news reports and blogs shared the story of 14 year old Faith, a domestic servant
in Abuja whose principal, Roseline Uzoamaka forced her to sit on a burning
electric cooker because she wet the bed (see that here).
While Faith is recuperating at the hospital, Roseline, her boss has been
arrested by the police.
Having a
domestic servant or Housemaids/boys as they are locally called around is not
new to Nigerian homes, it’s a way of life, especially for those who can afford
to pay them or care for their needs if such maid is a relation. The International
Labour Organisation in a recent study entitled: ‘Domestic workers across the
world’ showed that there are at least 53 million domestic workers worldwide. It
explains that the figure, which does not include child domestic workers, is
increasing by the day in both the developed and developing countries. Also an
estimated 10.5 million children are engaged as domestic workers worldwide with
most of them under age.

A lot of
these workers are unregistered and not supported by most national Labour laws;
they work for private households usually without clear terms of employment. For
instance in Nigeria, the Labour Act in Section 65 states that: The Minister may
make regulations providing for-
engagement, repatriation or supervision of domestic servants;
employment of women and domestic servants;
the housing
accommodation and sanitary arrangement of domestic servants; and
conditions of domestic service generally.
Nigeria is yet to have a codified legislation that protects the rights of domestic
workers like Faith in the Country. The Lagos State Criminal Code states in Section
206 that it is the duty of every
person who as master or mistress and has contracted to provide necessary food,
clothing, lodging or medical treatment for any employee or apprentice under the
age of eighteen (18) years to provide the same; and he shall be held to have
caused any consequence which results to the life or health of the employee or
apprentice by reason of any omission to perform that duty. This is how
far it goes in relation to the terms of employment of domestic staffs.

To address the deplorable working conditions, labour
exploitation and human right abuses that domestic workers have to contend with
as well as the lack of legal protection, which makes it difficult for them to
seek remedies, the ILO came up with the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No.
June 16, 2011, ILO members – governments, trade unions, and employers’
associations – voted over­whelmingly to adopt the ILO Convention Concerning
Decent Work for Domestic Workers (Domestic Workers Convention, No. 189). This groundbreaking
treaty established the first global standards for domestic workers.
the Convention, domestic workers are entitled to the same basic rights as those
available to other workers in their country, including weekly days off, limits
to hours of work, minimum wage coverage, over­time compensation, social
security, and clear information on the terms and conditions of employment. The
new standards oblige governments that ratify to protect domestic workers from
violence and abuse, to regulate private employment agencies that recruit and
employ domestic workers, and to prevent child labor in domestic work.
Since the Convention’s adoption in 2011, dozens of countries
have taken action to strengthen protections for domestic workers. Several
countries from Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Europe have already ratified
the Convention, while others have pledged to do so. Many others are undertaking
legislative reform to bring their laws into compliance with the new standards. Already,
millions of domestic workers have benefited from these actions.
Domestic Workers Convention (C 189) requires governments to provide domestic
workers with the same basic labour rights as those available to other workers,
to protect domestic workers from violence and abuse, to regulate private
employment agencies that recruit and employ domestic workers, and to prevent
child labor in domestic work. The following is a brief summary of its
3: domestic workers should enjoy the ILO fundamental principles and
rights at work: 1) freedom of association; 2) elimination of forced labor; 3)
abolition of child labor; 4) elimination of discrimination.
4:  Protections for children, including a minimum age and ensuring
that domestic work by children above that age does not interfere with their
5: Protection from abuse,
harassment, and violence.
6: fair terms of employment,
decent working conditions, and decent living conditions if liv­ing at the
7: information about  terms and conditions of
employment, preferably in written contracts.
8: Protections for migrants,
including a written job offer before migrating and a contract enforceable in
the country of employment. Countries should cooperate to protect them and
specify terms of repatriation.
9: Prohibits confinement in
the household during rest periods or leave, and ensures domes­tic workers can
keep their passports/identity documents.
10:       equal treatment with other workers with regards to hours of
work, overtime pay, and rest periods, taking into account the special
characteristics of domestic work;
11: Minimum wage coverage where
it exists.
12: Payment at least once a month and
a limited proportion of “payments in kind”.
13: Right to a safe and healthy working
(can be applied progressively).
14: Equal treatment with regard to social
security, including maternity protection
(can be applied
15: Oversight of recruitment agencies
including investigation of complaints, establishing obligations of
agencies, penalties for violations, promoting bilateral or multilateral
cooperation agreements, and ensuring recruitment fees are not deducted from
domestic workers’ salaries.
16:  Effective access to courts.
Article 17: Effective and accessible complaints mechanisms, measures for labor inspections, and penalties.

It will be
great for all domestic staffs in Nigeria, if the Country were to adopt that
Convention. Then girls like Faith and the many other nameless domestic staffs
working in households around the country will be protected. Don’t you agree?
Adedunmade Onibokun