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‘The Help’ in Togo

3 Jul

I was talking to my Dad on skype the other day and he asked me how my maid was. It was a question that felt strange and unnerving to me as I became confronted with an image of myself that I was uncomfortable with; that of the expat ‘development’ worker who hires a local (Togolese in this instance) maid.

I bring up my own involvement as an employer in the domestic service industry not as a well-paid development consultant, or even as an averagely-paid development assistant but rather as a barely-paid intern. The cost of labor is sufficiently low here that even while paying Esther[2] well above the minimum wage, on my meager wages I am easily able to afford this service. I am able to have a kind of lifestyle I would not be able to have ‘back home’. This troubles me.

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