Never give up the fight for what’s right
2018-06-15 14:18:04 -

Photo source: #TrendingSA


Mariaam Bhatti: Tales of a Domestic Worker


Recently I learned about interesting and funny South African TV show called #TrendingSA, presented by a bubbly and diverse group of four. It’s one of those shows you watch when your brain is too tired to think; everyone does that once in a while.


The show itself looks at what’s trending in South African social media, and why. These could be acts of heroism, hilarious stupidity, or ‘twars’, as they call those heated exchanges on twitter between celebrities and more ordinary people who follow them.


There were many of such discussions on the show, but I took more interest when the panel welcomed a comedian to talk about what it was like to be a young white South African growing up during apartheid, and using comedy to break barriers and build relationships across different ethnic groups.


He told one story about when was looking for a date for his Matric dance (the South African equivalent of the debs) and could not find anyone to ask – so turned to his family’s domestic worker, hoping she would be kind enough to save him from being the laughing stock of his classmates.


Although I think this whole dating thing is too much pressure for young people, I can understand why he felt that way. In my day, I just had to dress nicely, wear heels that were actually quite low but in my mind were the highest on the planet, and show up by myself. The best part was sharing in the nice food we call cooked together. We played music and just enjoyed sitting and chatting and saying our goodbyes to classmates and teachers. Dates weren’t in the picture.


However, I thought the domestic worker part of the story was hilarious and adorable. I know domestic workers are sometimes considered jacks of all trades in many ways. But I didn’t think being a debs date was one of them. I would have thought of the usual ones, such as being a homework expert, or getting the kids ready for school, running errands, sometimes being a family driver, or someone to listen, a comforter in times of pain, a cook, a cleaner, a meal planner, a fun games researcher – the list goes on. I have even heard of people staying in their jobs and raising two generations in the same family.


The contribution domestic workers make is worth noting as we celebrate 16 June, the day when the UN agreed to put domestic workers’ matters on the agenda. Six decades and three years of being rejected before that moment was too long. But the lesson we learned from 16 June 2011 is that we should never give up on fighting for what is right.

Mariaam Bhatti is a member of the Domestic Workers Action Group and Force Labour Action Group of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland.

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