Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Life Of A Maid In Hong Kong.

This is a post near and dear to my heart because I feel strongly about it. I actually learned about this human rights issue before I moved to Hong Kong but after I knew we were moving to this country. 

My husband and I were doing as much research as we could on the new country we were relocating our whole family to, and after I watched a YouTube documentary on the mistreatment of domestic workers in Hong Kong, I was greatly disturbed.

Then I joined a Hong Kong Mom's group on Facebook {also before we moved here} and I was appalled that I could see the mistreatment regarding employers to their maids written all over the forum. The behavior and ignorance shown by the responses of other members on this Facebook group confirmed the documentary. I read a Facebook thread where an employer was asking where she could purchase a crate to put on top of the roof of their apartment building for their maid to sleep in at night. A man responded that if they didn't have room for their maid in their own home, perhaps they shouldn't have one living with them or to consider sleeping in the crate themselves. He was blasted with abrasive comments in support of the lady who wanted to let her maid sleep in a cage. It made me nauseous. This was real stuff. No one was standing up and supporting the man for his take on human rights.

I'm not opposed to having maids. I grew up with maids living and working for our family when my family lived in the Philippines. I'm not standing in judgement of people that hire other people to help them live a bit easier. We had a gardener. We had a hired guard to protect our house or to at least act as an intimidation factor to those that might be tempted to burglarize our home. In fact we're still friends with several of the maids we had over the years today - thirty years later. One of them currently works here in Hong Kong and we consider her part of our family. She worked in my family's home for ten years and watched me grow during my awkward teen years. I look at her like a big sister and refer to her accordingly. We spend time with her every Sunday {her one day off of the week} and on public holidays. She confirmed what I had heard in the documentary.

Our family friend works from 7:00 in the morning until sometimes 11:00 at night. There are no siesta's or breaks given during the day. She must always be on call for when her boss might need her.

Domestic helpers are paid a minimum of $500.00 USD a month, working sixteen hour days, six days a week. Every domestic helper has one day off a week. Sundays. And a lot of them congregate on Hong Kong island in Central. The city of Hong Kong closes certain streets off to allow the domestic helpers a place to sit on Sundays. You'll see cardboard or sheets of plastic, that the maids have purchased, lining the streets  providing somewhat of a barrier between them and the dirty pavement.  

I took these particular photographs in Central at the HSBC building. Because of the shade that the building provides, it is a favorite spot for maids to congregate on a Sunday.

You will see the maids eating together, playing card games with each other, giving each other pedicures, and even making crafts to sell to supplement their meager income. Some arrive very early in the morning and stay out late into the evening because they have nowhere to go, and at the home of their employers do not have a bedroom to sleep in. Because space is so limited here in Hong Kong, it is not uncommon for domestic helpers to sleep in the kitchen or in the same room as the children they are taking care of.

Sadly, the caste system lives on here in Hong Kong. Domestic helpers are mainly from the Philippines and Indonesia and are not looked highly on. They are often abused {verbally, physically, and even sometimes sexually} by their employer.

I'm not sure what the solution to this epidemic will be, or even when it will take place. I can only do my part, that if we ever do end up hiring a maid, to treat her with respect and see her as the human being she actually is.

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