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City firm starts database to weed out monster house helps

In May a house help in Nairobi’s Umoja Estate was accused of strangling her employer’s eight-month old baby to death.

The late Stefani Nzisa’s mother was away at work when it happened.

The house help first denied any wrong doing but a postmortem exam showed signs of strangulation. Reportedly, the house help claimed that the baby had fallen from a sofa and hurt her head.

She was later, together with the woman who referred her to her employer, arrested and charged with murder.

ASSAULTING CHILD

In yet another incident last month, a video went viral on social media showing a Kenyan househelp assaulting her employer’s child in the United Arab Emirates.

The employer, Hellen Francis who is also Kenyan, had installed hidden cameras in her living room which captured the woman approaching the boy seated on a sofa inspecting his pants then the house help landing on him with blows.

“Be careful with the maids that take care of your kids while you are away, this is so sad. Her name is Merriam Wangui,” read the post by Ms Francis that accompanied the video on Facebook.

Besides beating, some house helps go to great extends of subjecting their employer’s children to torture, both physical and psychological.

It is following this trend that Grace Machuki created a platform to vet prospective house helps before employing them.

Traditionally, employers would walk in a house helps’ bureau and walk out with a “naïve” girl to take up a maid’s job. Some would ask their relatives from upcountry to come and babysit. If that failed they would recommended a neighbour’s girl who probably dropped out of primary school.

GONE BERSERK

But with the number of stories of house helps gone berserk on their employers’ children seemingly on the rise, parents can no longer take the mater of finding a caregiver for their children on faith and vetting services such as Ms Machuki’s come in handy.

Ms Machuki’s platform, Find Real Me, is a registered company that screens house helps’ or caregivers history before they land employment. It was founded in 2015.

“Our mission is to improve the quality of security in households and care facilities around the country,” said Ms Machuki.

Find Real Me founder Grace Machuki during the interview. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU
Find Real Me founder Grace Machuki during the interview. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU

The company has a variety of screening services including a criminal house helps and caregivers database. This function allows the public to register criminal house helps and also verify if a caregiver has a criminal history.

For a name to be entered into the database, an employer has to provide evidence, usually in the form of a police OB number.

OFFENDERS

The database currently has 200 offenders and the number is growing daily, Ms Machuki said.

She said: “This is an indicator that government needs to come in with speed and do something about house helps gone rogue – some besides torturing their employer’s kids end up killing or defiling them.”

Ms Machuki added that with a reference database such as hers, employers are able to get testimonials from previous employers about the person they are about to trust to manage their homes.

Her company also offers employment contract writing services which are provided by a legal team.

Employers and house helps draft an employment contract convenient to both parties and also within the laws of Kenya with the help of the team.

“A lot of crimes committed by house helps go unreported hence we offer legal advice and services for both house helps and employers to that effect,” said Ms Machuki.

“Our legal team gives both employers and their caregivers legal opinion and representation in court upon request.”

FREE SERVICES

For the last year, Find Real Me has offered free services with an aim of encouraging a culture of screening house helps before hiring. It intends to charge Sh700 for the services in the future.

Ms Machuki pointed out that it was a fact well confirmed that the majority of criminal house helps are repeat offenders and every other time the same person commits an offence, it is a more serious crime than before.

She said that she believes that by registering criminal house helps or caregivers, they are creating a sense of accountability for offenders and also caution could-be employers about their history.

“Screening house helps and caregivers also gives employers, children, special needs persons, the elderly, peace of mind,” said Ms Machuki.

According to experts a house help’s attitude is dependent on how he/she is treated by the employer.
Kenyan house helps are paid between Sh3,000 and Sh6, 000 depending on their work experience.

There have been attempts by the Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotel, Educational Institutions, Hospitals and Allied Workers (Kudheiha) to have a minimum wage for domestic workers – a cry that has more often than not been ignored.

MONTHLY PAY

Last year, Labour Cabinet Secretary, Raychelle Omamo fixed domestic workers pay in Nairobi at a monthly salary of Sh10,954 – something that has been largely ignored by a majority of households.

Her regulations also required that every domestic worker is enrolled under the National Health Insurance Fund by their employer.

If these pointers were put into consideration, the government reckons that cases of domestic workers mistreating their employers’ children or even stealing from them would then be reduced.