Whether it’s a live-in maid or an agency maid who comes once or twice a week, having a maid in Dubai is almost as normal as having a car.
In fact the maid culture is so strong in this part of the world that they’ve even got rules as to who can and who can’t become a maid.
In Dubai, maids can only come from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Philippines or Sri Lanka. No other nationality is allowed to be employed as a maid. Oh and it’s illegal for maids to consume alcohol.
Having had a maid as the number one item on my wish list if I ever win the lottery, I was quite delighted at the prospect of finally having my dream come true even without a lottery win.
Not a live-in maid though, can’t imagine what authority I’d have over anyone once they’ve seen me mooching about the house in my homely, comfy clothes… so homely that I have to change out of them to take the dog for a walk… in the dark.
A maid agency is the way to go.
I tried a couple of agencies which I found lack-lustre. The third one however seemed to fit the bill.
The owner came to meet me to see what my requirements were so that she could match me up with the right maid. She explained her company ethics and assured me about how the ladies were trained and looked after. In the UAE it is the responsibility of the maid agency to provide accommodation for the maids.
She walked around the house explaining how various items would be cleaned. She advised me on the type of eco-friendly cleaning products to get in and reassured me that the maids are trained in hygiene and wouldn’t use bathroom cloths for anything else.
I was impressed. More importantly I remained impressed when the girl came.
Each week, she’d be like a little fairy who came in and twinkled her way around my house leaving it sparkling. She also loved to play with Happydoggy which was great as he was a mere pup and it helped with his socialisation.
The weeks went by and we got to know each other. Sarah had tears in her eyes as she told me about losing her beloved dog back home in the Phillipines. A friend had taken him for a walk and he escaped his lead never to be seen again. I found out about her children and that most of her salary is sent home to them every month. She shared her diet that keeps her looking about 20 years younger than she really is! (That’s my secret now).
Sarah told me that her dream job is to work with old people. She has an empathy with the elderly and aspires to be a live-in home help for an elderly person. She explained, “In the Phillipines there are very few jobs, economy is not good so I have to come here to work as a maid and leave my children behind.”
One day I asked her about her life here…
She lives in a 3 bedroom villa with 20 other maids. They are crammed into the rooms on bunk-beds. There are two bathrooms, one kitchen and there is no living room.
They have to rise at 4:30am so that the 21 girls ,who all need to leave at the same time, can rush through the bathroom and also the kitchen preparing their breakfast and lunch for the day. The bus that takes them to their appointments drops them off without regard.
I was mortified when she told me that the bus sometimes drops her at my house at 8:00am and she hangs around the corner waiting to knock on my door at the appointed time of 9:00am. In the summer, it is already burning hot at that time in the morning. The poor girl. I told her not to do that again and to come in and sit around no matter how early she arrived.
They are not allowed to have visitors and regularly face intimidation tactics by the company boss designed to keep them meek and compliant.
I can’t go into these tactics because I don’t know if Sarah is still in the UAE. It’s a small place and I don’t want to land her in trouble.
The tactics are vile and nasty; so much so that I offered to help her file a complaint at the Ministry of Labour. But Sarah is scared. The agency and the maid-grapevine has brainwashed her into believing that if she complains, the government will put her in prison.
What she wants, and what the other 20 maids want, is just to go back home.
One week after this conversation with Sarah, the agency sent an email saying they’re no longer covering Mirdif. I think it’s a coincidence thing rather than a cause-and-effect thing, but I’m still sorry I didn’t get a chance to say good-bye to Sarah.
But if she reads this and recognises herself though I’ve changed her name, I want her to know that I do my own cleaning now. Helped graciously by Mr HW of course.
Do you wonder about the life of your agency maid? Do you have live-in help so that you can directly influence their living conditions?