24 November 2014

striving for justice in our own home.

We have already written a bit about our home security in Tanzania. As outsiders living in Mwanza, we are more likely to be targeted by those up to no good. Recognizing this situation, our organization requires that we live in a home surrounded by a wall or fence and that a security guard watches over the home at night.

Our home is no exception: the yard is fully enclosed by a wall and gate, and we hired a security company to provide a guard for twelve hours per night, seven days per week.

To us, this level of security felt like a bit much. I mean...are we prisoners in our own home?


Challenges quickly abounded with the security company we hired. The first guard showed up to work drunk on two occasions, so we asked for a new guard. The second guard effectively built a bed so that he could lie down flat and sleep all night, and would shower in our yard in the morning. Most days I came out to bid farewell only to find him half naked. So we asked for a new guard. The third guard lost our key his second day on the job and made no apology for it. Enter the fourth guard in less than eight weeks. Not a good start.

Once we had a fairly regular guard, we noticed that he was not getting any time off. The security company we hired promised us that each guard would rest one night per week, and that another would be sent to cover on their night off. But this wasn't happening, and three months had passed without our guard getting a single night off from work, despite our repeated phone calls to the security company.

a view of our front gate and exterior wall from the inside of our yard.

Ashley and I decided to confront the security company about this situation in person, requesting that they honor their commitment to provide at least one night's rest per week to our guard.

They said okay.

However, we came to learn that the security company just sent our guard to work at someone else's house that one night each week, so he still never got to rest. Not only that, but also the company verbally threatened our guard for thinking that he was actually going to rest one night per week.

Learning of this, Ashley and I decided enough was enough. We ended our contract with the security company and hired our own guard privately. Thus, we became the employer. This situation bears a lot more responsibility on our part and less of the advantages of a security company. However, in the end, it became a justice issue.

you have to pass through a metal door and wooden door before you can get inside.

We were faced with a situation in which our guard was working 7 nights per week in 12 hour shifts without rest, receiving no medical or retirement benefits, and earning the equivalent of $0.16 per hour to provide for his family. In our eyes, the security company was treating him inhumanely.

By becoming employers and hiring our own security, the guard now gets to rest one day per week. Additionally, we enrolled him in the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), which means that 20% of his monthly salary is contributed to his future retirement. Additionally, after three months of working with us, he will receive free medical benefits for his entire family. On top of that, we pay a higher salary - our guard earns +70% more per hour compared to the pay offered by the security company.

each window is also protected by metal bars.

Why am I telling you any of this? Because I think that personal convenience often becomes more important than striving for justice.

By becoming employers, we manage the salary. We administer time off work. We deal with salary advance requests and the personal/familial issues of the employee. We have to visit the NSSF office in town every month to make contributions. We lose the benefit of 7 day per week protection of our home. And if our home is broken into, we don't have a company liable to pay back all the damages.

Bottomline: we are way more involved in the life of our guard now than when we had the buffer of a security company. If our guard's child is sick, we know about it because he comes to us for financial assistance to pay for hospital visits and medicine. If our guard is sick, we don't have a guard for a few days. If the guard's spouse is struggling to find work, we are asked if we know of any work she could do.

Doing what is just often requires that you get to know the other person, and see them as an equal human being. This situation makes you more vulnerable and strips away the comfort of isolation, or of only looking from afar. We chose to become more involved in the life of another human being, however inconvenient, because his rights as a person are too important. 

1 comment:

  1. 'We chose to become more involved in the life of another human being, however inconvenient, because his rights as a person are too important.' Yes to that!

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