Do social media posts about househelps expose class privilege in Kenya?



2017-06-29 16.55.37At least once a month on Kenya’s Facebook expat* groups a post like the one above appears and draws mixed but strong reactions. On the one hand, I understand the gratitude some of these posters have, it feels like the least they can do for a nanny or house-help who has been indispensable during their stay in Kenya. And in an industry where referrals matter a whole lot, exulting the exemplary work ethic of their employee on social media to help them get a job seems like a great idea right?

On the other hand, and this is where people mostly Kenyans, get hot under the collar, posting of the said referral accompanied with a picture on groups called Market Place and Expat Used Goods just seems wrong. The driver or nanny posing with a benign rehearsed smile is a human being not goods to be sold, neither are they used, They worked and got paid.

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Maybe it’s the semantics or perhaps the fact that admins see it okay to place a human being between raggedy old sofas and a DIY wine rack being sold for cheap. People who defend the posts like to claim that these employees actually ask their employers to give them referrals in Facebook.  Perhaps the admins should start an expat group specifically for such posts, it would make things all the more smoother and probably be more helpful to the nanny or driver whose picture is so lovingly shared.

The Kenyan version

Nannies and Househelps Kenya is a Kenyan based Facebook group that caters to both employers and employees. A lot of the time, posters advertise househelp services based on tribe. And not only that, whole tribes are vilified when a househelp is caught stealing or being inappropriate. Reports from the other side, nannies complaining about their employers though are non-existent, in this groups it seems the person with access to ulimited Safaricom bundles and a shiny smart phone wields more power.

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While some people may request having a nanny from their ethnic group so their children can learn their language, majority of those who respond to such posts base their choice on preconceived notions of what a certain tribe is like. It is not uncommon to see pictures, name and ID numbers of dishonest househelps posted ‘Buyer Beware Style’ on the page. These are quickly followed by comments that always end up focussing on tribe. Any negative experiences with a house-help from one ethnic group is enough for some to write off all future employees from that tribe and one can only wonder if such prejudices ,so strongly expressed, ever spill over to their professional lives. Never mind that it may be their employment pool (read: neighbouring slum village) based on where they live in Nairobi that largely consists of a larger group of more people from a particular ethnic group.

From what I have observed it seems as if while we may be quick to call out racism in posts in expat groups we are much slower to call out the casual tribalism and classism that exists in our midst.

Agree, disagree? Share your comments below 🙂

*The word expat is used to provide specificity about the Facebook groups in question, for more reading on the term see:
Why are white people expats while the rest of us are immigrants 




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