Mistreatment Of Housemaids By Embassy Employees.
A large number of women working for the Kenyan embassy in Sweden employees get very low salaries without any social protection. Semi-Slaves conditions which are given to the housemaids are very disturbing to any morally right person. They work for long hours without pay or compensation. The number of young women and men employed as domestic servants by the embassy employees is worrying given the conditions they work under. As the embassy staff enjoys their holidays in London and other parts of the world, the housemaids are left with a salary of only 1500skr. per month.
This Kenyans who works here in Sweden as domestic servants are viewed as unskilled and uneducated which translates into their mistreatment in the forms of exploitation and abuse. There is an apparent disconnect between the demands the embassy staff places upon the housemaid and the feasibility of the housemaid to meet those demands. The housemaid, at large, is not valued or viewed as a person with needs, feelings or desires. They are not seen as individuals with lives that exist outside the realm of their home but rather as servants whose only purpose in life is to cater to their every whim. They are absolute at the bottom rung of the social hierarchy in Kenyan society in Sweden. (From the embassy perspective). Most are poor young women who come from the rural areas, with little skills and education to help them in their daily plight to earn a living.
The Kenyan embassy in Sweden employees recognizes how vulnerable this Kenyans are and takes advantage of their unfortunate circumstances to acquire cheap labour. They are mistreated, given insultingly low wages; work excessively long hours, abused and the stigma associated with domestic labour makes the whole thing morally wrong. As many Kenyans in this region voices injustices that face our people, some of us have been hated for voicing the voice of the voiceless. The sad part of it is that this housemaids are being mistreated by their fellow women in most cases.(Did the immediate former ambassador to Sweden employ a maid?)
It’s very ironical to see the crusaders of female liberation oppressing the very people they say they are defending. How can one survive in Sweden with less than 2000kr in a month? With the empowerment of one group of women, comes the oppression of the other. The oppressed becoming the oppressor is the housemaid’s biggest obstacle to progress. Another important player in this clash is the Kenyan Government. Their neglect and inadequate policies regarding domestic servitude and protection of workers has only served to contribute to the society’s idea that domestic labourers are not valued enough as human beings to warrant the same rights and working conditions granted to other Kenyans.
Not surprisingly, domestic workers bear only so much abuse and mistreatment before they retaliate, sometimes violently, against their employers. More benign cases of retaliation include domestic workers stealing from their employers. They frequently justify this behaviour as compensation for being overworked and underpaid. Indeed, there are many instances of employers withholding pay altogether only to find that their domestic workers have been helping themselves to family possessions. We have had of domestic employees working in collaboration with gangs to exact revenge on their employers. The Kenyan embassy employees must be on the alert and start strategizing on how to satisfy their maids because they have many options on the table. With easy access to valuables, like tax free alcohol (Tusker) to jewelleries, domestic workers have little trouble engaging in theft.
In more extreme cases, however, angry and frustrated domestic employees have even resorted to violent retaliatory measures. In several instances, workers have responded to unfair treatment by murdering their employers. One domestic worker attempted to poison an entire family while another houseboy killed his boss with a hoe upon learning that he had been fired without pay. In still other cases, angry domestic workers target the children of their abusive employers. Often too young to defend themselves, children become the victims of neglect or abuse by their mistreated and vengeful caretakers. In one case, one woman went so far as to strangle the two toddlers under her care after an argument with her employer.
Currently, the only organization within Kenya campaigning exclusively for the rights of house helps is the Centre for Domestic Training and Development in Nairobi. The Canter’s approach to the issue is to empower women in their current situation and teach them marketable skills for domestic labour so that they may have a bargaining chip to negotiate for high salaries and fair working terms and conditions. The NGO has to date, trained and found decently compensated employment for 1000 women in the last five years; the real change will have to come from within society. By promoting decent work for women, we are empowering societies and advancing the cause of economic and social development for all.
Munala wa Munala.
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