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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Let's Pick on Maids

It seems to be pick on maids time in Qatar at the moment.


If you are visiting from the West, you have to understand that it is normal for families, both Qatar and expat, to hire a 'maid' in Qatar.

These maids can be paid as little as QAR600 or 700 riyals a month (about a hundred English pounds).

For this they frequently work six days a week.

Some maids are treated badly. Maids in Qatar have been tortured, raped and murdered.

I think this is probably the minority, though - speaking a couple of Asian languages, I have chatted to quite a few maids and most are miserable because they are desperately lonely and homesick, and sick of dealing with badly behaved children.

(One maid said to me, after one of her little charges had bitten the other: "If I was back in my village, we would give this little brat a good thrashing".)

The happiest seem to be those working with families of their own nationalities, or those working on a part time basis for several different families.

A Wonderful Woman

We had a maid for a while.

Originating from India, she had originally been a school teacher, but events had conspired against her.

She was hardworking, intelligent and caring. Our children adored her, and we trust her to this day.

She still does a little work us, but even when she is not working she will often drop in to see the children.

Our only complaint is that she spoils the children rotten.

Kick Them While They are Down

A common conversation topic in Qatar is "servant problems".

Perhaps because of a desire to assuage guilt, it's also a common story in the Gulf Times.

One Gulf Times story reported that, in reaction to concern about maids, some researchers went and interviewed many domestic employers.

They came back with horror stories about the maids. No-one, however, thought to ask the maids how they felt or what they had experienced.

Now a new horror story in the Gulf Times covers a maid who rented out a baby to beggars.

The story occurred in India, not Qatar.

'Shocking Business'

Immediate condemnation followed in Qatar Living.

Said one:
"every local over here hired housemaids... are they aware of the fact...or the laws here are strict enough so no maid have the courage to behave bad towards the kid."
Another writer complained:
It is not all that easy to find a trustworthy maid nowadays. Even if you think you have a good caring maid, you need to be right on top of them to monitor their freedom, activities and local connections. A surprise visit at times and continuous monitoring would allow you to assess the situation and act accordingly.
Another advised:
once in a while it is wise to come home early or un-scheduled. This way a parent could catch a maid off-guard should she be doing something fishy.

Any truth?

We hire servants for pennies and expect them to be wonderful people.

And sometimes they are. I know of one who is holding a whole family together.

(She prepares food, picks the children up and gives them the love and attention they need while the mother gads about town.)

However, these child carers are, for the most part, unvetted and untrained. Incidents and problems are inevitable.

At the moment, though, only one side of the story is being told...


On Twitter, Nigel Gourlay complains:
"How poorly people treat those who care for their children. In previous compound, one maid was being starved by employers."
He went on to describe how the other maids bought food and vitamins for her, before describing how another servant was being beaten by her employers.

Nigel ended up putting that one in a taxi to her embassy.

I suspect there are many other maids' stories out there which are not being told...

Update: Get the other side of the story with our article, Servant's Stories.

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