One way in which expatriate people in Addis Ababa give back to the local community is by employing a housekeeper - known locally as a seratanya. Bingham has access to a bank of ladies who are well accustomed to the needs of expatriate staff. They undertake a variety of tasks according to the needs of the employer, some of which might include:
- laundry (washing, drying, ironing, folding)
- cleaning (floors, windows, dishes, kitchens, bathrooms, etc.)
- bleaching fruit and vegetables (this is time consuming and it helps a great deal to have someone to assist)
- food preparation (chopping vegetables etc.)
- refilling drinking water
- cooking meals (most can cook a variety of meals including western and Ethiopian dishes)
- baking (snacks, cakes and cookies etc.)
- light shopping in the local market (for fruit, vegetables, milk, bread, eggs, drinks etc.)
- roasting and grinding coffee
- childcare (many of our ladies have experience caring for children)
Seratanyas are employed directly by the person or family they work for, although Bingham has a coordinator who helps with communication and management. Wages for seratanyas at Bingham are set slightly above those in the local economy at around 16 - 20 Birr an hour. There is an additional charge of around 3 - 5 Birr per hour for childcare services. Single people may feel that 8-12 hours a week is sufficient, whilst larger families often have 12-20+ hours of help spread across the week.
This feels uncomfortable!
We understand! We've all been in this position. The concept of a daily housekeeper is generally unfamiliar to most incoming staff who initially find the idea uncomfortable. The disparity in wages between our home countries and Ethiopia can feel exploitative and the idea of having someone you don't know in your home can feel invasive. There is no requirement that you employ a seratanya and you will not be forced to do so.
... we do highly recommend it! Life in Addis can be much harder work than life in your home country. Simple tasks like shopping and cooking take much more time than they do at home. Most meals are prepared from scratch because pre-packaged items such as sauces are not affordable or available. Bleaching fruit and vegetables before preparation adds time to the cooking process. Drinking water needs to be fetched from a central tap. Water and electricity can be erratic at times so having someone around to do laundry or clean the bathroom while you're at work can smooth the frustrations of unreliable amenities.
... most people report that their seratanya becomes a dear and well-loved member of the family. She will be able to assist you with learning the language and culture; introduce you to a variety of Ethiopian traditions, foods and experiences; and you will benefit from knowing that you are providing employment to someone who needs it. Although there is no requirement beyond the hourly wage, many people like to assist their seratanya in other ways. Some contribute towards school fees for children or night-school fees for the seratanya herself. Others help with family medical expenses or by giving clothes or food. A friendship with your seratanya and her family is mutually beneficial, although you will probably feel that you receive more than you give!