Modern-day slavery is real and it’s a burgeoning issue that deserves every possible attention. unfortunately, when the subject of slavery is been discussed, the world tends to see ‘slavery’ as some unpleasant historical events which have gone into extinction.
Many Africans consequently downplay modern slavery and its effects on the Black people. And just like in the past, Africa remains the biggest victim of modern-day slavery.
The search for greener pastures has plunged lots of African women into forced labor in far away Kuwait with little or no help and the outside world seems not to care. Of course, it’s not like in the 18th – 19th century where people were openly traded while in shackles.
Today, shallow Africans are lured into slavery under the guise of getting domestic jobs. They are deceived by these nefarious swindlers and ‘Modern Slave Traders’ who pose as Jobs recruitment agents.
And according to reported interviews, the “housemaids” stated that once these agents made their profit off of the “sale” of a woman, they usually never heard from or saw these agents again.
Often, once these women arrive in their host countries to work as housemaids, they discover that legally, there is little help available if they feel exploited or violated in any way. Also, until recently, there were no labor laws protecting the interest and safety of domestic workers. Even now, the laws supposedly promulgated are not near adequate to put an end to this depraved menace.
Consequently, some of the enslaved domestic workers tend to run away or commit suicide as a result of unpaid wages, confinement to the house, deprivation of food and sleep, exhausting working hours, verbal, physical and sexual abuse.
According to a report by The Guardian; Recruitment agencies parade women in front of potential employers who can take them home on the spot, they are also being accused of selling women and duping them into a life of domestic servitude.
In an interview made by pri.org, Prudence Nandaula, a Ugandan teacher and mother who survived modern slavery in Kuwait shared her experience. She was offered a teaching job in Kuwait and was promised a wage package that was twice as much as she was earning in her home country.
In her words, “I was so excited. I thought when I go there, maybe get the money, I’ll be able to support my boy.” “You are told they will give you food and shelter. Save, and come back and do something important.”
However, on getting to Kuwait, things turned badly pretty quickly for prudence, her passport was seized and she was told to start cleaning immediately by her employers. She had just gone from being a teacher to a servant far away from home against her will and was even paid far less than what was agreed.
Prudence said she and other maids were consistently subjected to several forms of physical and verbal abuse and were never allowed to leave. She told her employers she wanted to leave, “and they’re like, ‘No, you’re not supposed to go, you are supposed to finish the contract.’ They’re talking about a contract I have not even signed.”
Even worse is the Kafala system – a legitimate sponsorship system that requires migrant workers and all unskilled laborers to have an in-country sponsor, usually their employer, who is responsible for their visa and legal status.
The kafala system is originally supposed to be a protective system in the interest of migrant workers, but today, it is a tool for exploitation, slavery, and oppression.
Beauty Makore, a 26-year old-Zimbabwean woman who was employed through the Kafala system and later ran away from her employer, exposed the heinous working conditions she was subjected to in Kuwait, in an interview with the Patriot.
All cost regarding her trip to Kuwait was paid for by her employer, and she was told that she will be working normal shifts of eight hours as a housemaid with a monthly remuneration of US$250 monthly.
And just like Prudence, on arriving Kuwait, her cell phone and passports were seized. She had no means of communicating with anyone. She recounted her experiences saying:
“Working conditions were deplorable as I would work for 14 hours — from six in the morning till two in the morning of the next day, I had no time to rest.” “I would work for undefined hours and I was not given days off.”
“Chikafu chaicho ndaichishaya (They did not give me food), Sometimes I would survive on their leftovers.” She managed to escape after locating the Zimbabwean embassy.
In another report furnished by The Guardian, Women from Sierra Leone formerly employed as domestic workers in private Kuwaiti households said they had been “sold like slaves” by recruitment agents to families in the Kuwaiti capital and then resold multiple times.
In the words of 24 years old Adama, a Sierra Leonean and a modern slavery survivor, “You have to work 24 hours [with] no day off. You can never leave the house … You are not allowed to use mobile phones. These people are not good.”
She was never paid wages for her work and was physically scarred by her employer, who intentionally spilled hot oil on her. “I was crying, [but] she did not even look at me. I said, ‘Madam, why you do this to me?’ She told me that I’m a slave … I’m too slow, I’m not fast enough.”
Unfortunately, there is little or nothing these women can do to salvage their situation as Under “Kuwait’s kafala sponsorship system, domestic workers are not allowed to leave or change jobs without their employers’ permission. With their residency status also tied to their employer, if they run away they become “illegal.”
Whence she was moved to the Kuwaiti shelter (established for runaway maids) so she could be deported. Many of the women at the shelter are sent there by their embassies.
According to The Guardian, “At the shelter, women find themselves in another type of prison. Under Kuwaiti law, employers are obliged to report any worker who has “absconded” from a private home. Their residence permit is then canceled and orders are issued to detain and deport them.
While the facility is immaculate, with a large outdoor area and spotless corridors, those sheltering here are not allowed to go outside or use mobile phones. They can contact their families, but only on the shelter’s phone, and only at weekends. Women can be trapped here for months, if not years.”
For every Prudence, Beauty, and Adama who have escaped the modern day slavery, there are several others in dire need of help.
Although some of the most affected countries have banned their women from being employed as maids in Kuwait, this, however, doesn’t seem to be an efficient solution as agents now result in deceitful means to lure women into Kuwait to serve as housemaids.