JEDDAH — Local families claim the increasing number of runaway maids has caused them great frustration, leading them to take on the household chores themselves.
After a maid was arrested in connection with the killing of a young girl in Yanbu, housemaids claim they have been on edge as many of them get anonymous calls and messages telling them that they are not wanted in the country and that they should run away.
Many families have reported an increased number of runaway maids in the past few weeks following the murder.
According to the authorities, the Yanbu murder case is yet to be resolved and there is no basis to the rumors that all Indonesians are to be deported from the Kingdom.
At the same time, the ban on visas for Indonesians has not been lifted and this has nothing to do with the murder, said a spokesman at the labor office in Jeddah.
The current situation prompted mother-of-five Sarah Sonbol to start a campaign called “Do It Yourself,” where she encourages families to do the housework themselves and divide the chores among family members. She added: “It is a hard adjustment for families in Saudi Arabia as they are not used to not having maids, but when my maid left and I had to do things myself I found it was much easier and better for my wellbeing.”
Sonbol said after researching how people all over the world make do without maids she decided to follow suit.
She added: “I found that dividing chores among the children made them more active and more responsible but they should be given tasks suitable for their age and have the motivation to do.”
The hardest part is getting people to see the benefits of doing the chores themselves, but Sonbol says when people listen to her they like the idea of the campaign.
Sonbol’s movement has received a lot of positive feedback in Madinah, where almost 30 families have started doing the housework themselves. “Do It Yourself” provides a step by step program on how to divide chores appropriately and ways to motivate household members, but the most challenging part is getting men to help.
Sonbol said: “Unfortunately, getting men to help is difficult but once they see everyone is pitching in they feel there is a need for them to do something.”
Sonbol said men who work very long hours or have exhausting jobs such as doctors, engineers or contractors should not be pressurized too much. “The main idea is to get everyone to clean up after themselves as a basic chore and then pitch in with the dishes or the laundry, making it easy for everyone.”
A convert to the campaign, Najla Al-Eraify, said she is very happy she signed up.
She added: “I feel more energetic and have created a stronger relationship with my daughters.
“They do everything assigned to them without being asked and we enjoy cooking or doing our general cleaning together.”
Najla’s daughter Somaya is only 10 years old but she is in charge of the laundry and enjoys doing it.
She said: “I love doing the laundry and find it to be an easy job.”
Her other daughter Loay is seven and is in charge of making the table and packing the dishes back into the cupboards. She added: “It is not that difficult. I just have a problem with the high cabinets but I am happy to help my mother because helping her has made her happy and we get to spend time together.”
Sonbol’s husband Ahmed Rajih said his wife had to struggle to make him and the rest of the family to help out. “We were all annoyed to be asked to be doing things but once we were assigned to do certain tasks we realized that if we did not do it nothing would get done. So we just got up and did it.”
Sonbol’s movement not only aims to deal with the maid crisis and the high prices Saudi families pay for domestic helpers, but also to keep families active and work collectively. “Doing things ourselves worked wonders for our relationship with our children and has helped a lot with my marriage,” she said.