The Straits Times
Published on Dec 10, 2012

Empower maids for a productive, positive relationship


THERE are a number of powerful lessons in the stories which must be reinforced ("1,600 turn up for maids' concert" and "Retiring after 42 years as a maid"; both published last Monday).

First, we must continue to honour and respect the work of maids. They contribute significantly to our economy and our social and national life.

Many of them care for our parents and children, thus making it possible for us to pursue our respective careers with peace and assurance.

Their work is therefore rightfully valued and recognised.

Second, responsible and caring employers make a difference to a maid's life and work. Some of us can recall the days when maids of a different era loyally and faithfully served our families. Some dedicated a lifetime serving one family.

In many cases, these maids literally became part of the family they served, and were treated by the employers as such. The kindness of the employers was reciprocated and the benefits were mutual.

Third, maids have the potential to be leaders in their own right, and this is possible if employers encourage and empower them in positive relationships that make all the difference in giving a maid dignity and status.

In this regard, I prefer to refer to maids as domestic helpers. A "maid" is literally a "female servant" and in our culture, servant ("civil servant" excepted) generally connotes a person of a lower class.

"Worker" is better but "helper" is best since the word connotes a contribution to making things better. And that is what a maid does.

William Wan (Dr)

General Secretary

Singapore Kindness Movement