Modern Day Slavery

September 12, 2022

Harsh economic realities and high levels of unemployment have pushed many Kenyan women and girls to cross the country’s borders in search of better opportunities. Unfortunately, many of them end up in the hands of brutal and abusive employers who subject them to perpetual misery, mental anguish, and untold hardship. Some have succumbed to injuries afflicted by vicious bosses.

These girls are employed in private homes where they are employed to perform basic household chores like cooking, cleaning, caring for children as well as the elderly members of the household. They offer a service that most of the owners of the homes would not be able to handle on their own. They shoulder the workforce of the home ensuring that all the work that is to be done is done to perfection. Despite the vital role that these young girls and women perform, sadly, they are the most abused and exploited of workers. They work for long hours for wages that are way below the minimum rate, and some suffer physical and sexual abuse.

The International Labour Organization Convention (ILO) has fought to protect domestic workers from the harsh working conditions many of them face. The organization has called on their member states (which Kenya and Saudi Arabia are part of) to ensure that measures geared towards respecting, promoting, and realizing the fundamental principles and rights at work are put in place.

Unfortunately, the effort put in by International Labour Organization (ILO) has mostly been in vain. Kenyans continue to hear and witness the amount of suffering the young girls and women go through in the hands of their employers. Kenya has been hard hit by these scandals, followed by Uganda. The number of Kenyans working and living in Saudi Arabia rose from 55,000 in 2019 to 97,000 in 2022.

Recently, a Kenyan girl known as Diana, failed to raise funds for her university education and opted to go to Saudi Arabia as a domestic worker. She deferred her studies to go to work, get money for tuition fees, and afterwards, to return to Kenya to resume her studies.

After she landed in Saudi Arabia and was taken to her employer, what she hoped was an escape from a life of poverty, became an even worse nightmare. She was fortunate to have been able to raise an alarm and thereby, appeal for her rescue which, is ultimately, how she survived. She had been overworked and denied food. When photos of her surfaced on the Internet looking emaciated, there was a huge uproar from the citizenry who demanded the Kenyan Embassy in Saudi Arabia immediately rescue her and send her back home. The embassy, under pressure, raided the home and rescued the girl who had to be carried in an ambulance due to her sorry and skeleton-like state. After undergoing medical aid, Diana was allowed to fly back home to Kenya.

When she arrived at the Kenyan airport, tears of joy were shed, especially by her family. Diana was a pale shadow of her former self, but her family members were happy to see her and relieved to have her back home. Diana later pleaded with the Kenyan government to assist with the repatriation of many other Kenyan women and girls going through rough times in the hands of their employers. Many do not have access to mobile phones by which to cry out for help.


The picture Diana sent of herself to her family and friends that raised an alarm regarding her working conditions.


Diana on her return from Saudi Arabi where she underwent torture at the hands of her bosses.

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