Early new year joy for Myanmar, Sri Lankan maids

Myanmar domestic helper Margaret Mawi, 27, belting out a rock tune at the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training new year celebration for Myanmar and Sri Lankan domestic workers in Singapore.
Myanmar domestic helper Margaret Mawi, 27, belting out a rock tune at the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training new year celebration for Myanmar and Sri Lankan domestic workers in Singapore.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Domestic workers enjoying themselves at the new year celebration.
Domestic workers enjoying themselves at the new year celebration.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Singapore's only clubhouse for maids was awash with colour yesterday as the domestic helpers celebrated the Myanmar and Sri Lankan new years.

The Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (Fast) event in Bukit Merah saw dancers twirling to traditional music, a fashion parade of cultural outfits and singers belting out hits. They were cheered on by 400 women from Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Fast president Seah Seng Choon said celebrating one another's festivals allows club members - who number about 5,700 - "to experience the warmth and happiness each culture brings in the communities".

Domestic workers said they enjoyed the celebration ahead of the new years, both of which typically fall around the middle of April.

Sri Lankan Sandiya Kumari, 48, who has worked here for two years after two decades in Dubai, enjoyed the musical performances most.


Domestic workers enjoying themselves at the new year celebration. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Back home, the traditions include exchanging food and money, and visiting the temple. "I miss it but I try to join other Sri Lankans here to celebrate," she said.

Ms Nang Mya Ohn, 29, who came here from Myanmar six years ago, said she cooks food and offers it at a temple here for the new year.

"I'm very happy they are caring for the helpers in this way," she said about the Fast event. "Helpers help them and they help back."

In the light of recent concerns over the need for clearer job scopes for maids, Mr Seah said it would be helpful for employers and maids to agree on a set list of duties in the employment contract, to prevent a mismatch of expectations.


Domestic workers enjoying themselves at the new year celebration. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

"But I urge both parties to be flexible. There may be times when something urgent comes up outside the formal list," he said. "At the same time, employers also need to be reasonable and not impose jobs outside the household."

He added: "A caregiving job requires certain skills and abilities, and if the employer wants the maid to do that, he should send her for training first."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2017, with the headline 'Early new year joy for Myanmar, Sri Lankan maids'. Print Edition | Subscribe