I wake up at 4am , before I shower or bathe , I must start to prepare breakfast for my boss and his family because he’s leaving at 7am.
I wash the nights utensils. I prepare some “chai mukalu” as I cook some tasty katogo because as you know , Tata Fay doesn’t like bread. As soon as I finish this, I must ensure that the dinning and sitting area looks as tidy as possible for the breakfast meal. I must also bathe and prepare Jenny and Kitty for school not to forget “Mzee” who needs to be cleaned up for the day.
A slight mistake and Aunt will yell so loud my dead ancestors may resurrect . Despite the fact that I am only 12years, I must do all this work lest I miss my salary for the month of May.
This is just a scenario of what maids/house helps go through. In Uganda, majority of them earn between 30,000-250,000 shillings per month at most.
Those that receive over shs. 120,000 (minimum wage of Uganda) are considered to be fortunate because few employers are willing to pay that much for these “unskilled workers”
However when you take a glimpse into the kind of work these people do, you’ll realise that they are the real essential workers who are tirelessly working to ensure that we are safe, healthy and comfortable.
Sadly, we’ve perpetuated a pattern of indignifying treatment towards them and forgotten that they are the reason we peacefully excel in other ventures.
Note : Maids/househelps are just an example. Caregiving stretches to the nurses in the hospital’s, the security guards who don’t sleep while we sleep. It’s the personal assistants , therapists and social workers . The counselors, the cooks and the janitor’s. It’s all those people you categorise as support staff.
The pattern we’ve perpetuated involves meagre pay , sexual abuse , name-calling and hurling of insults. Sadly, even the most educated of us still subconsciously underpay our caregivers because that’s how we perceive caregiving. We see it as ;
- A role only to be assumed by extremely vulnerable people ie. Women , adolescent girls and boys from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. I’ve always heard people say ” I need a girl from the village to come help me here with the work at home ”
- We want unskilled and underprivileged labour so we can exploit them. Yes, I said it ! We love people we can both exploit and control.
Fact: Most security guards in Uganda are school drop outs. Most of the people who pursue this career are deemed to have been desperate and resorted for it as an only option. They usually earn very low salaries and live in extremely dire conditions.
- Lastly, we look at caregiving as a “helping role”. It is someone assisting us with the roles we cannot manage to execute on our own . Sadly we hurl so many insults that this person ends up performing all these roles. We never live up to the end of the bargain.
I think it’s absurd how we choose to ill treat those who we leave incharge of our lives , Those who prepare our meals . Those who take care of our sick relatives, those who offer us security on those cold nights.
It’s absurd ! I don’t know how we got here but we need to always think . We determine what our culture will be/ should be.
Therefore as you enact social protection laws and policies, think about these essential workers who are always undervalued. The mantle to break the viscous cycle of poverty in their lineage lies in your hands .
Since majority of caregivers are women, I’ll use my next blog post to unpack how the syndrome of unpaid care work and how it affects women women’s freedom and wealth creation. See you then! 😊