Tuesday, June 2, 2009

#14: Rethinking attitudes on 'Maids' & 'Houseboys'

The term "Domestic Worker" is perhaps more appropriate as the term 'maid' or 'house boy' is used rather indiscriminately; some of the so-called maids and house boys are actually in their 60's. I have to thank my learned friend for pointing out that in a former entry I made sweeping statements against the employment of domestic workers. She raised a good point, I now write after some more reflection.

I had proposed in the entry in question that it isn't crucial to hire someone when you can do the job yourself. The premise of my argument was that I see in many a NWs the tendency to abuse the trend so common due to cheap labour; the wanton hiring of domestic workers. I was so pertubed by the trend that I felt is should be dealt away with altogether. But then yes, with that argument, the question arises, 'Where else will that many people with that gainful employment: domestic as it may be,earn their bread and butter?

Domestics do all the work and get the least of benefits. On top of it all, they are the chief subject of 'kuphwesera'. Zika kubvutani kuntchito or in your relationships, you come home and 'lalatila' your domestic and still trust her to not poison your food, why would s/he? You have stripped him/her of all dignity to the point that s/he doesn't care how often you yell or threaten her. My learned friend had more points to raise, the issues of and actual institutionalised implementation of human rights, compesation, and domestic work policies in this sector is imperative if we are going to see change.

Someone would cringe at such a change of affairs! Noone to look down upon? Noone to boss around? No one to change your baby's nappies? It's like a caste system this.
#1.Nyasa Person, then #2. Nyasa Domestic. Such division is very unfortunate. A wise person once said,
"In the search for freedom, we are not free until we are all free."

The colonisers left, but there are still some who are colonised amongst us, no wonder when the Missionaries and expatriates come, they learn very quickly to treat the domestics badly because our standards are so low that THEIR abuse seems like liberty when it actually isn't.

The best example I have ever encountered is of a Nyasa family living in the diaspora. They have trained their children, now grown, to view domestics working for their family as Aunts/Uncles. Their respect, love, admiration, interaction... if you didn't know any different you would think these women/men were real kin.

What if we all did one step further and treated these hard working people as employees, not subjects. With all the pros and cons of a work environment, the policies, the benefits, the warnings, the raises, the over-time, the over-time pay, the vacation time, the consideration of insurance. Eh, "ndiye atithawatu" KUMENE!!! Mentality yoti anthu azi khalilira pansi so that ife tiziwoneka apamwamba ndiye kupondelezana ko. This is a new season, zimene zija zinapita. Now is the time to dream in colour, both for the "Nyasa" and the "Nyasa Domestic" so that we are finally one Nyasa, that includes you too Bwana Patel, ndikukuwonani!!!

Here are some of the most common abuses:

a) When the domestic worker boards with the employer/s: s/he rises earliest to begin work, works all day and goes to bed last/most fatigued, Calculate hour/day; is that even legal?

b) S/he is made to feel guilty about eating your food, then why don't you include meal allowances in the salary you pay him/her?

c) S/he can't sit and watch TV or sit at all, the argument is that if s/he's sitting down then there is some work that s/he isn't doing, hah! so says you who has a desk and CHAIR at your office, how long do YOU stand hmmmmm?????

d) Nail and cuticle damage over time due to harsh detergents. I personally know a lady whose nails are black and an inch thick as a result of this!!

e) Health and respiratory complications due to extensive exposure to heat, fumes and smoke from cooking equipment

f) Depression due to verbal abuse, harrassment, lack of rest, exercise and recreation

g) Inferiority complex issues due to denial of respect and worth

px: 'a tribute to the domestic worker: www.artspace-durban.com; 'cook': mkgandhi.org


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