Can we please be nicer to our house helps and maids? Nkem Ndem

Can we please be nicer to our house helps and maids? Nkem Ndem



I won’t deny it.


I grew up in a house full of house helps and maids.


There were three female: one that helped with cooking and going to the market, another that helped with washing clothes and sweeping the house and compound; and the last one that catered to the kids.


We also had about seven males. One who sold water at the back (we had a borehole which was not common at the time in Aba); two who tended to the poultry and farm; the rest who just went to the office and catered to my Dad.

The thing though was…I didn’t really realize some of them were house helps or maids until I was an adult.



I grew up with them and just imagined they were relatives of some sort.


I remember they never travelled on holidays with us, wore the family fabric at Christmas or went to the same schools my siblings went to…yet, they were treated well enough for me to assume we were related.



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In fact, they would send me on errands some times, pick a portion before me when something is being shared to everyone since they were older, and I had to respect them, do what they said or get my ass whooped.


Unfortunately, my experience growing up is in no way the norm in Nigeria.



A majority of people who employ maids or house helps and house them, tend to treat them as slaves rather than the employee that they are.


And not just in the sense that they do not allow them adequate freedom, these employers also tend to abuse the maids/house helps quite severely and unnecessarily.


Think about it, it is either you know someone close or who lives close to you who is abusing or maltreating her  maid, you have read about abused maids or you are a culprit, abusing you own house  help or maid.


When I say abuse, your brains probably pull out a picture of someone being physically maimed or battered.


Yes, that is part of it.

I have read too many stories of housemaids being brutally ill-treated, starved of food and rest, physically abused, even raped, etc.


In addition to these, there is the  case of an employer constantly undermining the efforts of the maid  or house help, disregarding his/her need to be appreciated for a job well done, sexually harassing them, and refusing  to pay them the agreed sum at the end of the month/year.


Little wonder some housemaids lose their minds and go mental or chose suicide over their jobs.


The hose helps and maids who work in households do not come under the same rulings as slaves, whether male or female.


Rather, they come under the ruling of private workers who are hired to work for the employer, and are like any other employee.


The same way you are employed by a company, a house help or housemaid is essentially an employee employed by you, so there needs to be a salary to be paid, healthcare, a reward system and certainly, appreciation.


Obviously, you have the right to reprimand your house help or maid if they are not doing their job responsibly, if they are stealing, lying or playing truant, but there is a need to be humane in your actions.


Yes, sometimes the housemaids could be terrible enough to be regarded “agents of hell”, however, rather than end their lives or reduce the quality of their life, just let them go.




If you must keep your house help or maid, ensure that you feed them three decent meals a day (not leftovers or expired food), pay their salary in full and on time every month, give them time off to rest (or a rest day), allow them seek medical attention if unwell and most importantly, release them to enjoy their annual two-week holiday by returning home.


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Forced labor in domestic servitude is a form of modern slavery.


And in that light, bringing them in and maltreating them in the name of “discipline” is tantamount to enslaving them… and that is just wrong.

About The Author

Osigweh Lilian Oluchi is a graduate of the University of Lagos where she obtained a B.A (Hons) in English, Masters in Public and International affairs (MPIA). Currently works with 1stnews as a Database Manager / Writer. [email protected]

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