Someone recently shared a video clip of a girl—looked like a teenager—carrying a baby, while the parents of the baby, who sat at a table opposite her, kept themselves busy with food. They were in a restaurant, and another customer (responsible for the video and the commentary) who had been observing them eat without offering the young girl in their care anything, was so incensed that he ordered a plate of food for the girl.
Wahala! The couple would not have it. They asked for the food to be returned and confronted the man who told them off for their cruelty, warned them that he had them on camera, and asked the girl how she was related to them (she was the man’s niece, she said). He also asked if they were nice to her; the poor girl said that they maltreated her.
As with everything I see these days on social media, I never know what’s a skit and what’s real. However, the trepidation in the girl’s voice sounded real. The food the couple was eating was real. The plate of rice the young girl was denied was real. The anger in the voice of the customer sounded real. The couple’s annoyance seemed real.
That domestic helps are maltreated, that this scenario, if not real, could be real, is undeniably true.
I do not understand this culture of treating those who work for us in our homes as if they were subhuman. People would have drivers wait in the sun for hours for them, unable to even grab a drink. While oga and madam are in air-conditioned rooms, carrying on whatever business for pleasure or otherwise, hardly a thought is spared for the driver waiting for them, sometimes skipping meals because they do not dare be away from the car or its vicinity when oga or madam strolls out.
Some would take in someone’s child and treat that child like they’d never treat their own child or that of their friends or anyone else they think is on their ‘level.’ You have children waking up early to do chores—sweeping and cleaning after your family, cooking (in some cases not even being allowed to eat the food they’ve cooked) and clearing, worked to the bone, and then beaten if they ever slip up.
I have heard of cases where these poor children are not allowed to go to bed before the family they work for, no matter how tired they are. And yet they endure because they must. Some of you all must think that the poor who are in your employ or who send their children to work for you are made of hardier stuff than flesh and blood.
And you must believe that they have an extraordinary capacity to tolerate suffering because otherwise, you’d behave better, if for nothing else but out of fear that they might snap.
Growing up in Enugu, I heard of a woman whose young maid wasn’t allowed to eat the food she made for the two children in her care. She wasn’t much older than these kids, and yet her madam would portion out two different meals: a variation of dishes with meat and fish for the madam’s own children, and always the same eba and soup for the help. One day, the young girl ate her portion, ate the children’s portion, locked up the house, and walked away. The woman returned in the evening to find her children wailing from hunger and her help nowhere to be seen.
There was also the woman whose overworked help simply put her infant in a cardboard box and strolled off into the sunset.
How are you not treating those you’re entrusting with the safety of those vulnerable ones dearest to you well? If you lack decency, do you also lack the common sense to imagine that they might want to get to you through them? A friend of mine makes it a point of duty to be overly solicitous to waiters because she says she doesn’t want anyone spitting in her food or drink.
These people that you’re beating, starving, forcing to sleep on kitchen floors, yet you’re eating the food they are making for you, leaving them to care for your children, and expecting utter loyalty. Una get power oo.
If you have a house help, especially if that person is a child — which is problematic, but I have said this ad nauseam — above all else, remember that they are human too.