Being a career woman, means a juggling act between home and office. Though we do believe we have super powers to do it all, we need help all the same. Be it a young unmarried girl, newly married or mother of two; we all need help. In a city like Bangalore where nuclear families are the norm, more often than not it is the domestic workers or maids that come to the rescue of us superwomen. We may not openly accept it or even acknowledge it but talk to a woman whose maid has taken an unannounced vacation and you will know what I mean.
An estimate says there are one lakh domestic workers in Bangalore city. Most of them are not part of the Karnataka Domestic Workers’ union. And young children who work as maids are not part of this estimate. So they have no say whatsoever on their working conditions. Considering most of the domestic workers are women, there are security concerns too. This becomes all the more complicated when child labour is concerned. The relationship between the home owner and the domestic worker is always a strained one.
The domestic worker never cleans the corners or the soap off the dishes, complain the homeowners while the maids say they are not paid enough. While there is some truth in both the claims; often the maids have the wrong end of the stick. There are no norms fixed for their salaries, work conditions, time or tasks. The whole arrangement is quite arbitrary. There is no age limit either. Though child labour is an offence, plenty of young children below 14, work as domestic workers.
Last week Bangalore woke up to the gruesome details of a 14-year-old girl who was rescued in a battered state from her employer’s house. The number of bruises and contusions on her body alone stands witness to the brutality. While her employers’ plead innocence there is no explanation for the child’s condition. The reports say the girl was not allowed to wear clothes while working at home. The callousness of it all makes one cringe.
While there are efforts to educate domestic workers on their rights, what can we the educated and privileged employers do? For starters we can say no to child labour. Even if we think it is to help the girl or boy’s family. There are other ways to help out a family in distress. While employing child labour itself is a punishable offence you can help the child if he or she is being ill-treated.
Look for these signs.
– Does the child look malnourished?
– Is he or she always unkempt?
– Does the child show signs of fear when approached?
– Does the child have fresh cuts, burns or bruises?
If there are young children employed in your neighbourhood keep a watch to see these signs call the helpline 1098.
It would be unpardonable if we Bangaloreans claim on being uber cool and super tech savvy while we let these young children suffer for lack of empathy. Wouldn’t you agree? ⊕