Is The Grass Really Greener On The Other Side?

July 28, 2021

A week ago, a family in Nairobi received the remains of what was left of their relative’s body at the airport. She had died under mysterious circumstances in Saudi Arabia. She had been reported dead on the 5th of May.

Lack of employment has forced many young women to relocate to the Middle East looking for jobs as house maids. Most of the women seeking jobs in the Middle East are of the notion that the jobs abroad are very lucrative, that the pay is much more than they would ever get back home. The stories they hear about the opportunities out there lead the women to move from one agency to the other in search of a visa so they can leave the country. The agents who facilitate the movement of these young girls and women are very convincing; they work both day and night to get the girls the required documents.

The agencies promise the girls heaven; they paint a very rosy picture of the life in a foreign country, but most have never visited the places they so passionately market. Because of the lack of jobs and the desire to live a better life, many girls queue at the agency offices trying to leave the country. The jobs do not require one to have an education, a little spoken English is usually enough. The agents link the girls with families that are looking for domestic workers. In return the agents take the first salary that the girls earn as a commission. The families that receive these girls pay for the air fare and gradually deduct it from the girls pay. Before the girls leave their countries, they sign a contract that indicates they cannot come back home until two years’ lapses. It all looks good on paper.

However, what these girls encounter when they get to the other side is a totally different story. Once they arrive at their destination, they are picked up by the family that the agents linked them with at the start of the process. Their passports and mobile phones are immediately confiscated. They are told they cannot have their passports until the end of the two-year contract. The passports are taken to ensure that the girls comply with the signed agreement and pay back the money paid for their travel tickets. The moment they are taken to the homes where they are to work, everything changes. The work the agents told them to expect suddenly becomes a nightmare. Most of the girls are on their feet for hours, working late into the night and barely getting enough to eat. They work diligently hoping that the situation will change, and they will be able to start earning a salary to  send back home to support their families.

Many of these women suffer a great deal in the Middle East. They face enormous challenges. The agents who are the link between the women and the employers suddenly go underground once they receive their commission. They do not follow up to ensure the employers are treating the girls right and keeping to the terms of the signed contracts. The girls are left at the mercy of their employers who, more often than not, abuse the girls’ rights, and beat them.  Many have returned home in a casket.

When these deaths occur, there are all sorts of theories as to what caused the death. Most of the time the employers claim it was suicide because they do not want to take responsibility of the death. A majority of the cases are reported to have been caused by natural death such as cardiac arrest, Covid-19, cancer, childbirth, respiratory complication, tuberculosis and meningitis. Other causes include accidents and suicide.

We have families that have been left scarred for life because of the death of their relatives. It is such a helpless situation. The family members are not able to travel and rescue their kin when they are tortured. They expect to get help from the government, but this is not always the case.

Many young women continue to travel to the Middle East looking for these jobs, and many continue to die.

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