By Racheal Kiiza
“Tens of millions of women and girls around the world are employed as domestic workers in private households. They clean, cook, care for children, look after elderly family members, and perform other essential tasks for their employers.” Human Rights Watch, https://www.hrw.org/topic/womens-rights/domestic-workers
Domestic workers in Uganda are commonly referred to as house helps/maids and are constantly exploited, underpaid and undervalued by many of their bosses. Many of them don’t even have a fixed wage and they are at the mercy of their employers. These conditions are crippling and leave few opportunities for the many girls and women who are domestic workers. Mywage.ug, a salary comparison website in Uganda, highlights these discrepancies:
“There is no fixed wage for a domestic worker. The wage usually depends on what the employer is willing to pay or what the domestic worker is willing to accept.
In other words an employer can set a very small pay for a domestic worker, since there is no legal obligation thereafter. When domestic workers enter the labour market, they usually don’t know what their rights are. The Minimum Wage in Uganda was set in 1984 and has not been revised since then. Domestic workers are usually paid between Shs 4,000 (US$ 1.78) and Shs 10,000 (US$ 4.44) per month.” http://mywage.ug/home/labour-laws/domestic-workers
A friend who frequently hires domestic help told me how she empowers them in her own way and makes sure something of value is gained from their employment, one way or another. She engages them in conversation to find out what they are passionate about, this may take awhile depending on the individual (also depending on how long they last as there is frequent turnover in domestic work). On discovering what they want to do with their lives, she either teaches them a skill or partly funds their trade schooling so that they can gain a skill or knowledge in their particular field of interest.
I was surprised by her strategy, this kind of behavior was new to me. Although she pays her house helps a salary, she takes it upon herself to make them better. She knows that they too are human beings and will benefit from this kind of skill development, just as other professionals benefit from continued training and skill acquisition.
Empowering other women should be a goal for all women around the world because we understand each others’ struggle.
The best form of empowerment is valuing another woman.