If you have read the book “The Help” or watched the movie I am sure it made you reflect on the lives of each of those different women. Questions might have been brought to your mind like: How can women treat other women like that? Was the racial divide that bad that the help really couldn’t use the same toilets as their Boss? How can people be so narrow minded in their thinking? For those who still have Helpers I am sure this movie really got you thinking about how you treat your own Help. For those of you who don’t have helpers – like my readers in Canada, I bet you are still in shock that “Helpers” are still a very common career choice for women in some parts of the world – especially in Africa. This blog is a brief insight on the Jozi version of “The Help.”
I can testify that probably every household in Jozi has some sort of level of “Help”. Some have live-in Help, some have full time help, some have part-time help, bi-weekly help, garden Help, cook help, child care help you name it. You see the women everyday at 6am walking to their respective houses. Some wear their normal clothes, some in uniforms, some are young, some are old, some are South African some are Zimbabwean. Could we survive with out “The Help” – well probably we could but it does make life a lot more smoother when you have a helping hand. But due to the unemployment rates and poverty issues this side of the world you tend to have women begging for a job. Before Franci officially left us I had interviewed three women, two of which showed up at my door step desperate for work. So in a way although they are looking to be a helper you the employer are just as much a help!
As some of you may know Franci was my Helper. In fact she wasn’t just my helper she worked for my neighbours, friends and sister as well, because I couldn’t afford to have someone work for me full time in our small two bedroom flat. If you wanna know how she became our helper please refer to the blog Encounters with a Stranger. Anyways she was working for us for over two years and had actually become a really good friend of ours. Not because she cleans our houses fantastically or because she is so good with Kayla and my neighbours kids Robyn and Romy; but purely because of her heart and that was what I was going to miss most of all when she told me she was leaving to go back to Zimbabwe.
Hiring help is not an easy task, I have heard of some horrible stories from people who have hired bad help and from helpers that have had bad bosses. My one co-worker once warned me against hiring help from a certain religion. He said by hiring such you are opening your home to a super natural warfare. I remember watching Nigerian movies with Franci and seeing how deep African witchcraft can go. You could simply say – well if you don’t believe in those things then nothing will really happen to you. Then how do I explain several separate stories about experiences of demonic presences in the house of Christian homes with dodgy helpers. Scary I know – but no lie children and adults were being traumatised in their sleep. Franci even told me about her neighbour in diepsloot who got arrested for stealing. Apparently the lady had told Franci that she used Mooti (witchcraft) on her employers so that she could get what she wanted. Eeeek! Then there is the other issue of Helpers being in cahoots with Tsotsi’s (Thieves) – they know you are leaving for two weeks and they know where all your valuables are – you come home and Ba! everything is gone. Okay this is just one extreme end of the story which I had read about in the Fourways Review last year.
The other side of the story is employers that mistreat their Help. A major issue is human trafficking and abuse of the Help. Since people are so desperate for jobs and have come from extreme poverty they are willing to work for peanuts and suffer abuse. On two occasions Franci has worked for women who have treated her like she was dirt and basically told her she was dirt too. They have sworn at her and told her that they have cameras in every corner of their house so if she even thinks of stealing they will call the police. OUCH! How can anyone work in such conditions? Franci said people would probably steal just because they feel like their boss thinks they are stealing before they have even stolen. One of Franci’s previous bosses even called the police on Franci because after three weeks of working there Franci couldn’t tolerate being called a Fackenn (Yup – that is a swear word with an accent). Franci didn’t do anything wrong other than say don’t call me that, I am a human being! She never left the house because she didn’t want to be accused of stealing either so she just waited for the police and listened while the lady accused her of being abusive. Knowing Franci’s heart I knew that such an environment was probably one of the saddest experiences for her. I just told Franci it wasn’t worth her time to work for such people one day of the week – So she just left with out being paid. But just like Minny in “The Help” and her bad deed with the pie, things could have been worse for Franci’s Boss!
|Maita, Fransisca, Kayla and Kanya|
Story to be continued…… “Along came Langton and Lillian”