03.09.2004 Feature Article

Letter From The Prsident: Bodyguards and Maids II

Letter From The Prsident: Bodyguards and Maids II
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Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, this is my first time of writing a sequel to a letter I've already signed, sealed and delivered to you. I really don't like sequels, largely because these movie wannabes from Naija have destroyed the essence of the sequel. The films from Naija always come in part one, part two and part three – sometimes even parts four and five. The least said about the film producers in Sikaman and their sequels, the better.

Well, I don't like sequels but circumstances (space and time constraints) forced me to hold this part of my last letter for another time. My last letter was about the assault in Manhack's house. I dwelt largely on the uselessness of bodyguards and I promised to dwell a lot more in this letter on the issue of househelps and how they are treated in Sikaman. I have worried for a long time about the plight of househelps (maids, gardeners, messengers, cleaners and all those domestic servants who do not have any specific job descriptions). Elsewhere, being a domestic servant is not so much of a bad job for anyone to do. I know that a lot of Sikaman citizens travel abroad to work as domestic servants and they earn good money to take care of their families back home by cleaning the whiteman's loo, scrubbing his bathroom or cleaning his mouldy cooking pans.

But here in Sikaman the job of the domestic servant is generally seen as a job for the lowliest of the low. I am not a sociologist but I know that the typical domestic servant is likely to be a female teenager from a rural area who is not very well educated. Quite a number of domestic servants are males, usually from the north, who mainly work as watchmen and messengers. It is a well-known fact that all Sikaman workers, except my good self and my ministers, are overworked but underpaid. But the Sikaman domestic servant is in a totally different class of hardship. She is usually overexploited, abused, misused and unpaid. I am hardly ever surprised when a maid reports that she had been beaten senseless, raped or cheated. I won't hide my feelings – I sincerely believe that Manhack's maid was battered. The question now is who beat her up and why? That's for the police to find out. I hope that whoever is found to have beaten up the poor girl will receive due punishment.

For now, I want Manhack to redeem his image and undo the damage caused by his alleged interference in police investigations into the matter. Manhack should first apologise to the maid and her family. He should set an example for the citizens of Sikaman to know that maids are also human beings, worthy of respect. He should say “sorry” because the girl was under his roof when she was beaten up, allegedly for stealing a ring. He also needs to say “sorry” because he seemed to have jumped to the defence of the man who allegedly assaulted her. Saying “sorry” to a maid is not out of place and I don't think it will reduce Manhack's status as an 'honourable'. In fact, an apology will make Manhack even more deserving of that misused title, which is gradually losing its value in Sikaman.

After apologizing to the maid and her family Manhack should embark on a campaign to discourage domestic violence – especially violence against maids. He should make it a point to speak out against violence against maids whenever he gets an opportunity to stand behind a microphone. If for nothing at all, this is a fine opportunity for Manhack to deliver more relevant speeches than the gibberish most of our ministers spew out at workshops and seminars. By speaking out in condemnation of violence against women in general and maids in particular, Manhack will also join the privileged ranks of the few male feminists in the world – like my good self.

Most important of all, I want Manhack, as Interior Minister, to demonstrate that he is not just a minister for the rich and privileged but even for the down trodden. Maids, and other domestic servants, have suffered long enough and now is the time for their salvation. Manhack should set himself up as their saviour. How can he do this? Simple. He must initiate legislation for the recognition of domestic servants as duly recognized employees, who are entitled to the same rights and privileges as any other worker in Sikaman. I will like Sikaman to have a legal regime to regulate the relationship between domestic servants and their 'masters'. Such legislation will uphold the rights of domestic servants as essential service providers, who cannot be treated like slaves by their wealthy employers. The law I envisage will limit the age at which people could be employed as househelps. This will stop wealthy people from going in for eight to fourteen year-old, helpless, hapless 'morbrowas' as househelps. These are the kids who are usually sold out by parents who cannot afford to take care of them. They often end up being brutally exploited by their masters and mistresses. The time has come for their liberation and I think Manhck should lead the way.

Everyone's President J. A. Fukuor

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