Chicken feet and scraps for the maid

Chicken feet and scraps for the maid

Stories of maids making life hell for Singapore families get widely circulated. But what is the other side of the story? Are FDWs mistreated daily by ordinary families? Read about Sera's story - the maid who is fed chicken feet...

The news coverage on domestic helpers gone bad is everywhere in Singapore. You don’t need to have a live-in domestic helper to know about the scandalous tales that are doing the rounds.

From maids hiding dead babies in their employer’s cupboards, to those caught wearing their employer’s underwear — these have become Singapore’s urban legends.

Maids have gotten a bad reputation largely due to the negative publicity surrounding a few bad eggs. This negative publicity is so influential that it puts people like me off employing a maid, with the worry that similar terrible mishaps would befall my family.

But is this the story of the majority or the minority?

An unsettling letter in an online maid’s group came to our attention. An Indonesian domestic helper, Sera (not her real name) had been regularly fed chicken feet and other chicken scraps by her employer.

She works in a large 3-storey house and her employer cooks separate, cheaper meals for her.

When chicken feet is sell for $1 for 6, she will buy and keep in freezer. She will take out 2 and cook for me, with oyster sauce. She take a little vegetable and give me to eat. That’s my meal,” Sera wrote.

Or sometimes, the parts of the chicken, like backside, the middle of chicken breast which is bone, the liver, and spare parts of chicken, will give to me. This kind of parts, in my country, even when my family is poor, no such parts is given to anybody to eat only when we starve”

Sera’s story continues on the next page…

Have we become an insensitive and cold-hearted nation?

She goes on to say that she has a good relationship with the well-to-do family, and they’re delighted with her work performance, even to a point where they told her they “love” her. So it’s no wonder she’s confused: “Wow if they don’t like me then what they will feed me?

Given that a maid’s work is physically demanding, not giving them enough to eat is borderline mistreatment.

Maids are humans too. They need food to give them enough energy to do their job. They need protein, vegetables and carbs for fuel.

Chicken feet properly prepared, may well be a delicacy. But its is not enough as the sole source of protein.

Have we become an insensitive and cold-hearted nation?

Have we become an insensitive and cold-hearted nation?

It quickly became apparent that this was not an isolated incident. We came across another disconcerting incident, reported in 2002, of a maid who died from abuse and malnutrition.

The 17-year-old Indonesian weighed 50 kilograms when she first set foot in Singapore. And she was merely 36 kilograms when she died.

I would be a little skeptical about stories such as these if I hadn’t seen a similar case with my own eyes. Let me share my story.

We were at a restaurant and the family at the next table were served their food. Minutes later, we realised everyone at the table got their orders and started eating, with the exception of the maid.

She fed the children and then ate whatever was left over. She did not get her own meal, only whatever scraps the kids left on their plates.

This happens every day all over Singapore, giving us a hint about generally held attitudes to maids.

Why aren’t there many reported cases of maid abuse? Next page tells you why..

Their work is their rice bowl…

Domestic helpers, who have been victimised, sad to say, are hesitant to come forward due to the nature of their job, and other factors. And most of them just accept some level of mistreatment as part of their job.

Domestic work is their rice bowl. Many have families relying on the maid’s earning to survive. So the last thing they would do is complain about being given a poorly ventilated tiny store room to sleep in. Or chicken feet to eat.

Sera is a brave woman to have spoken out. Her story makes us ask ourselves the question: have we become an insensitive and cold-hearted nation? Do we have no empathy for these women who leave their homes to earn money by working in our homes?

Why do you think some Singaporeans are mistreating their maids? Leave a comment and let us know what you think.

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