Via the Standard Digital. Jobs or slavery? Kenyans speak of abuse in the Middle East. Excerpt:
Steven Ngunyi’s sister is currently admitted to Kijabe Mission Hospital where she is suffering severe dog bites after her Saudi Arabian employers pushed her into the dogs’ kennel. “They pushed her into the dogs’ kennel, and the dogs attacked her,” says Ngunyi. His sister is currently fighting for her life after being deported without treatment. Several family harambees have not been enough to cater for her medical expenses.
Househelp Shared Out
Hers is an alarming tale of modern day slavery that Kenyan women undergo in the hands of Arab employers. The high rate of unemployment and abject poverty back home has made them vulnerable victims of recruiting agencies.
Grace Nyambura, 25, and a resident of Langas in Eldoret, has spent the last three months in a jail in Sakakah, an Oasis Town in the North West of Saudi Arabia. Nyambura was lured into taking up the oppressive job by an organisation called Anyiro Agency, a recruitment agency based in Nairobi, and which has branches in Eldoret and Nairobi. With a monthly salary offer of Sh45,000 for housework, she embarked on a journey to the Middle East with hope for changed family fortunes. She tells of ‘holding centres’ where women in search of jobs in Saudi Arabia are kept before being picked by their employers. “It is at the holding centre that I said goodbye to the girls I travelled with from Kenya. I was there for a week before my employer picked me up,” she recalls.
Nyambura’s experiences at the hands of her employer were harsh. She was regularly circulated to her employer’s relatives in turns, where she was forced to do all kinds of work, including farm work. “I eventually refused the abuse and was beaten up by the man of the house in the presence of the entire family. They said I was rebellious. I was denied my salary and food. He asked me to pack my bags. I thought he was taking me to the airport but he took me to jail instead,” she says. At Sakakah Prison, she was shocked to find out that 300 other Kenyan women were in prison and their families were kept in the dark over their predicament.
“Five girls managed to get out of jail and back home, they informed my mother that I was locked up and she came to my rescue, otherwise I would still be languishing in the jail at Sakakah,” she says. Despite her time in jail, Nyambura ironically preferred to stay in jail, opting not to go back to her employers’ house.
There are some stories that keep popping up week-in, week-out and the story of Grace is common to many women globally who are under-skilled, under-educated, under-employed and open to abuse by the lowest form of recruitment consultant in there home countries facilitated by willing agents in their destination countries. This time I chose a story which featured a young Kenyan girl who worked in Saudi Arabia, tomorrow it might be a young illegal immigrant from Nicaragua who is abused by her employee’s in the United States or a Philippine lass abused in Hong Kong…
Some NGO’s call this type of practice ‘modern slavery’ but those for a taste of history understand this is a very old practice. From the 1600’s the English used to offer the King’s shilling to soldiers willing to join the Army or Navy. When they signed up they were then given up to half a years pay in bounty which was a fortune to unskilled farm labourers only to subsequently find themselves indebted as their pay was consumed by regimental or naval costs (uniform, equipment) and ongoing food and board expenses. You say modern slavery, I say impressment.
Until you fix the demand side you won’t see much change though. There are tens of millions of under-skilled, under-educated, under-employed women globally who will risk it all for the chance of a new life.