Zainab Mussa, a mother of five and a domestic worker in the Zanzibar’s world heritage of the Stone Town.
When Covid-19 broke out on the islands in March 2020, her employer suspended her for fear of being infected.
“I lost the job that was sustaining me with income to take care of my family,” she told the Zanzibar Mail.
“My employer did not allow me to approach his house because they thought I would infect them with Covid-19,” she said.
Her husband also lost his job because of the restrictions imposed on the tourism industry and made it difficult for him to support his family.
Zainab’s husband was an informal tourist guide (beach boy) at the beach of Nungwi village, one of the areas frequently visited by tourists.
“We had no choice but to rely on support from relatives and friends,” said Zainab.
Despite Zainab’s return to her former employment after the government had successfully contained the virus in July 2020, she still fears that the Covid-19 third wave may force her to lose her job again.
“My employer will fire me again. I am afraid the trouble I went through last year may come back,” she said.
“My husband is also unemployed so far because the tourism industry is yet to stabilize, only Russian tourists visit the island,” she said.
She added her family was now in huge debt and she did not know when their suffering would end.
Salama Omar (29), a mother of three and a domestic worker in the middle-income home of Tanzanians of Asian origin, also lost her job when the tragedy began.
She also fears losing her job again this year after the public announcement on the existence of the Covid-19 third wave in the country.
“When I lost my job last year, I was worried how I would survive with my children. I had no savings because I used all my earnings to sustain myself and children. My husband had abandoned us for four years now,” she said.
Salama said when Covid-19 broke out in March 2020, many domestic workers lost their jobs and faced difficult lives.
However, she says after Covid-19 infection was contained many domestic workers returned to work, but the new threat could set them back.
Kazija Ali, 40, lives in a small rented house at Shauruimoyo in Unguja Urban West Region and works in Zanzibar’s Old Town as a domestic worker. When the tragedy struck she lost his job immediately.
“I lost my only source of earning because of Covid-19. I used all the savings I had. I ended up running out of money to pay rent,” she said.
However, her employer reinstated her after coronavirus infection was contained in July.
“My fear is this new infection, I do not think my employer will tolerate me,” he said.
The President of Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan, recently confirmed the existence of the Covid-19 third wave and that Tanzania had more than 100 coronavirus patients.
The government has been sensitizing people to observe all the necessary control measures including wearing face masks and regular hand wash.
There are no official statistics on domestic workers in Zanzibar because the work is largely informal without proper coordination.
It is estimated that there are 53 to 100 million domestic workers worldwide where women make up 83 percent.
The exclusion of domestic workers due to legal protection and informal employment are among the challenges they face worldwide, including in Zanzibar.
In Tanzania, the national domestic work-study conducted in 2012-13 indicates a high incidence of unpaid domestic work and excessive in-kind payments, informal and strongly personalized employment arrangements and child workers.
Domestic workers in Tanzania represent 5% of the total workforce between the ages of 15 – 64 years. Women make up 75% and are younger than men.
In addition, 78% of domestic workers are 15-24 years old while only 52% of male domestic workers are in the same group.
Domestic workers’ rights groups have been advocating for the practical implementation of the 189 Convention of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
However, there are still many challenges including employment contracts and low wages.
Despite the existence of the association-CHODAWU-Z it has not been successful enough to persuade employers to have employment contracts with domestic workers. That is why it is difficult to know their number.
The President of Zanzibar, Dr. Hussein Ali Mwinyi, has been insisting on supporting marginalized groups including widows, many of whom are employed as domestic workers.