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Who Watches the Watchmen? Safety and the Gulf State Nannies

The role of the nanny and housemaid in Emirati and Saudi Arabian society has been called into question this past month, as a series of incidents have both highlighted the need for more female staff, as well as focused attention of their poor working conditions.

In December of 2010, Emirates 24/7 reported on the case of an Emirati mother who planted a hidden camera in her home after becoming suspicious of changes in her children’s behavior. She discovered that the Ethiopian housemaid had been abusing, burning and threatening the three young children left in her care, as well as ‘inciting them against their parents’.

The use of maids and nannies in the gulf states has grown in prevalence with the influx of expats and the availability of cheap and unregulated menial labor. Employment structures, even in those fields predominantly employing expats, are rarely set up to accommodate women who wish to continue a career after having children. Flexi-time and part-time jobs are unusual, and schools or nurseries will typically only run until 3pm. Using full time housemaids or a dedicated nanny is common practice, as due to low-labor costs, it is more economical than full-time daycare.

The legality of using cameras to monitor female nannies has increasingly been called into question, with little in the way of authoritative legal guidance. Saudi lifestyle magazine Sayidaty has published a survey that suggest that more than three million maids in the Arab states are living ‘in deplorable conditions and more incidents of verbal and physical abuse are reported’. Abdul Wahab Haidar, Labor Office Expert at the Saudi Ministry of Labor, observed to reporters that under the current laws “employers can make the maid work and then kick her out without paying her wages.”

Last month The National reported that a Filipina maid fled the household of her employers, complaining of mistreatment and physical and verbal assaults after she asked for her salary and to have a day off. She sought refuge at the Filipino Workers Resource Center, which houses up to 200 women seeking sanctuary from abusive employers. Rather than prosecution of the employers, charges have been brought against the maid for ‘absconding’ which may result in her deportation and life-time ban from the UAE.

However, despite the concerns raised over female working conditions, the recent charges of rape brought against three bus drivers have resulted in a popular call for more female staff to be present. In November of last year, three drivers were charged with the rape of a four year old girl on a UAE school bus. As a result, concerned parents have called for nannies to be placed on every school bus to oversee the dropping-off of children until the last pupil is home. Shortly afterwards, Sunny Varkey, Chairman of private education group GEMS Education, announced that they would be hiring 700 female staff to monitor the children on-board, even for all-male groups. Whilst the female staff would not be permitted to drive the buses, their presence represents a significant increase in publicly present female employees.

Even though Dubai is progressive and liberal by Saudi standards, the employment of women in public roles has still proven to be a contentious issue. The popular public support of the hiring of hundreds of women has been bolstered by initiatives such as the Khaleej Times‘ ‘Keep Your Child Safe’ campaign. The national newspaper said that the public, after a brief outpouring of anger, had now come together “to provide useful, practical suggestions to ensure that such horrific incidents do not occur again…[that] emotional responses have given way to remarkably mature and well thought out comments…saying that the public wanted nannies to be deployed in all school busses across the UAE…” The public’s ‘considered views’ included in the commentary following the Khaleej Times release included recommendations to “trust no one”, and that the “culprits get such a punishment that nobody even dares think of committing such a sin…publicly torturing/stoning and then hanging seems to be the only way of deterring such people.”

It is not yet clear if this mass hiring will have a permanent effect on Emirati society as public outrage cools. The exact extent and role of the female bus staff has not yet been confirmed, and Advocate Najeeth, Chairman of the Gulf Model School, told reporters that “there has been no directive from the government or any concerned authority requesting the need to hire women bus conductors.”

References:

Emirates 24/7
The Telegraph
The Khaleej Times, 2
Alarabiya.net



4 Responses to “Who Watches the Watchmen? Safety and the Gulf State Nannies”

  1. Lebanoclegi says:

    Hello, nice read. Enjoy a lot. Thanks.

  2. Bobbye Scherrer says:

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  3. Cori Mann says:

    Hi there! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I genuinely enjoy reading your blog posts.

  4. tampa child care says:

    we cant always rely on baby care or child care services .they can be good but some times can be rude


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