Despite shutdown coming to an end very few people are brave enough to allow their part-time house-helps back to work
Majeda Begum, a part-time domestic worker, had first come to Dhaka because she had been told: "money flies here". Since then, she has been working as a part-time domestic worker in Motijheel area.
It has been three years she is living here and this is the first time she is almost jobless, not even able to send money to her family. Three months ago, she was earning enough to support her family and surviving in Dhaka city alone.
Now her sick mother and younger brother are starving in Jessore.
People are not calling back their maids as a caution.
Calling back the maid to work and inviting death are synonymous for businessman Tanvir Hossain. As this is probably the peak of Covid-19 and maids usually go to different places to work, it would be dangerous to allow them to resume work. So he is trying his best to manage things alone as long as he can.
"It has been more than two months that I am almost jobless. I used to work at five places but now I am working at one only. Though I am having to work there abiding by various instructions and dealing with extra pressure, my salary has not been raised," said a helpless Majeda.
But Sumaiya Akhter, a pregnant housewife, could not manage alone and had to call back her maid. She however ensures social distancing and hygienic practices from her maid.
"As I am sick and my workload is sky high, I had to bring back my maid. I could not raise her salary but I do ensure her nutrition. She is working here and taking care of her is my responsibility," said Sumaiya.
Even after two months, Majeda has not left Dhaka and is trying hard to survive. "If I go back home, I do not know how I would pay my mess rent later. So it is better to stay here and look for work constantly."
Anna Parvin, another part-time domestic help, could not take a risk like Majeda and left Dhaka permanently with her old mother. She had saved some money and was not interested in spending them off sitting here. She does not know what she will do in the village, but it is clear to her that she will survive longer there.
"There were days when I kept standing in front of people's doors and pleaded them to recruit me for work, but none of them did. I do understand the problem, yet I am desperate to work as I have not received any help, neither from the government nor from any household," shared Majeda.
Advisor of National Domestic Women Workers Union (NDWWU), Abul Hossain said that domestic workers do not fall under the labour law of our country. And for this very reason they are not under any relief project.
However, a few private organizations or NGOs usually work on their behalf. Hellotask Ltd usually aids their 4,500 enlisted members with the help of Oxfam International. Hellotask also halted their operation since the pandemic started but is hoping to start services from the next month.
There are 22,000 part-time domestic workers enlisted in Dhaka, informed NDWWU. And half of them are going back to partial work now. As a consequence of unemployment, domestic workers are falling victim to domestic violence in their own homes in greater numbers. This is an effect of the long shutdown that is remaining unnoticed, shared Abul.
Sumaiya Islam, executive Director of Bangladesh Nari Sramik Kendra (BNSK) said, "Our expatriate women domestic workers are the victim of their employers' passive aggression. They are tortured inhumanely. When they call us, their words and sounds of sobbing keep haunting us like a nightmare."
Around 10,000 undocumented workers will return home by next year and will be badly affected by this pandemic. So far, there is no plan regarding this.
"We need to learn how to survive and continue our daily life. It is highly dangerous yet we are suggesting all the domestic workers to follow the rules of World Health Organization (WHO) and continue work. Here, life and livelihood are clashing and we are choosing life over everything," remarked Abdul.