Maids get together to jointly celebrate Myanmar and Sri Lankan New Years

The event saw dancers twirling to traditional music, a fashion parade of cultural outfits and singers belting out hit songs.ST VIDEO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - Singapore's only clubhouse for maids was awash with colour on Sunday (April 2) as domestic workers of different nationalities gathered to celebrate the Myanmar and Sri Lankan New Years.

The event organised by the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (Fast) saw dancers twirling to traditional music, a fashion parade of cultural outfits and singers belting out hit songs.

They were cheered on by some 400 women from countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Also joining in the celebration were Sri Lanka's High Commissioner to Singapore Nimal Weeraratne, the Myanmar Embassy's Deputy Chief of Mission Win Myint, and Fast president Seah Seng Choon.

Mr Seah said in a speech that celebrating each other's festive occasions allows the club members - who number about 5,700 -"to experience the warmth and happiness each culture brings in the communities".

Mr Weeraratne and Mr Win Myint both wished those present a happy new year and highlighted their two countries' longstanding cultural and historical ties.

Domestic workers from Myanmar and Sri Lanka said they enjoyed the early celebration organised specially for them ahead of their respective New Years, both of which typically fall around the middle of this month (April).

Sri Lankan helper Sandiya Kumari, 48, who has worked here for two years after two decades in Dubai, said she especially enjoyed the music from the various countries.

Back home, the festival is marked with traditions such as the exchanging of food and money, visits to the temple, and a full day of outdoor games. "I miss it but I try to join other Sri Lankans here to celebrate," she said.

Fellow domestic worker Nang Mya Ohn, 29, who came to Singapore from Myanmar six years ago, said she cooks food and offers it at the temple for the New Year.

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

In light of recent concerns over the need for clearer job scopes for maids, Mr Seah told The Straits Times 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.

"But I urge both parties to be flexible. There may be times where something urgent comes up outside the formal list such as the employer's parents coming to stay for a week, meaning extra cooking and chores. At the same time, employers also need to be reasonable and not impose jobs outside the household," he said.

He added that employers should take into consideration the skill levels of maids when deciding on their job scope. "A caregiving job requires certain skills and abilities, and if the employer wants the maid to do that, they should send her for training first," he said.