Eavesdropping on house helps

Malawi is one big stage and drama never ceases to rule. It seems some of our very homes are a platform on which serious actors and actresses are always on duty.

It was mid-morning on a lazy Sunday and I was under the obligation to hunt around shops for a few things that my home needed most for the week.

I walked into one supermarket I like for its air conditioning, neatness, excellent customer service and a better variety of alternative merchandise.

Exploring the shelves, I noticed three ladies that had, for almost all the 20 minutes I was in there, busy making rounds but picking nothing from the shelves.

With little bags idly dangling from their shoulders, the ladies walked slowly along the shelves, at peace with the calming temperatures and ambience inside the store.

As I wheeled my trolley past them, I overheard some disturbing conversation they had on their bosses. I soon gathered these were domestic workers on their day off.

I am also an employer so I got hooked on their talk. I don’t regret having done that.

“Ine dzana amandikalipira kuti ndimangokhalira pa whatsapp; kodi phone ndi yawo?’[Two days ago I was being admonished for what they believe is excessive use of Ahatsapp. Is it their phone I use?],”One of the ladies saw no logic in her bosses’ complaints.

“Amatero mabwana! Kodi ife tilibe mabanja kapena abale? [That’s a boss to you. They behave like we don’t have spouses or relatives to engage with],” said the other.

Ine ndimangowayankha mwano akayamba zimenezo.[I simply spit back fire when my bosses start off on that route],” said the second.

I followed them keenly. The discussion grew red with emotions.

“Chemwali, mabwana si abale athu awa.Osamawa-nyengerera. [Employers are not our relations. Never be too good to them],” said first one.

‘Kumawabowa kumene mabwana.Akakuchotsa akakupilira kukhoti [If they fire you, they’ll compensate you through the courts],” advised one.

I never noticed a lady who was also ‘interested’ in the trio’s talk. She told of one ‘housewife’ who on Sundays runs a ‘legal clinic’ to hear out domestic workers with misgivings about their bosses.

I was told the lady ‘coaches’ the house helps on seeking legal redress and enjoys cuts from successful cases. I learnt the ‘counsel’ even tutors the domestic workers on how best to annoy their bosses towards ‘unfair dismissal.’

Achimwene, otithandizawa musamale nawo; muziwasainitsa akalandira, akatenga holide, akalakwa kapena mukawachenjeza. [Make them sign for all the pay and loans they get, holidays or warnings],” advised the woman.

As an employer, I was filled with a fear that will take long to evaporate. I saw gaps in how I manage my own house helps.

As I walked out of the store, I saw the need for mabwana to take seriously the issues of pay and dismissal of their house helps.

I may not know what house helps discuss next week or the one after. But surely, they will meet and hopefully, the discussion won’t be the same as last week’s.n

 

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