Saturday, July 16, 2011

House girls’ problems, mainly HIV, abuse and unwanted pregnancy

The other day I wrote this post about house helps pay hike that is not workable in Kenya now, still on this issue of house helps I realized the Government needs to do more on issues affecting house helps apart from their pay hike. Link
Just like many Kenyans I have had the experience of employing different house girls both middle age and young adults, from the rural areas and from the city. From my experience the ones from the city are more experienced, enlightened and demand more pay than the ones from up country. The only problem with the enlightened ones is they can leave at their own pleasure because they know how to go about getting other jobs. The ones from the rural areas may not be as enlightened as the one from the city and can be paid less. They may be good for a while when staying within their employer’s compound, because they rarely take offs and may take a while to know their surrounding. However when they get to meet other girls or people to enlighten them about they city, they can be very dangerous to have in the house. Therefore both girls from the rural and city have their good and bad side.
Now my story is about the problems house girls experience, I never used to subject my house helps to medical check up when I employ them but two cases made me change my mind. I once got a very good lady from a relative in my rural home, she was very hard working and liked my kids but she looked frail, she would get sick quite often and I would spend a lot on her treatment until I decided to get her properly checked. I talked to her first and she accepted. It turned out she was HIV positive, unfortunately she felt ashamed working for me because I knew and left. Later I got another girl from home again because I thought they are good, the girl is an orphan and told me she is on some drugs for a stomach problem and can only get them for free at a Government hospital. When I took the names of the drugs to a friend who works in a hospital, she confirmed they are ARVs. I talked to the girl and she accepted and because I had worked with another similar case I didn’t mind. After counseling and directing her to a nearby institution I felt there was nothing wrong staying with her. Furthermore I had lived with many house girls before and never tested.
Apart from being HIV positive I later realized she was also pregnant, this was more shocking to me than the other problem. I got confused and through I wanted to keep her, I could not bear both burdens. I once got a house girl from home that was pregnant, I did not notice because I was busy working but would wonder why she liked sleeping a lot and ignored. When I came to notice some friends told me you mean you didn’t see it and looked stupid for someone who had kids. When I was preparing to get another one she went into labor just two days before the other one came. I had to take some time off from work to take her to hospital and bought everything for her and the baby. It was a very trying moment for me and I swore never to employ and girl again. But here I was again with another girl not only pregnant but also sick.
From these cases I have learnt a lot and decided to share the story, many friends told me to send away the sick girl immediately. But I said so long as she is good and is on drugs I will keep her. She looked healthy and was not as frail and the older lady, the older lady was a widow and it seems her husband had died of the same. Now I decided to investigate the root cause of this orphan girl’s problems.
I came to learn that this girl had worked for a couple in Nairobi, the lady was sick and mostly bed ridden and the man looked healthy. It seems they were HIV positive and man was taking drugs, it is said this man was the one employing and firing the house girls and most were sent packing after getting pregnant. He would sack even the good ones and people wondered why, so this is when I came to a conclusion this girl may have gone through the same. Once pregnant they are taken direct to the bus that takes them to their rural home. So this girl’s aunt brought her to work for me a few days after leaving her employer.
I felt very touched and annoyed by this case, many girls are sent back home in/into desperate situations after getting pregnant or falling sick. Their life became a mess and their children enter into the poverty cycle because of the mess. Many girls in Kenya, after dropping out of school get into early marriage that do not work, are abused and get pregnant. Many also get infected by STDs and HIV virus. It is very wrong and evil for men to abuse innocent girls and use them to sambaza (spread) diseases. Because they are not enlightened and cannot sue those who abuse them, they are scared of reporting the problems. Their relatives may be poor or do not care to do anything for them and many do not have parents to speak for them. Many women still blame house girls for their problems but we should now see them as humans and see how they can be helped. This is why I say the Government should see how they can help these girls and open a help desk for them at local Chief’s offices or police stations where they can report abuse.

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