THE death of another female domestic servant prompted me to write these lines. It all started in the 1990s when I returned to Pakistan after an absence of more than two decades and we needed urgent help of female domestic servants to look after my ailing wife.
The turnover of these young helpers was frequent due to many reasons, but what I want to share with readers is their family background, their previous experiences as domestics and the attitude of employers as revealed to my late wife
Some of these kids belonged to broken homes where their mothers dispatched them to some unknown but well-to-do families to clear their own way to marry again. The mothers hardly ever saw them to ask how they were being treated. The former would just see the employers to collect the pay of their daughters and never had the time to listen to their problems, for example, the girls’ food intake, their sleeping arrangements, behaviour of male members of the family and of male servants in the house towards these 11-12-year-old souls. Many had to work for late hours without getting proper rest and were given leftover food in shameful utensils.
I see girls of similar age group working in our neighborhood even now. Some of the elderly female servants told us that quite a few of these girls are ‘ hired ‘ from their parents usually on a one-year contract. The employer pays one year’s agreed salary in advance to the desperately poor parents, who hardly ever bother to inquire about the living conditions of their daughter for months on end. I see these kids washing the floors of the porches in all kinds of weather – some time just at sunrise while the children of the family, who are of approximately the same age, still try to wake up from their cosy beds to go to school.
The situation demands we rethink about the whole scenario and somehow relieve them of their misery.
M. Masud Butt