The Help, or a Power Trip?

Historically, it took all members of the family to give an aiding hand at the success of the household. From the father bringing in a source of income, to the mother ensuring the upkeep of the home; boiling down to the children of the family fulfilling their chores, learning responsibility in the process. In a more traditional aspect, households believed that family expanded to the community at large. Every elder was an aunt or uncle; siblings would spread to the tenth house from your own. Simply put – family had no boarders.

Fast-tracking to an independent and urbanized continent, with well over 96 million inhabitants in the urban cities across the continent, sense of household responsibility and family keeping has been greatly lost due to meeting the rising economical demands of human development.

As Africa kept developing, and the economy rising in strength, jobs became more demanding, parents worked harder, providing more and making ends meet while others secure finances for luxurious living. The more they worked, the more time spent in the office and less time at home. By this, housekeeping became less of a home responsibility and more of a job opportunity. Materializing “the help” job opportunity.

Nannies, maids and helpers have slowly become the backbone of what keeps a home together, ensuring that the family is well fed, children and pets taken care of, and most importantly, the house is spick-and-span. Initially, creating such a job post was to help the illiterate niece, aunt or cousin in the rural village: empowering them through domestic skills for a minimum wage of 80 US dollars as a form of empowerment. The usage of the word ‘empowerment’ itself is arguable, however, at this day and age housekeeping positions in the domestic home have lost their integrity; mainly due to the employers’ lack of respect towards the worker.

Generalizing all helpers as lazy, thieves, bad cooks, terrible cleaners, stupid because of a lack of formal education with an result of saying that they are not worth the money perpetuates an emotionally abusive working environment – exploiting domestic workers and inflicting a negative stereotype.

Perhaps the amount of time one spends alone in an office, imposed with deadlines to meet and stress gives a person a fictitious reason to hurl such insults at a person, forgetting that the helper has become the central nervous system – the backbone – of the upkeep of the household. However, one cannot justify negative behavior from the negativity they fed into before. It becomes a vicious cycle. After some time, the domestic worker ends up becoming the stereotype you made her to be, not because of inherent behavior, but because of creating a false sense of reality for the person. The only point in time you will notice how wrong you were is when said person leaves the job, finding greener pastures.

Putting it into a clearer perspective, comparing a domestic worker to a housewife or homemaker; A  house wife or home maker cooks, cleans and takes care of the children daily. Such people are continuously praised as we all appreciate their hard work, caring nature and compassion. However, a perfect stranger is hired to do the exact thing in your home; not only aren’t they appreciated, but are given minimum wage from a heart which believes they are undeserving. Really, think about it, is your home keeping worth 80 dollars a month?