I have a job that is not really considered as one. But 4.2 million people in my country do it for their living. We work hard each day. We have no holidays. If we get sick and take leave for a few days, then most probably we end up getting a reduced pay for that month. The salary that we receive each month is barely enough. Let me introduce you to the story of my life.
In my country, the work I do is referred to as domestic help and I am addressed as a domestic worker formally, but widely known as a maid servant. I am employed in a house which consists of a couple and their two children. I got hired at this house when I was 16 years old. My mother killed herself and left me to take care of my younger sister and brother. I got to know about my current employer from my aunt who was a domestic worker at that time in my employers sisters home.Desperate to earn money I took up the job.
My brother and sister were growing up at my aunt’s home and I started to work as a live-in domestic worker. I stayed at their home day and night and did all kinds of household chores they asked me to do. For all the toiling that I underwent, each day I was provided with three meals and a place to sleep for the night. I used to send most of my salary to my aunt so that she could provide for my brother and sister. Does not sound that bad now, does it?
Things got worse when my employer conceived her second child. She needed me around her every moment for mundane tasks such as combing her hair, massaging her legs, getting her a glass of water etc. I had to do this in addition to my daily chores which included babysitting the older child, cooking, sweeping, mopping the floor, and washing utensils. All this plus the extra work led to no increase in my payment whatsoever.
I was also cut out of other privileges such as visiting my aunt and my siblings once in a while. She wanted me in the house 24 X 7 catering to her needs. I wanted to watch television for some time to relax but was not allowed to do so. I wanted to NOT work and take rest for sometime but was not allowed to do so. Whenever she saw me sitting without any work she would find me something to do.
Why did I endure all of this and the abusive words lashed at me repeatedly? Simply because I had nowhere to go. I had nothing else to do. If I lost my job here then where would I go and how soon would I find another job? I cannot be a trouble to my aunt who already had enough mouths to feed. And she kept warning me saying, “You have protection as long as you keep working at your current employers place. What will happen to you – an unmarried young girl who is jobless and roaming around the streets having nowhere to go? Endure it. That is the best for you.”
And I have endured it. For seven years now. Recently, I started finding some solace in sharing my everyday story with my employers new neighbour who recently moved in. I can do that only when my employers are not at home. However bad the day goes, each day I found happiness watching the little boy sleep peacefully at night. I watched him grow from a tiny tot to a 5-year-old. I jumped with happiness when I learnt that the older boy successfully passed his exams with a good score.
And there were days I cried. There were times when I screamed. But no one heard it as I gave no voice to it. I let it die within myself. There was no point of expressing my sadness anyway. Who would hear it? Who would bring justice to us? What protection did we have? From the rights that we should possess to the number of hours we should sleep are all determined by our employers. I don’t know whether the government has any laws to protect us. I just know that even if there are laws they are definitely not implemented.
I will survive here like I have all these years. I have three meals a day and some sleep to get me through. Most of all, I have the love of the little boys to make me smile whenever I feel helpless. But time and again I am subjected to suspicious glances from my employers whenever something goes missing in the house or the kids pick up some bad habit. I live in a constant fear of what I would be put through the coming day. I feel powerless as all reigns lie with my employers.
The reason why I am reaching out to you is not because I want someone to rescue me from my current job or criticize my employer for ill-treating me. I want you to understand that we need protection in some form. Our days would be better if we knew that if anything were to happen to us someone would stand by us and fight for our justice. We are illiterate. We don’t know about government policies. Please let us know if there are any organizations to protect our rights. We want to empower ourselves and fight for justice.
Please do a kind gesture by spreading a word regarding this to the domestic workers employed in your house. Let them at least be aware as most of them endure everything in silence as they have no idea that they too have rights which must be recognized and protected And lastly, I request you to see us as human beings with the same needs and desires as you. We need you to provide us with jobs but please treat us like humans as it is painful to see the pet dog sitting on the sofa whereas we are not allowed such privileges.
*Images used for representational purposes only