By Amanda Ellen Nicola Jojo
STATISTICS show that women are claiming spaces in the professional world, as such numerous households with financial means rely on domestic workers who fill the gap of general housekeeping chores. According to International Labour Organisation (ILO), paid domestic work is a highly feminized sector with women making up 70% of the 70 million global household employees.
Following the injustices faced by domestic workers, social entrepreneur and a domestic work advocate Mendy Lerato Lusaba founded Chris and Geo Executive Domestic Placement.
Chris and Geo Executive Domestic Placement is an organisation that was formed with the family in mind and it operates in Zimbabwe.
“It recruits, trains and places socially and economically disadvantaged women as domestic workers. It offers full-time, stay-in and stay-out domestic workers and also has contract domestic workers that are available on specific days to the clients.
“Chris and Geo offer on-the-job training for domestic workers in partnership with its sister organisation, the Domestic Workers Association of Zimbabwe. My work is more of a calling than anything else,” Lusaba told The Entrepreneurial Magazine.
Lusaba has an acute interest in labour law and she is the chairperson of Domestic Workers Association of Zimbabwe.
Coupled with her background in Human Resources Management, Lusaba was inspired to establish her venture which is on a drive to curb the challenges that majority of women face in sourcing household helpers.
“When I had my first child, I struggled with getting the “perfect” maid. In a space of 6 months, I had changed maids four times! I realised that it was very difficult to get the perfect maid when you needed them.
“Upon further research, I discovered I was not alone as majority of working women were struggling to get household helpers on time. I also realised that there were also so many women who needed jobs as domestic workers but did not know where to start,” Lusaba said.
In the view of the notion that domestic work is amongst one of the oldest professions in the world, Lusaba highlighted that it is still regarded as informal in most parts of developing countries particularly Zimbabwe.
“The sector is so behind with both the employers and employees lacking the professionalism required of any profession. This is why I decided to venture into domestic work sector so as to bridge the gap between domestic workers and employers,” Lusaba added.
Chris and Geo Domestic Placement’s vision is to become the first-choice domestic placement in Zimbabwe and beyond.
She said: “Our vision goes beyond Zimbabwe as we know there is a huge out-flux of Zimbabweans and we know they want someone who can cook Zimbabwean food for them whilst outside Zimbabwe. We want to be able to officially export labour and have Zimbabwean domestic workers working for Zimbabweans outside Zimbabwe so that they can have a ‘home’ experience at home.”
Hinged on the aim to provide capacity building programs and contributing towards skills development for domestic workers, Lusaba said the Domestic Workers Association of Zimbabwe is a non-profit membership-based association for domestic workers in Zimbabwe with a presence also in South Africa, United Arab Emirates and Botswana with over 2 000 members.
DAW is in conjunction with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development and they are currently developing a curriculum for domestic workers.
“To add on, through collaborative work with ILO, we opened the first Training Center for domestic workers in the country and one of the few in the world. The Training Center is working to develop a Domestic Worker Curriculum with the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education. The curriculum focuses on four core courses in domestic work sector, housekeeping, cooking, care work and gardening.
“We do both online and practical classes at the Center and we have paid as well as free sessions too. The aim is to have the Curriculum available at all Vocational Training centers in the country. We are also developing an online learning platform for all domestic workers especially the migrant ones so that they might also have access to learning opportunities,” she underscored.
If the association acquires sufficient funding it is their vision to build an Eco-friendly Training Center in the country.
“We want to be able to help other countries designing and build similar skills development programs for domestic workers,” she said.
Lusaba ‘s turning point as a domestic work advocate was the moment when she was announced as the winner of the 1st ILO Skills Challenge Innovation Call.
“The International Labour Organization challenge result announcement; ‘‘The Winner of the ILO Skills Challenge Innovation Call has been announced! From hundreds of applicants, the Domestic Worker Center of Zimbabwe has been selected as the winner of the first edition of the Call.’’ This announcement made me realize that a cocktail of dedication and hard work always pays off in the end!” she exclaimed.
A significant body of research indicated that women are better at multitasking, against this background, Lusaba said shared some of the tips on she is juggling being an entrepreneur and a family woman.
The mother of two is of the view that it is a fact that women business owners work incredibly hard to build their companies and keep them running every day while balancing family life, which is stressful and strenuous.
“In order to balance my work and my personal life, I create a clear to do list for myself and my schedule time for fun as well as resting and setting off clearly defined work hours each day. Of course, I have not mastered sticking to a schedule yet, I still struggle because as an entrepreneur in Zimbabwe, zvimukira mumakumbo zvakawanda.
“More importantly, without doubt, family is the most important part of our lives; therefore, my family is my first priority. I do not work on weekends because weekends are for my kids and if I have to work on the weekends, I take them with me.
“My kids have any understanding of my work and they can even assist me whilst I work. My boy is an entrepreneur in the making. He can sell you his homework if you are not careful,” she expressed.
Because challenges are part of the package that comes with entrepreneurship, research shows that the founder’s financial resources are inherently linked to the success of business which can create a tangled financial web if not properly addressed.
Commenting on the above assertion, Lusaba said: “I know this is going to sound rehearsed and rhetoric but it is the truth. Capital is a challenge for many businesses and mine has not been exempted. I did not start my business with any loan or grant or funding of any sort. As a result, my growth has been steady rather than spontaneous. This has its advantages and disadvantages. It allows me time to refine my business model but it also gives greater room to competition and effluxion by time. I have managed to work around this by using the lean start-up approach and also by ensuring I am innovative and relevant. It is about survival after all.”
With consumer spending down, unemployment rising amongst other macroeconomic instabilities in Zimbabwe, Lusaba is overly inspired by entrepreneurs operating in this country.
“It is a fact that Zimbabwe, the country I operate from is among the Global South countries which are succumbing to the ravages of economic meltdown.
“In light of this, I am a firm admirer of entrepreneurs who are not easily swayed by terrible economies. Therefore, my role models are the small businesses the startups, the ones who no one will talk about but are striving.
“The barbers building houses, the vendors sending their kids to school. Those are my inspiration. These role models helped me to realize that even in the current economic crisis in Zimbabwe; we must still survive,” she stated.
As a role model herself, her advice is, “I always say, Nike summed it up all, just do it!”
Lusaba is happily married to James and outside work, she is a church person, an active Youth Advisor and Church Secretary at her local Anglican Church.