The Silent Ones That Tend the Hearth
“Dear Lord!! Why me? Why always me?” tweeted a friend on a popular social networking site. The crisis in question was the failure of her domestic worker to report to duty. The workload was driving her crazy and she had no idea what to do.
This situation is reflective of many households across the country. With more women joining the country’s workforce, it’s a cause to rejoice, as it indicates the rising female employment levels. Hence the responsibility of managing the households is being increasingly shared with domestic workers. There are an estimated 90 million domestic workers in the country who are indirectly responsible for contributing to the country’s rising economy.
So, what happens when one’s maid fails to report to work? The employers feel stranded and clueless. Life becomes a nightmare if it happens for more than two days. The issue turns into a workplace conversation topic and lands on social networking sites as well.
Hence, these domestic workers are indispensable and play a significant role in many a life. Be it part-time or full-time, their contribution simply cannot be negated.
However, how many treat their domestic workers with dignity or respect? They are often seen as mere machines rather than people with feelings and emotions. The drudgery they are subjected to contributes towards disregarding their worth. Many of these workers work like slaves without complaint simply to eke out a living, even if their poor wages don’t ensure much of one. It escapes the employers’ minds that it is because of the workers that their household functions smoothly. In the fast-paced world they live in, their domestic workers’ lives and needs simply don’t matter. After all, who cares as long as the work that is paid for, is done?
In many homes, domestic workers are reprimanded if they fail to arrive on time. They are blamed for upsetting the schedule of the house. It is not tolerated and starts a volley of abuse.
How does the employers feel when they face humiliation at the hands of their own bosses for committing mistakes that are beyond their control? It makes them feel terrible and small. It’s what happens with domestic workers as well, but sadly, this seems to be easily overlooked.
Women who work as part-time domestic workers have it harder. These women have the added responsibility of running their own homes. They get up at as early as four in the mornings, irrespective of whether it’s cold out or not, cook, clean their house and rush to the homes of their employers. After an exhausting day’s work, they come back home to more work. In a world that is still patriarchal, these women are also answerable to their menfolk if things at their home are even the slightest bit out of place.
Working at breakneck speed, these women also often end up battling ailments ranging from backaches and common cold to fatigue and weakness, which often go unattended. Additionally, the women themselves equate falling sick to committing a crime, because work provides them their daily bread and butter, no matter how meager the amount is. Being sick for a long period of time also invites the wrath of the employers.
It is forgotten that these women too are people with their own aspirations and desires for a comfortable life. They too desire to see their children do well in life and need comforts to face the harsh summers and severe winters. However, they are required to struggle extra hard to meet their daily needs. So, with no time to dream and no time to spend with their loved ones, they rush to work in different houses.
Let us respect the fact that they are individuals with their fair share of stories to tell, feelings to share, wishes that they want to see come true.
So, how can the ones who employ them be more humane towards them? Perhaps, it just requires being a little sensitive to their needs, being firm yet gentle while dealing with work issues, listening to their dreams and daily difficulties once in a while and above all, seeing them as people with dignity and inferior to none. Everyone is important and so are their needs.
Ultimately, the onus of ensuring all this lies in the hands of the employers themselves.
Department of MSW