Zimbabwe: Lusaba Fights for Domestic Workers' Rights

It's not everyday that today's generation open their minds to issues affecting the generally downtrodden amongst us.

The usual preoccupation for young people is to follow trends and engage on what they consider the in-thing so that they appear cool and fit in.

Not so for social entrepreneur and founder of Chris and Geo, Mendy Lerato Lusaba whose organisation has brought a lot of good to domestic workers.

"I have taken it upon myself to ensure that this profession is recognised and given the respect it deserves," Lusaba said.

"Domestic work is a very important sector of our daily living and I felt it must be recognised through empowering its very proponents, who are often shunned by society."

The Chris and Geo boss spent her childhood in Mkoba, Gweru.

"Many activists in various disciplines are often encouraged by their bad experiences and sob stories, but for me fighting for the rights and empowerment of domestic workers is more about virtue and doing right not correcting wrongs experienced in the past," she said.

Lusaba has two brothers, Melusi her self-appointed mentor and Musa the younger one, who both support her initiative.

"My mother is a home economics teacher and my parents taught me independence at an early stage having escorted her to school only on the first day of my six years at Daramombe High School," Lusaba said.

A Bachelor of Science in Human Resources Management graduate from Midland State University, Lusaba has always showed a bias towards labour relations.

"While at university, I attained a Diploma In Labour Relations with the then IPMZ," she said.

"After university I became a graduate trainee with Zim Alloys, but opted for a voluntary retrenchment package, which I used to further my studies at the University of Zimbabwe where I pursued post graduate studies in Labour Law."

Having lost her job twice, the domestic workers empowerment enthusiast eventually decided to retire from the corporate world and that's how Chris and Geo Maid Placements was formed in 2012.

"Chris and Geo came as a result of my struggles as a first time mother where I had problems getting a good domestic worker each time I needed one," she said.

"I realised there was a gap in the market as working women struggle to get professional domestic workers as and when they needed them."

Lusaba realised many women were looking for employment as domestic workers, but always struggled to find good jobs.

"Chris and Geo was then formed to close the gap between women looking for domestic workers and women looking for employment as domestic workers," she said.

"It is during these placements that both employees and employers kept coming back to me seeking for advice on domestic work.

"I also realised that very few organisations worked directly with the domestic workers."

In 2017 Lusaba started the Domestic Workers Association of Zimbabwe (DWAZ), a network of Zimbabwean domestic workers.

"The organisation started in Zimbabwe and it has grown to cover Zimbabwean women working as domestic workers in Botswana and South Africa," she said.

"In South Africa, DWAZ is represented in seven provinces and still growing. In August 2017, with the support of Ecosure and Generation Health, I hosted the first Domestic Workers Convention.

"The event was graced by Mai Chisamba, who inspired the domestic workers to seek excellence and self actualization."

Lusaba said it was one, Irene Chikumbo, who actually discovered her in 2016 and mentored her on social entrepreneurship.

She attributes her growth to Young African Leaders Initiative Regional Leadership Centre South Africa (Yali RLC SA), where she was trained in South Africa on business and entrepreneurship.

The young leader has also been trained by Empretec and mentored by the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce women desk.

"In 2018, I was selected as a Mandela Washington Fellow where I attended the civic track training at Drexel, Philadelphia," she said.

"It was after my training that I was able to grow DWAZ regionally and expanded into Sadc."

DWAZ is known to hold online trainings for Zimbabwean domestic worker through Whatsapp. The majority of domestic workers are unable to attend trainings in person, hence the online trainings are such a huge relief.

"The major advantage is that the trainings go beyond geographical limitations," she said.

"I have travelled to Botswana and Zimbabwe to meet with the Zimbabwean ladies to hear their issues and encourage them.

"DWAZ offers capacity building, empowerment, and psycho support and also advocates for the rights of the domestic workers."

Through the network Lusaba has been able to address decent work, safe migration, access to employment, fight human tracking and still advocate for the rights of the domestic workers.

The Chris and Geo founder has spoken about the plight of domestic workers locally, regionally and internationally, a topic thought of only by a few.

She has also managed to publish a book, titled A Guide for Domestic Workers after realising there is very little literature for and on domestic work.

"In my spare time, I also run blogs on domestic work and have written great articles on domestic work," she said.

"Although I have done some researchs on domestic work, I hope to publish more research on domestic work as there is little on domestic workers, let alone the statistics."

Lusaba is grateful to the United States embassy, which has always facilitated for dialogue on domestic work through their Food For Thought sessions.

Her greater vision is to open a vocational training centre specifically for domestic workers as domestic work is clearly here to stay.

She also wishes for even greater government policy adjustments with regards to domestic work.

In light of the 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, she pleaded for a stop on all forms of violence against domestic workers as the majority are victims, but suffer in silent.

Outside her work, Lusaba is married to James Tarenyika and they are blessed with two children.

"I am also a former Junior Chamber International local chapter president and I am involved in a lot of community development work, including working with youths at our Anglican Church in Norton as well as engaging with other women through various platforms," she said.

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