By Joy Ehonwa
The second episode of Nasco Moments centered on the real stories of housemaids. Nasco Moments, hosted by Joy Isi Bewaji on City FM 105.1, is a platform to question, explore and debate on social issues.
We’ve all heard of maids who repaid their employer’s kindness with evil, perhaps seeking revenge for how another family hurt her previously. However, heartbreaking stories of housemaids being ill-treated abound, and yet they do not receive as much publicity as stories of evil housemaids wreaking havoc on homes. It is almost as if no one remembers that a housemaid is somebody’s child too. I loved that this episode paid attention to this angle.
There is the maid who is forced to fan her employer with a hand fan for hours while they sleep, and is the recipient of several injuries from her “madam” if she does not carry out this task satisfactorily. There is the maid whom the man of the house, or some other male occupant, has turned into a sexual plaything against her will. There is the maid whose plight is even gorier than these.
The guest for the day, Biodun Stephen, writer, presenter, and Nollywood practitioner, is also a mother. So when she said that for all the movies about housemaids being produced, Nollywood has not even done justice to the injustice that these young girls suffer, my heart sank within me.
Why do we show such little empathy to these maids? Biodun and Joy arrived at a few answers:
- Coming from a place of hardship, these people relish inflicting the same on others. Ironically, this should be a reason NOT to do this, but human nature is capricious. Remember some juniors in secondary school who couldn’t wait to become seniors so they could “punish” other juniors?
- The superiority complex- I’m better than you so I can treat you like trash.
- Inability to love anybody outside their nuclear family. There are homes where you cannot even tell a young girl in the home is a blood relative and not a maid, because of how she is treated.
- The belief that there are no consequences. The families of these maids are probably in some obscure village, and often too disadvantaged to come to her rescue, hence the impunity with which these employers maltreat the girls. Even society is not protecting the victims enough. People who maim and even kill adults often escape punishment; what hope has a young housemaid with nobody to stand up for her? Stories of cruel employers who were arrested are rarely followed up on; did they go to court? Did they pay some money and go scot free?
- Inexplicable cruelty. There are people who treat their friends and family really nice, and then are mean to their drivers and domestic staff, for no obvious reason.
Is it possible to determine the root cause of this phenomenon?
Joy points out that it is not so much how these housemaids are treated, as why they are housemaids in the first place. If parents had the means to d take care of their kids, would they send them away to work as slaves in other people’s homes? It is unlikely. Biodun points out that family planning is free; yet, underprivileged people have more children than they can cater for and it is inevitable that these children, raised in abject poverty, will be condemned to a life of servitude, or worse.
This extends to other social vices as well. This is why we have kid beggars, and young pickpockets. If these kids had a choice, they wouldn’t beg. This is also part of the reason why juvenile delinquency is on the rise.
Hopefully, soon the industry will be regulated so that the rights of domestic workers are protected. There is no excuse for maltreating young people, but it is better to protect our children, and those around us. And if you have a maid at home, make sure they’re not underage. Ensure they’re well fed and clothed, and have a long term plan for them; they should not be housemaids forever. Find out about their background and their dreams for the future. Some people don’t speak to their maids except to give orders. Don’t let this be you; she is a human being too. By lifting that one out of poverty, you are helping to end the cycle. Her children will stand a better chance at a quality life than she did.
This was certainly an enlightening episode, and at the end there was the NASCO Trivia segment where listeners can win a goody bag; just name the different types of detergent NASCO presently has. Send your answer to 08033286604 or tweet it using the hashtag #NascoMoments. Do tune in next week.