House help dilemma

Housemaids and house- Keepers or domestic workers in Ghana. And, that is not an exaggeration.
Yes, the tears of our Ghanaian House- Servants have contaminated our land, but we hardly talk about it. The ill-treatment the house- girls or house -keepers, drivers, cooks, gatemen and gardeners go through in the homes of the elites across Ghana each day is enough for the prayers of Ghanaians not to be answered by God for two decades. Baby , a twenty-something year old lady, is an embodiment
of an ideal young lady. She has a heart like gold, brain like a computer and very traffic-stopping beauty that matches her gravity-defying back and a
pair of Tina Turner’s legs. But, there is more to her story than physical attributes. I don’t think I have
met anyone with enough self-assurance than her.

However, after hearing the story about her self- confidence and resilience I began to understand the
source of her energy and hope in life. Her amazing story started when she was about nine years old.
She had seven other younger siblings when she was growing up. So her parents decided to send her to
one of her ‘distant uncles’ , with the hope that she could get a better life and good education at her
uncle’s home. The uncle was a lawyer and the wife was a trained teacher. But unfortunately, she had
to take care of a baby while the other kids in the house attended school. One day when Baby was late
preparing the evening meal her uncle’s wife came home and confronted her bitterly. She rained insults
on Baby and pushed Baby because she claimed Baby stuck her tongue out while she was talking to
her .She abused her by stripping off most of her clothes, put her on choke- hold and slammed her tinny body against the kitchen wall. Through some kind of miracles, she was able to escape and run- down to a house in the outskirt of the town to wait
for help. She escaped from the house to fend for
herself by selling things on the street of Accra, so as
to enable to help her parents to raise her younger siblings she left at home. After wasting 10 years of her life, with no education and literally raising
someone’s kids by cleaning and cooking, she left
with nothing to hold on to but hope against hope.

The story repeats itself all across Ghana, but no one
gives a damn because the three core pillars that hold any human dignity in any society together have failed us miserably—our ethical, religious and
legal institutions have been decimated to the point of losing their importance. There is virtually no morality in our religion. There is no ethic guiding our
behaviors .There is no enforcement of our laws.

Basically, everything goes—we live in a dog-eats– dog, no- holds barred, take –no-prisoners nation. No
wonder Ghana has more churches than schools but we still have more than enough immoral problems
to deal with because Ghanaians’ prayers are hardly answered! Is there anyone out there in Ghana who
doesn’t know at least one house -keeper, maid, a house- girl, personal driver, gardener or a cook or
someone lower in status who has been ill-treated by the people they worked for? All across Ghana, there
are so many young, helpless and hopeless people who are daily ill-treated by their guardians or bosses
for just a minor infringement. Some of these abuses are so institutionalized that we don’t see them for
what they are. How can one ascertain an ill-treatment of a maid when she doesn’t tell you and
lives in a mansion at East –Legon? Most house- girls
have no voice. The typical young maid or house-girl in Ghana is from poor home, comes from a rural area and probably an orphan or a JHS drop-out with no hope for the future. In some elites’ and affluent
homes many privileged children grew up to observe their parents and other adults treat house girls or
servants like sub-humans. The sad part is that some of these children even naively participated in such inhuman treatment .In many affluent homes across the land you could identify the ‘house- girl’ by the
way she dresses, even when the family is out in public. When the parents speak to their kids, the
tone they use reveals who is their biological child and who is the house girl. My mom was right, “our greatness and humanity are not measured by the
way we treat those who are rich ,influential and useful but, the way we treat little people below us
who are helpless, hopeless and weak”. Paradoxically,
often those we consider helpless, useless and beneath us are the most influential people in our lives. Growing up in a rural area, I was not fortunate
to be carted for by a house servant, but bad stories
about house –servants and their madams abound.
It’s no secret that house servants are the ones who
cook for the affluent families, wash their clothes,
drive the kids around and take care of their children. If they don’t deserve a medal made from any metal,
no one does! In short, they deserve better
treatment than members of the high society .Isn’t it
insane to show contempt to people who are an
integral part of our personal lives and wellbeing
when they flounder a little bit just as any human being? Amazingly—and I don’t know if it’s a Divine
plan or just the law of nature—the children who
grew up in an affluent household and participated in
abusing a servant normally don’t have a bright
future. All the worldly toys they acquired cannot buy
their happiness when they grow up. In fact, most of them turn out worse later in life when they are
confronted with life’s little challenges far less than
the challenges their house -helper succeeded in
overcoming as minor. Unfortunately, some affluent
homes accord their dogs or pets more humane
treatment than they give to their domestic servants. They don’t eat at the same dining table or
share the same privileges but, they forget that the
lives of their families are in the hands of house
helpers. Ironically, we’re wailing and keening
everyday over what we depict as finding a way to
change politicians because we don’t like the way they treat us. Most of these complaints are coming
loudly from the affluent families, who don’t want to
lose the livelihoods they have envisioned.
Amazingly, they’re also the ones who can afford
live-in servants and all the luxury trimmings life can
offer. They’re also the cause of the major part of the house- helpers’ tears, heartaches and misery. Some
of the abuses are criminal in nature; such as dipping
of the victim’s body part into hot liquid, physical
beating, or even rape. Where and who do these poor
house- helpers run to for safety and report their
ordeals? Going back to their villages is not an easy option, and staying on is like staring death in the
face every time their bosses and mistresses are
around them. Should we as a civic society set up
desk at social services offices to enable servants to
report incidences of abuse, or call a helpline for
advice so they don’t just run from danger for their dear lives but, through an advocate to receive some
compensation for services they render? My question
is this: Having misplaced priorities as a nation with
integrity and empathy impaired society, will our
society and the communities deal with this issue at
all on a national level? Your answer is as good as mine! Unfortunately, the context of the stories
behind the house- servants engagement and its
social ramifications make it very difficult for one to
push hard the pedal on the legal remedies stated
above, so that leaves us only a moral appeal to take
over. And, that moral appeal corridor is where everything begins to entangle and our moral
compass begins to fall apart. However, once upon a
time kindness, goodness, empathy, love and all the
good principles of life were contagious. In effect, if
we want to see any real change from our superiors
(or even from our house- helpers) it should start from us. If you want good and level –headed leaders
and citizens we have to treat those beneath us with respect. So watch the way you treat people of whom life has treated with disrespect and who are not fortunate like you. This should start from your work arena— your employees, customers or clients deserve better treatment than the lousy one you
give them. A good Customer Service can be a right step in a right direction. A warm thank-you to express your genuine appreciation can be an effective emotional tool for someone who has a bad day. Remember, except blood donors, everyone who makes a living in an old- fashioned way is selling
‘something’ to the public. So let’s be nice to one another because we’re all here just for a while….there is no need to be responsible for someone’s tears or misery! Sow a good seed in someone’s heart, perhaps you or your offspring will reap a good harvest one day when you least expected. Decades of unrestrained institutionalization of corruption, accelerating of injustice, disappearing of cultural custodians and deepening self- deceit have impaired our moral core and the society’s immune system to fight any immoral diseases. But where do we go from here as a society if we failed to inoculate ourselves against arrogance, hate, resentment, greed, distain, skepticism, apathy and inequality? These are my perspectives; take them or leave them, but I know there are tremendous repercussions down the road for us if we continue treating people beneath us or work for us like garbage.

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