More than a maid: An open letter to employers, from a domestic worker in Singapore

save article
The open letter that every employer of a domestic helper in Singapore should read...

Here at HoneyKids, the only reason why we’re able to juggle family and work in Singapore, and have a little life of our own outside of motherhood, is because we have amazing helpers who keep everything running behind the scenes.

As mothers we spend a lot of time trying to cling onto own wellbeing, (we know self-care is hard, no matter your circumstances) and are increasingly aware of looking after our mental health, so the recent incident of the young helper from Myanmar, who took her life by jumping off a well-known condo, has really touched a nerve.

People watched it unfold and tried to help; many others have watched the videos circulating social media. It’s said she was mistreated by her employer; that she had been depressed for some time. We don’t know the full story and never will, but it’s served as a sharp reminder that many of us have access to so much support: friends, family (even if they’re far away), and can seek the help of professional therapists and counsellors in Singapore. Yet the women who leave their own families behind to help raise ours often don’t have a support network – or the means to seek help when they need it.

It’s a complex issue, and it’s hard to solve. But there’s one thing we’re all capable of extending to our helpers: kindness.

We’ve shared this open letter, from Novia – a domestic worker in Singapore, which we think all employers of helpers should read…

Dear employers,

As a Domestic worker I just want to say
Please take a look at this case
Which does not stand alone here
There were many more cases like her out there
This is a chance for you to learn about Domestic Worker’s rights
We are workers
We are humans
You hire us to work, and you pay us for that
But,
We have the right to communicate with our family & friends
We have the right to get a day off
We have the right to meet with our community

If we make a mistake
Of course you have the right to admonish us and tell us what we did wrong
But what you have to know
Is that before we came here to work with you
We already struggled to learn
Learn about your culture
Learn how to do the house chores as you order
Or even your language

Because of lack of education of domestic workers, including my own, this work is more difficult than you can imagine
And we are told that, if your employer is angry over a small mistake, even if you did not do it on purpose
The first thing you have to do is
Apologize or say sorry
We do already know how to respect the employer
We have already been told that we can’t demand too much
As a worker

We know this

But at least…
Treat us like a human
We need to be able to communicate with our family and friends
And give us a chance, to talk to you, when we find our work difficult
Please be aware about the risk for mental health issues
Which many domestic workers struggle with, when we don’t have anyone to talk to
If we have a problem,  we need someone to share it with, and help us find the solution

Being able to talk to other people, our friends, our family, will keep us healthy

We all know that we are here to work
And we are paid for that
And if you give us limited time to use phone, only after we finish our job
That is not too bad
We can still accept it
But,
Please treat us as a human being
Respect us,
Just like you would want to be respected

Novia is a domestic worker and helpdesk volunteer at HOME (Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics) – a charity that believes in justice, equality, empowerment and dignity of migrant workers. It provides assistance, shelter, food and counselling for workers who have been abused, plus skill-building courses and legal aid.

Can you volunteer at HOME?
HOME can always use volunteers at its shelter (asssisting with activities and program for shelter residents) and its HOME Academy (where volunteers can teach English or computer skills, for example, two Sundays a month for 12 weeks). Interested in volunteering? Get in touch via volunteer@home.org.sg.

Like this story? Here’s more we think you’ll enjoy
Courses for helpers: entrepreneurship, cooking and baking and more
How to find a great helper in Singapore 
Where to volunteer in Singapore
How to financially empower women in Singapore: Aidha’s courses for helpers