In 2014, the evils of a nanny who was secretly filmed were brought to light when a video showing her savagely beating up the 18-month-old child in her care leaked. Dubbed the ‘monster maid’, she was employed to protect, care and nurture the baby, instead, she pounced on the child and brutalised her almost to death.
Naturally, the video stirred major social media uproar, with many wondering what could have led the nanny to such actions.
People need to treat their house helps better. Some humans are just evil, no matter how well you treat them. These are just examples of views provoked by the video.
Some have said, you are better off taking care of your own kids, you do not know the monster you are letting into your home. Others have used house helps for as long as they can remember and they have only kind words to say about them.
“Some people treat their maids like slaves. They let them go to bed hungry, they don’t let them sit with them as they eat, they constantly criticise them and never acknowledge the good. Bad behaviour should not be excused—not from the boss or the employee. Can’t we all be civil?” read a comment on Facebook.
Saved by the help
“I never knew the importance of a maid in a home until last year when I gave birth. I thought I would handle doing everything myself, mostly as my son slept. But I found out how hectic it can be. I needed a house help, and I soon realised that it is easy getting one.
“I started a hunt for one but it was rocky. I got one who worked for about two weeks and she decided to leave abruptly, as she averred that the load of work was too much for her to handle. I spent a week with my little sister helping me out as we searched for another one,” says Alicia Uwera, a mother and a resident of Kicukiro.
She says that after a week, she got another maid who worked for a month and left without a reason, which worried her. It got to a point where they would work for a day, two or a week and disappear for reasons she still isn’t sure of. This seemed hard for her to bear. However, when she inquired from fellow mothers, they assured her that it is normal when you have just given birth to have on and off maids.
Luckily enough, she got a maid who seems settled, she has been with them for six months now and she gets better, every single day.
It’s inevitable to have maids, especially when there are kids involved, we just need to have ways of understanding each other’s likes and dislikes and working towards making each other comfortable, Uwera says.
Maids play a vital role in a home, to some extent, they are the ones in control of everything; food, laundry, cleaning, taking care of the kids and so forth. Some wonder how to get a maid you can trust, connect with and avoid drama, insecurity and uncertainties.
Getting the perfect help
According to Joshua Mbaraga, the chairperson of the Steering Committee of Homes services-Nkunganire, the challenges are not one-way. To get reliable and efficient house helpers, one needs to address holistically the underlying issues. To start with, there is our perception of the job as a demeaning one, that has to be done by those who have nothing better to do, and this is reflected in the kind of names we use to refer to them. Maids, and shamba-boys are some of the belittling names.
Then we have cruel treatment by some employers. The fluid nature of the job also makes it difficult to trace a house helper that may commit a crime and disappear, especially since employers do not have much information on them, he adds.
Home services-Nkunganire, a programme under a local NGO called Cornerstone Africa that is run in collaboration with Gasabo District through Kinyinya sector, seems to have the answer.
Mbaraga says that the programme aims not only at alleviating the challenges faced by both the employers and employees, but it helps to provide employment, mainly for the youth and also support crime reduction.
He notes that the benefit of picking a worker from such an organisation is that you are certain that your home and family are in secure hands, services are professional due to the training offered and less supervision is needed.
“At Nkunganire, confidence is instilled in the workers through induction training and use of more appropriate names,” says Olive Zimulinda the programme coordinator. The house-helpers are referred to as “home service providers” while their employers are referred to as “home service consumers”.
Olive says that, for a home service provider to be accepted, they go through a rigorous registration process that includes a thorough background check. After that, a database of service providers is created from which service consumers may select, based on their preferences and type of service required. The service providers may work on full time or short time basis, for instance; it can be for a period of a year, one month or a day, whatever the client prefers.
“To avoid issues of service providers disappearing without notice, there is an elaborate contract a service consumer signs with the service provider, that covers them both, and we come in as moderators to help in case of any problem or misunderstanding. The contract includes a lot of details that both parties agree on before they sign it,” Mbaraga explains.
To maintain a harmonious relationship within the home, both parties are encouraged to respect each other. Home services should be considered as any other employment, he adds.
Ronald Muhire, a husband and father, says that maids at their job ought to have some freedom and respect as normal workers, their employers must understand them, and at times, allow them to air out their views and complaints to ease tension. As long as it is done in a professional manner.
Muhire says that communication is key; before you complain about the mess you came across in the house, bother to know what happened. These house helps are also human and sometimes they have too much to do. You can once in a while ignore the few mistakes they make, they can’t be perfect.
For the house helps, he adds that, they should know their position, the purpose as to why they are at that job, perform all duties as agreed, respect bosses and mind their own business. What kills relations is lies and gossip. Iron them out.
How the programme works?
“We register whoever comes looking for employment and is 18 and above, irrespective of education level. After registering these service providers, we keep their contacts and information. In case a person needs a service provider, we check in the base and match the request of the consumer with the qualifications of the service providers and interview them to make sure the information they have matches with existing data. We then short list and ask the consumer to interview them further so as to make selection,” Zimulinda says.
Mbaraga appreciates the support and collaboration of different stakeholders, so far the programme has started registering success, young as it is.
He notes that they have registered about five hundred service providers, and so far, successfully deployed 10 of them on full-time basis. The office keeps regular communication with the deployed service providers to ensure smooth service delivery.
Mbaraga says that the long term objective of the programme is to turn home services into formal employment that contributes to the social economic development of the country through better service delivery, reduced crime and youth employment.
Both parties have to create a professional work environment. Treat a maid the way you would want to be treated as an employee at your own workplace, and that includes handling disciplinary matters. Pay them on time, unless there is a financial crisis and let them know why their salary will delay. There should be laws that protect house-helps.
Bobson Rugambwa, Entrepreneur
Every person should know their position. Brief a maid on what they are supposed to do, so that they know their duties. If possible, create a time table to enable them work on time. Be clear on issues you wouldn’t want them to do. In case of a problem, solve it in an understanding way. Befriend each other, it won’t take away the fact that you are the boss.
Charles Shyaka, Business development and marketing manager, N-Frnds Ltd, Kacyiru
Treat a maid with respect, they will do their work very well, mistreat them, they will revenge. If you expect proper service, be a good employer. A maid is part of the family, so she or he is entitled to family activities just like each member of the family. They should eat the same food as everyone else; do not let them feed on beans when others are on chicken.
Brian Mugisha, Sales and operations executive - iBlue concepts