Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Our housemaid Myrna, is one of many Filipino women that leave the Philippines in order to ensure economic survival for their families back home.  The type of sacrifice this entails, leaving behind in Myrna's case, two children aged between 8 and 12 to be raised by her sister and mother, is almost too huge to imagine.  But the 150-200 euros Myrna sends home to her family means that her two children can not only survive from day-to-day, they are also able to gain an education. Without these wages, Myrna tells me, even affording nutritious food can be an issue.  Myrna is incredibly well looked after here, very much a part of the family, but other Filipinas within Cypriot communities are not so lucky.  This kind of transnational cheap labour is globally systematic and there have been numerous case studies that I have read outlining the types of abuse that, particularly women in domestic service, face. Coming from NZ where this type of house-help is not immediately visible, (although one can draw parallels to the low-paid work of many Polynesian women in the healthcare and service industries), this type of underclass based on power, economics, ethnicity and gender makes me extremely uncomfortable.   I wonder what support there is out there for women who find themselves in unbearable employment? There are apparently women here whose employers refuse to feed them or buy them rice, others are verbally abused and generally treated badly.  Having live-in Filipino workers in considered part of the normal running of the house for middle-class Cypriots.   The woman across the road has two. 

On a lighter note, Myrna and I went to the mall today for coffee and shopping. We are going to go to a disco together as well when Emily gets here.  She doesn't want to take me to her local one as the Bengali and Pakistani men trespass lines of appropriate modesty.  In other words, too much "dirty dancing" - not good. All things considered, Myrna has landed within the most supportive and loving family you can get as employers.  She is much loved.  But god, i worry about the other women in the service community here...

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