Elizabeth Ajetunmobi is the chief executive officer of Aymie Staffing Solutions and the president of the Association for Household Employee Managers (AHEM) while Emem Nwogwugwu is the vice-president of AHEM. In this interview with JOSEPHINE OKOJIE, they both talked about AHEM and how the association is helping to end the use of underage domestic help in the country. Excerpts:
Can you tell us about AHEM?
Elizabeth: The Association for Household Employee Managers (AHEM) was borne out of the need to establish a structure and organisation in the area of human resources and development, specifically for domestic staff. The vision of the association is three- improved capability and welfare for household employees, satisfaction and safety of employers, and the growth and regulation of domestic staffing agencies in the country. The focus of the association is to create a structure and professionalise Nigeria’s domestic labour industry. AHEM is creating structure and standard operating procedures for the industry as a whole while advocating for the rights of domestic workers (especially in terms of abuse) in the country.
What is it about Nigeria’s domestic staffing industry?
Elizabeth: The domestic staffing industry is an untapped segment because it has not been exploited yet and this due to lack of structure and poor data collection. Nigeria has a huge human resource reservoir that can fill in this industry if properly harnessed with the right training and system support.
May we know the areas the association intends to impact?
Emem: The association intends to impact the structural creation and organisation in domestic staffing nationally. We intend to develop a pattern that is civil and safe for both parties (that is employers and employees) – in their rule of engagements. To provide a law that protects both parties and a standard that will be laid out nationally on how domestic staff should be treated and how they should also treat their employers and children.
How do you intend to gain support and recognition from the government and other parties?
Emem: We intend to let them know the vision and mission and carry them along. Also, we would tell the government-related agencies the importance of supporting the organisation and how we can positively influence the nation at large, families, their domestic workers, and everyone involved in a safe and professional manner. We intend to organize meetings with the government, come up with policies that would organise all domestic staffing activities in Nigeria, and discuss how we can create new laws that protect the family and domestic staff. This will bring in structure and safety in the nation and professionalism in the industry, just like the hospitality industry.
How relevant is AHEM?
Elizabeth: There is a need to create a future for service workers. With the growing prevalence of precarious employment, there is a need to improve outcomes for domestic workers, find new ways of enhancing the creativity content of service jobs through certification, better training, and job designs which in turn increase vocational education to help create a dedicated and professionalized routine-service workforce.
Do you think with AHEM, Nigeria’s domestic staffing industry can be regulated and standardised?
Elizabeth: Yes, with a formal body comprising of professional players in the industry, there will be improved regulation considering that we all have the interest of domestic workers and employers at heart.
How will AHEM address the issue of underage children as domestic help?
Elizabeth: AHEM can end the use of underaged children as domestic help firstly by further enhancing knowledge on child labour and its repercussion, then raising awareness and advocacy to transform social attitudes of communities, especially families. Adoption &enforcement of legislative and policy penalties should be taken seriously; also a compliant mechanism should be developed.
Tell us about your challenges in the industry and how you have addressed it as an association?
Emem: Our challenges have been people hiring underage workers, sexual abuse of both domestic workers and children who some of these workers abuse. Undermining the domestic workers, theft, underpayment, lack of proper database and professionalism in the rule of engagement from the domestic workers and their employers are some of the critical issues in the industry.
We have been able to address them by creating tailored training and advocacy sessions, life coaching services, and emotional healing sessions. We currently have a pool of human resource companies that have helped with the hiring producers and data collection.
The association has found a need and come forth with solutions and services that will help us combat these challenges. We still need more hands and support. There are many rural communities that need help with setting up the right law for hiring domestic workers.
AHEM Nigeria’s members have provided training, coaching sessions, and consultations. We also have books to help parents stay organized to reduce the burden and stress of their employees. All these services are provided by most of the members of AHEM Nigeria. We have different organizations that provide these services amongst us. We want to carry out all these activities at the national level.
Is your organisation open for collaborations?
Elizabeth: We will reach out for support through partnership because we cannot do this on our own. We will do our best in organising programs and fulfill the goals of the association and we are very much certain our work will speak for itself and the community and government will recognize us. We believe if we get it right as a country, other countries in Africa will also follow suit. We will be partnering with the Government and other agencies to spread information and help them see the need why they should be part of us. The association will be beneficial to them in terms of national identity that opens access for job opportunities, skill development, protection, and support.
What role can technology play?
Elizabeth: The world is advancing and at a very high speed, it is left for us to catch up with it. Our passion is driven by our vision to impact lives positively in the domestic industry, and for this to be sustainable we have to work as a team that’s why we have a lot of amazing agencies putting in their all to take this association to the next level.