MY WEEKEND: Stop mocking and talking ill about your house help

Saturday November 18 2017

How do you shame and embarrass the very same

How do you shame and embarrass the very same person  you have entrusted your children to? PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By CAROLINE NJUNG'E
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I am no saint. However, there are some things that even I, who wouldn’t come close to being considered a poster girl for virtue, would balk at.

Since WhatsApp took over our lives, I have “left” a group only twice: the first time I was being cheeky and was promptly “added” back.

The second time I left in protest after I was added to a group that was supposed to fundraise to buy dustbins for a park in the city. I figured it was the work of the Nairobi City County.

If anything, there were more worthwhile causes to contribute money towards.

Well, last weekend, I left another group. In more protest than before. I had been in this group, made up of mothers and mothers-to-be, for a couple of months, and apart from some annoying messages that some posted once in a while, like the one about lemon being a cure for cancer, it was mostly informative.

Last week, however, one of the women sent a post ridiculing her new house help – turns out that she had washed  utensils and put them to dry in the refrigerator.

“Aki the things these girls will show us!” she concluded her post, inserting the emoji that laughs so much. Instead of her post eliciting outrage from other members, it, surprisingly, prompted others to give versions of their own ‘hilarious’ first-hand experiences with their live-in helps.

I am embarrassed to disclose that I belong to the group of social media users that come into the conversation late, long after all has been said and concluded. By the time I checked my messages later in the day, the ridicule-fest had garnered more than 100 messages.

I couldn’t believe my eyes as I scrolled through the messages – only two out of a group of over 150 were offended by this insensitive turn of conversation.

OUTRAGED

I was outraged. One had even gone ahead and posted a photo of her “clueless” house help to drive her point home.

How do you bring yourself to shame, humiliate, and embarrass the very person that you have entrusted your children and home to? The person without whom you wouldn’t be able to go to work every morning? Or go for that chama meeting or have a drink with your friends in the evening?

I found the anecdotes in bad taste. If anything, those failings these women were discussing with such mirth just exposed them for who they were – bad employers. Were they good employers, they would have taken time to teach their house helps the dos and don’ts around their posh homes, not assume that they know how to operate the many appliances crammed in there.

Good employers take their employees through an induction before throwing them into the deep end, so if you told your new help to boil water using the electric kettle and she placed it on the gas cooker, you are to blame.

Such conduct is akin to playground behaviour – you know what I mean; where children single out that one child that is different and gives him or her a hard time, but only because they don’t know better. In this case though, these women should have known better.

The Kenyan women in this WhatsApp group are not the only ones guilty of this hateful conduct; you only need go online, on certain Facebook pages and even some ‘respectable’ websites to see the kind of mockery and contempt with which house helps are viewed. And I am not referring to cases where they are denounced for mistreating the children left under their care or stealing from their employers, I am talking about being taunted for not being familiar with the trappings of modern day living.

I bet many of these mannerless women saw a flushable toilet or a shower cubical when they joined university, and only got to operate a gas cooker or microwave in their second year of employment. How then do they expect a young woman who has only known her remote village all her life to know how to operate such appliances?

Come on, grow up!

 

[email protected]; Twitter: @cnjerius. The writer is the editor, MyNetwork, in the Daily Nation

 

FEEDBACK

I have just gone through your article about this 21 year old who is tired of life. Am not a counsellor but how you agonised about the reply touched me. I am a field officer and in the course of my work, I have come across many similar cases. Next time you get into such a situation, please make a personal appointment, meet the person and understand the problem. You will be in a position to save a life somewhere.

Francis

On the young man who wants to go six feet under, you can invite him for a cup of tea. Don’t worry about what you will tell him.

Mungai

After reading your article, it hit me that I need to face my problems and see a counsellor.  I’m not contemplating suicide, but I’m stressed out because a lot has happened  since my primary  school  days. I’m hoping  to settle  down by next year but I’m worried that I may not be the best husband. Kindly  suggest  to me someone that I can talk to for counselling  sessions soonest.  I hope to hear from you soon.

Yassin

Thanks for the great job. I was reading recently on suicide statistics in the country and felt concerned. What I have learnt about the many cases of suicide or attempted ones is that, these people just need a listening ear as opposed to a judgemental person. Just listening to them and comforting them may avert the disaster. I believe that one doesn’t need to be a  counsellor to advise or comfort  someone. You should  have offered to meet the young man, talk to him and then later refer him to a counselor. Remember, having written to you, the young man must have trusted that you would help. There’s no guarantee that he contacted the counselor you referred him to. May be he is dead but God forbid.

Albert

I hope that the young man is still alive. The problem is caused by the urge to make everybody happy and the more you look for happiness the more you become unhappy. And finally nobody cares about your problems.

Kariuki

I felt terrible reading your article on the teen who was contemplating suicide. Recently, I came across a tweet of a talented young man who committed suicide. In his suicide note on Twitter account he wrote that he killed himself because nobody would listen to him. Every time he approached people for help, he would be told to “man up.” This is where the problem is with the boy child. When men seek help, most of the responses are “man up” or “stop behaving like a child.” Unless the society understands that men too are human beings, suicide rates will not go down. 

Antony