My grandmother spent most of her working years as a domestic worker, just like many other women in the country. Having lived with her, I watched her toil for low wages, raising her employers’ children and only getting one day off per week. But, even under those conditions, she was in a better place than many other workers. This job falls under an essential but often exploited class of people, with a workforce of about 1 million in South Africa. Domestic workers are defined as people who are employed in a household, with their duties ranging from cleaning and gardening to being nannies and drivers. But, it is more commonly used to refer specifically to women employed to cook, clean and often look after children. Despite being an important part of people’s homes and the economy at large, they face many challenges. Simangele Thwala (29) works as a domestic worker in Johannesburg. “I have been fired twice without any notice because my employer didn’t like me anymore. We work long hours for little money, and are treated badly. But, this is the only job I can do because I didn’t finish school.”
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