What things do we value in work or life over others?
2019-05-01 16:39:22 -

Mariaam Bhatti: Tales of a Domestic Worker


Does having an educational qualification or training in something always mean someone is capable as a worker? What about experience alone, without any formal training? And can someone successfully perform a certain task and be competent in a work sector they are not interested in? Can someone have passion for certain work and still not be able to achieve the desired outcomes to be considered a success or effective?


I have thought about these questions often. Once I worked in a childcare setting with someone who said they didn’t ‘really like’ children but, once the work started, the person was fully geared up for it, knew what to do in situations, got the toddlers’ room in order, and during her Montessori class the kids did their work and listened to instructions.


She was someone I looked up to regarding learning how to be a ‘great’ Montessori teacher. To me, she knew the technicalities of the job well, and applied the right learning methods that were beneficial for children. She easily talked children into or out of something without it turning into a tug of war. She was just calm and only talked when necessary. She was a pro in her job. Yet, despite her qualifications and vast experience, and my belief that she was an asset in childcare, she often said that if she had things her way she wouldn’t be working with children.


The thought creeps up again when I cycle past posters of potential political representatives. While there are many that have great ideas about the development of their local areas but how does one vote for them if they attack groups like migrants or Travellers or women, or are sexist or homophobic? You know they can get the job done, but you also know their stance on certain groups is harmful to society. It’s hard to balance.


I also once worked with someone who I and other colleagues felt didn’t reflect the values or seem to live up to what we all thought our workplace stood for, and it was impacting on our individual and collective work. The person had years of experience in the social justice or human rights sector, such that I asked myself whether they got into it accidentally like I did (although for me it’s one of the best things that have ever happened to me).


In such a situation you can’t question the recruitment process because it’s not a one-person decision thing, it’s usually a panel’s agreement based on how well the person scored during the interview. I am sure there are times when someone is the best candidate based on the pool they have.


Not long ago there was a sportsperson in Australia who apparently thinks less of people with a different sexual orientation than the majority. When I heard of that story, I thought of how much I’d like to see real sanctions on people like that who seem to believe human rights only apply to them. But because this guy had just signed a deal worth millions, sporting bosses were prepared to let his prejudice go because of his ‘talent’ and therefore the monetary value he brings to his team and country.


It is a conflicting thought to consider what we value more than others.


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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