Dear Nigerian, Is Your Domestic Staff A Helper Or A Slave?

There are certain things people take for granted and see as a norm. These same people would go for vigils and go to mountains for prayers to question everything attacking their progress without looking inward. I got this message from a social advocate and the conversation that ensued after this message revealed how pained he was on this matter. It read,

” Dear Bubu,

Please can you shine light on this minor abuse in Nigeria. These little girls people use as House helps. It’s really disturbing. I am a social advocate. I keep hearing all the news about people beating their helps and giving them cuts. There should be laws outlawing slavery and also these level of inhuman abuse.”

Child slavery/ Child labour is an epidemic spreading at a fast rate in Nigeria, yet everyone turns a blind eye to it. Heck!; most even see it as normal. Frightenly so, recent research shows that there are 152 million victims of child slavery in Nigeria. This is disturbing to say the least. This growth can only be from an inert notion about child househelps being seen as normal. Few months ago, we were upset about the Libya slavery story and we all wanted justice. Well, back at home it wasn’t any different, we just had a better name to call it than ‘slavery’. Growing up, I’d hear people specifically ask for kids as little as 9/10 years old from the village to come work for a family in the city. Apparently the ‘pimp’ is sort of the maid’s sister or a relative of some sort. The 10 year-old child finally comes but with a mind of a child and that’s where the frustration begins for the ‘Master or Mistress’. You’d keep hearing complaints from the Master/Mistress of how lazy this girl is. Meanwhile, You’ve got kids her age or even older that you’d treat well because you understand that those are kids. So what makes the housemaid kid different? She loves Barbie dolls like yours would love. She has a psyche of a 10 year old like yours does but because she’s a house maid, you deem it fit to punish, hurt her physically and emotionally. That, my friends is pure slavery. The fact that people see this as normal is very scary. Many years ago, I witnessed a neighbour hit a little housemaid with a lit kerosene stove. Her hair and head got burnt and I remembered how neighbours clamoured around her to break raw eggs on her head to soothe the pain. There were no social media platforms then, that story would have gone viral if it were today. I don’t know if the lady was arrested but I still saw her going on her normal business the next day and the day after.

Their ‘valid’ reason of getting someone that young is that they are not yet wise and prone to evil doings. They can be moulded into how you want. Malleable like soft metal, the reason you have to pass them through the fire, literally. Now if that doesn’t scream slavery and stupidity to You, then you’re part of the problem. This is rampant in Nigeria because they don’t cost an arm and a leg to have. Parents give their children out for peanuts just to get by. If it were in the western world where people value their time, one cannot easily afford a maid. It’s an expensive move. You learn how to do things yourself, share chore responsibilities, or get gadgets that could ease up hectic chores. I’m not saying you shouldn’t get help if you need it and can afford it (we all need those extra hands at some points in our lives) but if you won’t be sensible enough to get the right work age, work time limit and the right wage, you have no business having a housemaid. God bless those who actually take good care of theirs, so much you can’t tell the difference between her being a stranger and a relative.

If you deprive your helper(be it a child or an adult) from basic needs, basic rights and due wages, and go as far as physically and emotionally hurting him/her, then you don’t deserve that help. I wrote a post here last year on how you can actually do without a maid. I reiterate, those who do not have the time because of work, school or other engagements can hire one. It is not bad but if you know you can do without one, better. If you do need a helper, don’t short change them, abuse them or hurt them but most importantly do not go for a child. The difference between you and them stems from you having a better opportunity in life, having people who are there for You, and you putting your education to use. If the tables were turned, it’s just going to be you in her shoes. Every human on earth has dreams that are valid, a housemaid is not an exception. Please treat them with all the respect they deserve. My voice may be little, but if it strikes a chord in just one person’s heart, then that’s a good difference. It’s a shame, we don’t have laws that defend these young ones and if there is actually a law; it’s one that is not enforced. The best you can do is refrain from such act or counsel someone who’s doing that. Help stop Child Slavery or any form of slavery.


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