(ERGO) Fadumo Dahir felt angry and frustrated by the rough deal she saw that young women so often encountered when they took up domestic jobs to earn a humble living. The stories of cooks and cleaners being forced to work day and night for no pay, or being bullied and even sexually harassed, abound.
At the end of last year, she and four other female law graduates from Puntland State University in Garowe opened an office called Xogmaal, which offers an employment agency service to employers and job hunters and issues legal employment contracts.
So far, they have placed 60 women in employment and drawn up their contracts.
“The contracts lay out that the employer should respect the employee and not treat them like a slave that they own,” Fadumo told Radio Ergo.
The contracts specify the nature and duration of the work and the agreed salary. Employees are asked to go for a health check-up prior to signing. Either party has to give 10 days’ notice of any change to the contract. If one party terminates the contract he/she will have to pay 10 percent of the salary to the other partyThey are able to contact the office in case to report any complaints or mistreatment.
Sundus Ali Hussein, 20, signed an employment contract at Xogmaal last month. She was worked in several places in the last two years and encountered numerous challenges including being falsely accused of theft and being denied her pay.
Now she is earning $80 a month cooking and cleaning in a local house. She is able to support her mother and two younger siblings. Her contract allows her to take one day off a week. Her salary is stated in her contract and she gets paid within the first five days of the month.
Sundus described being refused her pay her for two months after a previous employer falsely accused her of stealing clothes that had gone missing. In another job, she was fired without being paid for her work.
Xogmaal has 45 women on its job-seekers register and tries to connect them to potential employers. They charge a $5 administration fee to the job seekers.
The concept of contracts for domestic employment is quite new in Somalia. Workers are often swindled out of their dues, forced to work all hours without a day off, and to do jobs they had not anticipated. Incidences of violence are common. Without the backing of Xogmaal, many househelps would fear to take up a complaint in case they are threatened or event jailed.