Group behind Mums and Maids video addresses flak

SINGAPORE - Workers' rights group Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) on Monday acknowledged the flak over a video urging employers to give their maids weekly days off by showing maids who knew their wards better than their parents did.

Describing the Mums and Maids video as "provocative", TWC2 president Noorashikin Abdul Rahman said that while there were many people who liked the film and thought it was effective in bringing attention to the issue of domestic workers' right to a weekly day off, there were others who did not take a shine to the video.

Critics thought that the message of the day off for domestic workers was confused by the emphasis on parents spending more time with their children, and were angered because they believe it shows mothers in a bad light by portraying them as inadequate parents, and by not mentioning the father's role.

"Whether you liked the film or not, let's not forget that as a society we have failed miserably in our treatment of domestic workers. Many domestic workers toil day in and day out without the fundamental labour right of a weekly day off," Ms Noorashikin said.

Marketing communications firm Ogilvy & Mather teamed up with TWC2 for the video to mark Labour Day on May 1.

The two minute-long video features interviews with mothers, children and their maids. Through a series of questions and answers, it shows that domestic workers know their employers' children better than their employers do.

In the video, a mother said her daughter "wants to be a teacher", while the maid answered: "I think she wants to be a princess." The girl replied: "Princess."

Ms Noorashikin said that going into the collaboration, the organisation was clear in its objective to make people aware of the magnitude of the problem - that 40 per cent of domestic workers in Singapore still do not have a weekly day off.

"Never has the issue of domestic workers' right to a day off been discussed on this scale and generated so much buzz. This is what we hoped for when we lent our support to the campaign," she said, explaining that four days after its launch, the campaign video has reached more than 2.6 million viewers worldwide, according to Ogilvy's tracking.

The families in the film had participated because they wanted to do their part to advocate for domestic workers' rights, she said.

She added: "Much still needs to be done to shift mindsets and change underlying structures in our society so that domestic workers are treated fairly and have the same employment rights as other workers. We hope that the public will continue to support us in this endeavour."

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