Dadas come and Dadas go.
They arrive quietly, unannounced and unnoticed.
They wash the floors, they dust the family treasures, they prepare and cook the food and then they wash the dishes.
They wash the family’s clothes, they brush and oil the Mama’s hair if asked.
They respond to the Mama’s call of “Dada!” all day long, they prepare and serve chai of various flavours all day long.
They greet the guests with bowed head and often with a quietly elegant and ever so slight curtsey that is more of a bob but screams of servitude.
Dada’s come and Dada’s go.
I have known four such Dadas in my time here and all of those four are among the blessed of their profession because they have worked for kind and generous Mamas. They have worked in the houses where I have stayed and both of those Mamas are strong, smart and good Mamas with a deep-rooted belief in God and their religion.
These four Dadas were the lucky ones because they receive a wage each month, they are given a bed in the house, they are given food every day and they have their daily needs such as soap, sheets, towels, toothpaste, toothbrush etc provided for them. In my current home the Dada will often eat with the family, share in the laughter and become part of that family but she always remains the Dada and at the beck and (kindly) call of the Mama.
My time at the Amani centre taught me about the fate of less fortunate Dadas. I know many tales of abuse and sheer slavery replacing any semblance of a working relationship.
Little girls do not grow up wanting to be a Dada, it is just the way it is. Girls have no rights, no inheritance, no status and often no education. Little girls become young ladies and they have few choices. Working for a kind and generous Mama (one who actually pays for your work and doesn’t beat you for spilling the chai as you serve it) provides you opportunity. The opportunity to help your own Mama and send her your wages, the opportunity to save your wages and create your own worth. Whether your monies goes back to your birth Mama or whether you save it with your work Mama, the result is the same. You will be able to buy some of the things a young lady in Tanzania needs most.
- A mattress for your husband you to lie on.
- Sheets to adorn said mattress.
- Cooking pots and pans to cook your husband’s meals on
I need not go on.
A Dada will often work to attain the status to attract the man of her family’s choice.
These are the blessed of the Dada profession that I know and love.
Dadas come and Dadas go.
One of the four came educated, a university degree no less.
One came from many miles away fresh from Primary school, flush with her success and pass mark and a family who said no to further schooling, marriage was her future. This one was truly blessed to find her work Mama, her work Mama sent her to school now she must work and study too.
One came, uneducated and shy. But she left for pastures new and grass that seems greener, promises of more money and less work, fine clothes maybe and painted nails. We fret for her safety as these promises can mean only one thing but she is a grown girl and it is her birth mother who must save her. Last we heard she was at home and her family refuse to allow her to leave. Either way her future is dim.
One came just this last week with a bright smile and an eagerness to please. Her arrival was marked with the easy sound of girlish giggles and a confidence around us white visitors that is a pleasure to see. Her story is unknown, she came through recommendation and a long chain of whispers. She is seventeen we believe and she cannot read or write. She is truly blessed as each day she receives tuition from her work Mama.
God Bless the Dadas and the good Mamas of this nation, I salute you all today.