I’d ask the same question as Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani (Nigerian Novelist & Writer), Using poorer relatives as domestic workers, does that translate to helping or exploiting them? It’s an article everyone has to read
Letter from Africa: Nigeria’s homehelp dilemmas
With all the equality campaigns going on, why hasn’t someone thought of a campaign for this or at least created some sort of awareness? Well I haven’t because the scales just fell off my eyes to this sad reality. I guess it’s true what they say about people having a nonchalant attitude towards issues that don’t affect them directly. Truth is, it affects us all.
It is appalling to say the least that some people would look at this act as “philanthropic”. Really? How inhumane have people gotten these days? I would’ve asked how they sleep peacefully but that wouldn’t be an issue knowing this country. Now don’t misinterpret my disgust, if these “more privileged” relations act differently, this post wouldn’t be necessary.
Growing up, I remember movies made to shed light on this ghastly issue. Let’s think about it together. Mr. A and his wife feel they need extra help at home so they reach out to their father’s-uncle’s-cousin’s-wife’s-younger brother’s-third daughter’s son or daughter(still extended family right?) whom they hope to fill the void of a working machine. Beloved extended family are excited to let this fellow go for hope of a better life in the “city” in exchange for a few domestic chores. Shock on this fellow when he gets to this so-called city and realizes the difference between his life in the village and that of the city is just a bigger house lacking love and care.
I remember visiting a friend when I was in primary school who happened to be a maid to another family. I can’t remember how our friendship began but she lived on my street. Usually when I visited my friends, their rooms served as our hangout spot.
I was struck with horror as I peered at the family’s idea of what a room was. This girl lived in their old garage which then served as a dumping ground for items less craved for. Now let me paint a perfect picture for you as much as my memory serves me. This garage was stocked with old items like: machines, termite infested doors, books feasted on by rats, cooking utensils, shelves, etc. all covered in dust and cobwebs. Last time it was probably swept was 12 centuries ago so the dust I inhaled in the first few seconds brought me back to reality. Some Nigerians now would call me an ajebutta (Nigerian Pidgin for rich, spoilt child or a weakling).
As we stood, I could hear sounds of creepy crawlies which I detest for the life of me. Looking up to the ceiling, I was welcomed with vintage works of art sketched by dear spiders for their daily art exhibitions and maximized their space elaborately thanks to the cobwebs seen. In this same garage, thinking of the number of things that would’ve killed me from the dust to the poor ventilation to the creepy crawlies, my dear friend carved her little dusty corner where her mat lay alongside her other belongings. At this point, I couldn’t take it anymore so I ran out with heavy eyes. I didn’t understand why she lived under such harsh conditions in such a nice house and what she told me next killed a part of me.
She’s the first child of four children and the man of the house is her father’s cousin. He brought her to the city with hopes of giving her a better life so one day she can return to help her family. That was all sweet story until reality dawned on her.
She was given the garage as a room because there was ‘no space left’ in the house. Her hair was shaved completely because they had ‘no time’ to take her to the salon. She ate after everyone else had eaten because ‘there wasn’t enough food for everyone to eat’. While their children slept like idiots, she’s awake as early as 5a.m. to begin her daily portion of slavery. Going to school was useless for her because of how tired she was afterwards therefore learning was problem so she’d get beaten at home and in school as well.
Was this her uncle’s idea of giving her a better life? Was he exploiting or helping her? Lord knows, I was elated to find out months later that she had runaway. Of course after telling me this story, she made me promise not to tell anyone because if word got to her uncle, her nightmares would only get worse.
I’ve heard of worse cases, mild ones as well but still aren’t they human too? Should they be subject to such treatment because they are financially poor? The people who engage in such inhumane behavior I know your dreams are filled with evil plots for the next day but if you think you’re privileged, here’s a disappointing note to you: You have the poorest mindset known to all God’s creation. Just pray for your children because the sins of the father have a beautiful way of revisiting the children even if it skips a generation.
It’s sad that our country has no strict laws to curb such acts but nemesis is catching up with a lot of them abroad. Since we have no laws in place, let’s share our stories and that of others till it gets to the relevant authorities that can do something about these monsters disguised as humans living amongst us.
Here’s mine, what’s yours?. Different countries, different people, different stories.
Let your voice be heard.