Did you have to do certain chores or tasks when you were a child or at any age living at home? If so, what did you do and where are you from?
When I was growing up I had my responsibilities around the house. First of all, I was responsible for keeping my room neat and tidy. My mom would also have me fold towels and washcloths when I was young as a help to her. Gradually as I got older, ironing pillowcases was added to my list of chores.
I had older siblings too and they had their own sets of chores. They would take turns either washing or drying and putting away the dishes. Sometimes they’d be responsible for preparing the evening meal. They would also help out with laundry in addition to dusting or vacuuming the house. With five children, my mother had her hands full.
In Saudi Arabia many families do not give a second thought to what could be viewed as mundane chores. Saudi Arabia has been accustomed to the culture of having a housemaid who is responsible for cooking, cleaning, laundry, dusting, vacuuming and overall care of the house. I had a housemaid when I was living in Saudi Arabia and enjoyed her assistance in maintaining my house; especially as I worked full time too.
However, with the rising costs to acquire and maintain a housemaid plus the increasing number of housemaids who run away from their sponsoring families, the trend of a housemaid is slowly starting to change in the Kingdom. Instead, Saudi families are learning how to cope with the upkeep of a house without the added assistance of the housemaid.
Sarah Sonbol, a mother of five, has initiated the “Do it yourself” campaign encouraging families to divide the chores among family members and do the housework themselves rather than rely upon the services of a housemaid. This is a new and novel concept to a lot of Saudi families, but the campaign is gaining momentum. Almost 30 families in Medinah have responded positively to Sonbol’s campaign and are doing housework themselves.
One particular challenge that seems common in the campaign is getting male members of the family to participate. That’s not surprising given how the culture of Saudi Arabia is oriented to the man and housework would be viewed as un-masculine. Perhaps a woman can start with small requests for the man to adapt to the new changes in the household.
Saudi Arabia is by no means alone as a country which has relied heavily on imported domestic help. According to a 2010 report, the International Labour Force, domestic workers are common employees in 117 countries. Asia (excluding China) employs 94.8 per cent domestic workers in the region as compared to 78.4 per cent in the Middle East. Latin America and the Caribbean employ 95.5 per cent domestic workers.
The two regions with the largest number of domestic workers are Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. In Asia, at least 21.5 million women and men work in private households (or 40.8 per cent of all domestic workers worldwide). 83 per cent of the world’s domestic workers are female.