nicaragua as the first Coordinator of the Association of Domestic Workers.
"Before I went to Costa Rica, I worked as a secretary and an experienced teacher in Nicaragua. After being married for a long time, I had problems with my partner and decided to divorce. Then I started my journey to Costa Rica in search of better opportunities for me and my children. "
Ileana left without a work permit to Costa Rica, so she could not continue working in her previous careers. "I managed to find work, but only domestic work. I had to leave my professional life behind. I had many qualifications, and had studied for over two years to become a teacher."
During those 20 years, Ileana had the opportunity to work in many Costa Rican households. "I spent almost seven years doing very hard work, for low pay and had no health insurance."
Ileana recalls an accident where her kneecap was broken into three pieces while cleaning a house. "At that time I was illegal because I had no residency card and my passport was expired, but I got my papers thanks to a friend, who told me we could get them through an amnesty process between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, around 1990."
After the accident, she couldn’t work for a year until she found her last job, where she worked for 13 years and, thanks to her former boss, could meet the Association of Domestic Workers in Costa Rica, of which she is now Coordinator in Nicaragua.
"Migration brings pain, but it also brings compensation. I felt proud, because I was working, supporting my children, preparing for a better life in my country. "
After two and a half years back in Nicaragua, Ileana feels extremely grateful for the opportunities she received in Costa Rica. "It was all a new experience, but I never gave up."
As part of her work of the Association of Domestic Workers, Ileana gives trainings on gender issues, employment law, immigration law, as well as workshops on the basics of management and how to manage accounts for women who are the heads of their household.
"I prepare women here by telling them that migration is a right, and if no one violates these rights, we will find better opportunities to do whatever you want because you will have more opportunities for work. That is meaningful to me, to help those in need, and that's why I love my job."
For now Ileana continues as a coordinator of the Association of Domestic Workers in Nicaragua, and also as a labor attorney, "now that I got my degree," she says proudly. But she does not plan to stop there, and due to a lack of resources she had not been able to finish her studies, "but next year I will have a scholarship to finish studying, so I will be able to protect women even more."
"Thanks to migration I am where I am and I have my work. Moreover, after all my hard work, I have a very nice house which my children and grandchildren can enjoy."