More than we ever thought, domestic workers in Nigeria need stronger protection

About five days ago, a video of a woman pushing a little girl out of a car and going on to slam her frail body on the ground from what would be inexcusable rage popped up on the internet and yet again our minds are called back to the persisting reality of the abuse Nigerian domestic helps face in the hands of their employees.

The acquisition of domestic help in Nigeria is often made possible through the help of financially-stumped relatives, acquaintances, make-shift agencies amongst other shoddy networks where the rules of engagement are often allowed to slip through the negotiations while money remains the major focus. This irresponsibility on the part of these “agents” and the people who agree to employ/take in these usually young girls and boys is further enabled by the absence of strict laws guiding how people who render domestic services should be treated by their employees and what protections are available for those who are maltreated in any way.

As it stands now, employers can afford to treat their domestic employees with as little regard as they choose to give without facing any consequences and that is not okay. Social media has been a terrific amplifier of this menace for the longest time, but every time cases like this gain some attention, they seem to die down with little or nothing getting done about them. Social media remains an amplifier, and sometimes nothing but an amplifier, although in this case it has helped to secure the apprehension of the lady in question, who in her defense blamed it on the devil. Classic.

Nonetheless, employers, agents and the government need to begin to actively consider these people as human as any of us. Until we begin to regard the service domestic helps render as viable jobs whose rights have to be safeguarded, young Nigerians will continue to find themselves in the most unimaginably gruesome situations like this one.

Also important to scrap is the stigma and disregard domestic helps/workers still face not just in the hands of the people they work for, but also amongst every day Nigerians who have been taught to consider what domestic workers do as lowly and unworthy of respect. We all can do better, we can demand better for these people who have no safety nets, we can make sure they are treated well even before they make the news. To the people who employ them, we can accord their work and their person the same respect we give any other job we consider respectful. Your house helps are human, treat them like one.

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