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Once in a while, stop and appreciate them

April 08, 2013

Each one of us has a different view of what Easter means to them; for some, it’s the first long weekend after New Year, which automatically brings with it a much needed break from the hassle and bustle of trying to hit targets for Quarter One. For others it’s a nice opportunity for them to enjoy quality time with friends and relatives, while for others, it is a great time to achieve a goal from their bucket list e.g. doing a road trip to a place never visited ever before, or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, etc.

For me though, this Easter was more of a learning experience than anything else. I had no particular plans this time round so I was indoors throughout. And it was while at home that I realized something very important. It’s not that I didn’t know it, but I had never really felt it the way I did this Easter weekend. For the sake of those who do not know me personally, let me say that I am a working-woman/mother. This means that the only time I get to spend at home is either over the weekend (when I don’t have a work or community based engagement) or evenings into the night when I get home from work. Like many other working women, this means that while I am away, I leave my kids and my house under the care of someone else; i.e. my domestic worker or as they are called in Tanzania, “dada”.

This being a long weekend, I decided to give our Dada a much-needed break to go visit her family in Marangu. And it is while I was home doing what she does every day that I realized how hard this young lady works. How she manages to do everything she does from 6am till the time we sleep at 10.30pm every single day without complaining is amazing. Well, I’d like to believe she rests in between her chores but nonetheless, I realized how hard domestic workers really work, especially those who wholeheartedly embrace their work and ensure their bosses never have anything to ever complain about.

This actually made me think about all the people who do such jobs, e.g. watchmen, security guards, shamba-boys, house-boys, beba-beba, mama-ntilie, etc. These people really have a hard time. While you and I are busy tweeting and Facebooking in a nicely air-conditioned office, stealing our employers’ time instead of working, most of the people categorized above do not have the luxury of doing the same because they know if they don’t hassle enough for that day then they and their families might go hungry. While you and I are busy complaining about how unreasonable our bosses are, some of these people would do anything to be in the same shoes as you are.

For instance, by the time you are waking up at 7am to be in the office at 9am, “Mama Ntilie” would have worked for nearly three hours by that time. I know this for a fact because I see them every morning when I’m going to work and every evening when I’m going home. I don’t know what time they wake up or what time they sleep, or maybe they sleep in shifts, but regardless of how early in the morning or how late in the evening I pass that road, they are always there; a group of about six ladies with a “mobile restaurant” (Mama Ntilie) strategically placed to offer their services to Taxi, Bhajaji and Bodaboda drivers, as well as other common mwananchi who work around the Kawe Roundabout area.

Besides Mama Ntilie, there are those very slim but strong energetic men I always find at the market every time I go there for my weekly grocery shopping. The size of the sacks of potatoes, cabbages, charcoal, etc they put on their backs is unbelievable! I can almost bet you a body builder from one of the local gyms would have a problem carrying those sacks. Why? Because he lacks the “skill and strategies” to lift them. He may be lifting 75 Kgs in the gym but when it comes to those sacks, he cannot lift them because there is a way they are lifted, and since most people take those guys for granted, it then becomes a monumental task, literally, for them to carry such a “mzigo”.

The long and short of it is that we, in this case “we” meaning those of us who do not do menial work, tend to take those who do this for a living for granted. We want them to be at our beck and call all the time, without considering that they too are human beings like us, who also get tired just like we do. Take for instance the “dadas” at these homes, how many employers actually pay them their work’s worth? If you ask around, most of them get paid less than Tshs. 40,000 (USD 25) per month, but the work they do is worth a lot more. How about the security guards who protect your homes at night? Well, I know most of them are employed by so called "security firms", so in terms of salary, you cannot say much about that. However, when they come to your homes to protect you while you are sleeping, do you remember to offer them a meal, or at least a hot flask of coffee for the night? Or do you reason like someone I once heard saying that when you give them food they eat and sleep instead of watching over the compound? Let me ask you this question, what if that was your son out there? I know you’ll probably say your son cannot do such work considering your status quo in society, but you never know; life happens.

What I came to realize this weekend is that these people who work for us in our houses or compounds sacrifice a lot for us, but we are so caught up in our “busyness” to recognize this. My challenge to you who has such people working for you is this; turn a new leaf and start seeing them as human beings like yourself. Walk in their shoes for a day and you will understand what I mean. If it’s that “dada” treat her like family and not like a slave. Remember, your life and that of your children is in her hands literally speaking.

On this resurrection Sunday, my prayer is that we may be transformed to appreciate those people who make our lives easier by doing what we don’t have the time to do. Do something this week to show your appreciation to them.

Wishing you all an appreciative week.

PS: Article published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 31st of March, 2013, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words"

 

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Sometimes we need someone to pour cold water on our faces to wake us up and remind of the "small" vital issues we take for granted.

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