Rwanda: the cavalry of domestic workersJane Nishimwe | Category: News
On Wednesday the 9th of January 2013, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) released a new report on the overwhelming situation of millions of domestic workers around the world and the lack of protection that often comes with their job. In a broadcasting of BBC’s Gahuzamiryango on Thursday the 10th of January, the circumstances in which Rwandan domestic workers operate were assessed and the results are shocking: physical abuse, malnutrition, psychological abuse, the withholding of salaries, unfair dismissals, it is clear that domestic workers in the land of a ‘Thousand Hills’ suffer from a wide range of abuse.
While Rwanda has been parading its successes towards the implementations of women’s rights, there are still many challenges that lie ahead for domestic workers (who are mostly women). They are usually left to the mercy of their employers and work in conditions that could be referred to as modern day slavery. ‘I do the dishes, clean the house, cook, I bring the children to school and pick them up’, one of the domestic workers said. She complained about not having enough time to rest because she has to be readily available for her employer at every minute. ‘In Rwanda, domestic workers are of no value, they eat the left-overs’, said another voice to BBC’s journalist Prudence Nsengiyumva. Those who are lucky receive three to four days of holidays per year to go visit their family, but many do not get that opportunity. ‘I wake up early in the morning, then I clean the house, I bring the children to school, on my way back I go to the market to get groceries and cook, and afterwards I go back to pick up the children, the job is very hard, I am always insulted and sometimes beaten for making a mistake’, another domestic worker declared. The workers stay with their employers and this cohabitation enforces their vulnerability to exploitation. They usually receive a modest salary that is not equivalent to the amount of working hours they put in. Because of the high physical burden of the job and the general lack of sufficient nutrition, domestic workers often fall ill and are forced to continue working because they’re afraid to be fired without having received their salary.
‘Me, I have no problem where I work. Of course I don’t have an annual holiday, but every Sunday I get permission to go to church. Many of my colleagues told me that they often have to spend months without receiving their salary, and others are beaten and sacked for no reason, sometimes at night´, a different domestic worker told the BBC. When a domestic worker is fired in the middle of the night, she cannot go back to her family directly because they often live in the rural area, which is within tens of kilometers away from the city capital. When this happen, dismissed domestic worker is secretly hidden under the bed of another domestic worker and leaves early in the morning.
Apart from Rwanda, other countries are also faced with similar problems regarding the disastrous working conditions of domestic work. The report of the IOM identifies more than 52 million domestic workers spread over all continents. Millions of these work in unfavourable conditions, especially those based in developing countries.
Original article written in French by Jean Mitari
Translated by Jane Nishimwe