Zahra was a maid working in my parent’s house. They brought her when she was still a little child girl, aged about eleven, from the rural area of Shiadma, located in the region of Essaouira . It’s a destitute and desolate place where people live in unbelievable poverty. I always vigorously objected to the Idea that a child could be hired to work, whatever the circumstances and I still feel repulsed by that. I had many spirited arguments with my parents on this issue. My mother’s argument has always been that Zahra was better off with us than with her own poor family; with the money she earns, her parents wouldn’t have to beg in the streets, she argued. Well, that I objected against too, because giving the money that Zahra was earning by her own work directly to her parents was adding another layer of offense to this already unacceptable situation: it literally transforms it into exploitation. If one cannot handle the money he or she gains, that makes him or her a slave. Plain and simple.
My mother is a very compassionate and tender-hearted woman (I know… I sound grotesquely self-indulgent on this one). My parents cared for Zahra and treated her very well, nevertheless, they couldn’t provide her with the education she ought to have. She’s still illiterate at the age of twenty. As far as my parents are concerned, they’ve protected Zahra and made her the lady she’s now become. As for Zahra, she’s (purportedly) grateful and quite satisfied with the life she spent and the “skills” (the words of my mother) she learned.
Zahra’s story is not the worst amongst the so many anecdotes and dramas surrounding the lives of countless house maids in Morocco, many of whom suffer from abominable exploitation, sexual harassment and intimidation. The civil society has for years and still is actively campaigning against this phenomenon which stems primarily from poverty and lack of law enforcement: the Moroccan law banning, in principle, child labor. Let’s hope we’ll get rid, very soon of this shameful anomaly.
Meanwhile, my warmest congratulations to my dearest Zahra. May you have a long, joyful and successful life!
(picture credit: “veracious jess“)