Just as I logged into my only social network account of Facebook the other day, one of my sassy friends had posted a topic about house maids or home assistants like she politely referred to them, “doing the most boring and monotonous jobs”!! Waking up; do breakfast, get kids ready for School, do laundry, go buy groceries, do dishes, mop and dust, do lunch, sit and watch TV/ listen to music, gossip with next-door maid or boda-boda boyfriends at the gate.
Though Naome was referring to house maids of an upscale settlement, the whole thing got me thinking and reflecting about the plight of housemaids in my lovely Rwanda and decided to focus on these important people in our daily lives.
Many Rwandan will acknowledge the importance of house helps.
Florence confessed to me that if it wasn’t for the help of her two maids Claudine and Bienvenue, she wouldn’t have managed her increased responsibilities of the children and her all-consuming job.
“After giving birth to Sheila at almost the same time I was given this demanding promotion at my workplace. I thought everything was going to fall apart because I would be travelling a lot but my maids have done a great job for me. I find everything in order.”
“Sometimes I think they can keep the home more than I can do,” she remarked
Though these people are normally given less priority and are sometimes mistreated by their bosses, they do a great job in keeping the homes and taking care of most of the domestic responsibilities.
Though it’s not common here, in some societies house girls have endured sexual abuse from their male bosses and have suffered silently.
Despite all the hard work to keep the home going, the house helps have always had one common fate which is being abruptly fired at a certain point. However much they take care of the boss’s kids right from childhood, she or he will always be a house help.
Some house helps feel some of the work they do is not humane.
“I sometimes think they despise me because I work for money. If I worked for free may be they would give me some respect. I don’t ask a lot from them but they can’t even notice the good things I have done here,” Damascene Niyongabo who has been a house help for three years says.
For the house girls who take care of the children, these sometimes get some solace from spending time with growing infants. They sing them to bed every day, talk to them, feed them and watch them learn how to smile, “Watching Kecia grow has been the most exciting thing I have ever encountered.
I held her when she was one day old and now she is making three. She is my best friend and she loves me,” said 18 year old Uwamahoro.
Unfortunately these friendships are painfully broken when a maid is finally fired from her duties.
There should be strict enforcement of laws safeguarding the rights of housemaids such that they can lead decent and respected lives.