Even domestic helpers deserve to rest

With 2.3 million followers on Instagram and another 116k on Twitter, Kuwait’s Sondos Alqattan is your typical successful social media influencer — beautiful, entitled and possessed an air that she can never do anything wrong.
If she makes any mistake, her throng of loyal followers is there to offer her praises creating an environment where it’s easy for her to mistake right from wrong.
While the world celebrated Nelson Mandela International Day in honour of South Africa’s charismatic leader who championed human rights and freedom on July 18, Sondos came to my radar because of a narrow-minded point of view she shared on her social media account.
On it, Sondos lambasted the new law of her country allowing domestic helpers, Filipino workers in particular, in Kuwait to have days-off and are allowed to keep their passport. This law came about after several incidents of abuse with the most recent, the death of a Filipina worker who was then kept on a freezer for days. Apparently, to Sondos, the law is comedic.
In a video that has now gained global attention, Sondos pointed out that “The new laws that have been passed is a mere comedy… For her to take a day off every week, that’s four days a month. Those are the days that she’ll be out. And we don’t know what she’ll be doing on those days, with her passport on her.”
Breaking down what she said, she doesn’t agree that it was fair that domestic helpers have rest days nor should they be allowed to leave home. Second, she was afraid that they will run away and that nobody can refund her for the expenses, therefore, domestic helpers are not entitled to hold their passports.
What hit a cord with many is that despite being a social media guru with access to technology and tonnes of information through the internet, here is one person who commands influence over a large number of people but has seemed to miss classes on equality and human rights.
And it is a fight she is not backing down. More than a week after she made the statement, it appears like she has no remorse at all and didn’t realise what was wrong with her point of view. Not even a shadow of an apology is at hand but instead, what she did was disabled comments on her Instagram and made her Twitter private. No better way to shut people down with dissenting opinion than cutting their access or rights to respond.
The thought of one person owning another is so ancient I can’t imagine it in this time and age. The master-slave mentality is so archaic that hearing a young person say things in support of it makes you worry about the future.
To be popular for all the wrong reasons makes one hollow. While there are a lot of bad things happening all over the world, Sondos could have used her influence to affect change and promote a better understanding of issues that affect especially those in the fringes of society.
If there is one good thing Sondos managed to do, it is uniting thousands upon thousands who viewed slavery as evil.
At the heart of this matter are the domestic helpers who were deeply hurt. Being one doesn’t make a person a slave. There should be a clear understanding that just because a person works in someone’s home doesn’t mean their being human has been suspended.
They came to render service which is no way different than anyone working for large companies. They are not properties and they reserve the right to get out of your homes if they so please cause they are not prisoners. They are no lesser beings and at the end of the day, just like you, they have families and loved ones who wait for their return.
As said by many netizens, they are not machines and a day-off is truly well-deserved after doing labour-intensive tasks. If they do run away, maybe you have to ask yourself first whether you are creating a hostile environment for them.
How we treat others especially those who have nothing is a reflection of who we are. It is good to know that for one Sondos, there are hundreds more who believe in equality and human rights. And may their number prosper and grow until the master-slave mentality is totally eradicated from society. We all deserve a better future.

Yeru Ebuen
yeru.ebuen@gmail.com