She sobbed over the voices of happy children playing in the background. Telling the ordeal of how she got to this point.
Namu*’s Journey begun in Kampala, Uganda when a friend recommended her to a Work recruitment Agency. Fresh from her graduating with a diploma in Tourism and Catering, She applied immediately with the excitement of a better life ahead and rushed to tell her mother the good news.Together, they started looking for funds to pay her agents in pursuit of a better life. The money in total was 1,500 U.S dollars inclusive of air fare and visa fees,surely a small amount for pursuit of a bigger dream. Namu could not stop fantasizing about her new salary and how easily she could clear her debts in a couple of months time.
The detour to Kenya was just the beginning of her nightmares, Nalu was told her flight was direct to Dubai but to her surprise, there was a stop in Kenya where she stayed a month without getting the promised Visa.
'I asked my agent for a refund because of the frustration of the wait in Kenya, I should have been in Dubai by now’ sobbed Namu. 'However the agent threatened me to pay the money she spent on me in terms of accommodation and food for which I didn’t have'. With no money and ways of communicating back home, Namu decided to wait it out , there is no way she was going back home to her poor mother and in debt.
By luck a place came up after more than a month of waiting in Kenya, she was to go to Dubai under a different woman’s name. Namu was not lucky enough to have her passport taken; she knew she had lost who she was back in Kenya in that small room where she believed she had left her misery and troubles. Alas! she had reached Dubai, Nameless and with big dreams. Little did she know she would end up being the sole maid for a house hold of over 12 adults and an infant She was under the impression she was going to be a cook or chef in a hotel because of her qualifications.
Namu’s story is no different from the over thirty women from around the United Arab Emirates that shared their stories with me over Whatsapp audio recordings as it’s the best way they could communicate to me. The women’s phones are confiscated and granted to them for about five hours a day, some aren’t allowed to communicate with the outside world so after hearing ordeals from their other counterparts. Others manage to sneak in the telephones.
A 36 year old mother of four I spoke to told me how she regretted leaving Uganda in the first place. ‘My search for a better life led me to real hell’ she lamented.
‘I have been here for a year now, I came in December 2014. But the treatment by my bosses is terrible when I fall sick, am locked in the house. I work from 5am to 1am usually. I do all the manual labor in a house hold of 15 people. I blame myself for my ordeal sometimes,' sobbed Kyomu*. I bought into the cliche, I just thought I could be one of the lucky ones, the ones who get good homes’
‘The agencies that bring us here completely sell us, so they don’t care what happens to us after’ lamented Kyomu.
Uganda, statistically has witnessed a decline in Human trafficking cases reduced. According to The National Preventing of Trafficking in Persons Office, there were 837 cases in2013 and 294 in 2014. Although this is a step towards combating human trafficking in Uganda, it cannot be denied that people will forget about a pressing issue until tragedy reoccurs like death of the captors.
Today over 30 women are still held captive in their said places of work, with no voice, helpless because they are in debt to their masters. Forced by circumstances and fear of being ridiculed by society and their families most victims are in limbo
.‘How can I go back home?’ cried Kyomu ‘I have absolutely nothing to show for my stay here, nothing! And how will I earn a living when I go home; I haven’t saved anything because of my situation. I have no where to start!’
The government of Uganda will do so little in curbing human trafficking as they are stakeholders in the pie. According to Migrant-Workers.org,www.migrant-rights.org, ‘The Government of Uganda has on occasion agreed to supply millions of domestic workers to countries like Saudi Arabia in order to cover human resource shortages caused by bans on migrants from countries such as the Philippines, Ethiopia and Indonesia. Countries like Uganda are cash strapped and desperate enough to sign these unfavorable deals without considering the implications of human trafficking in the midst of Gulf’s Labor rights crisis’
Uganda's government is so desperate to provide employment to its youth population who are the highest percentage because of the high percentage of unemployment, it may just outright hand them contracts of sale of their persons and not beat around the bush.
His Excellency Yoweri Museveni, a well known dictator worldwide and president of Uganda seeking his 31st year of leadership as the president has failed to supervise his projects. The Human resource system is rotten from top to bottom and no one could care as the norm is buying your way out of an offense. So I dare the government to take action on cracking rookie incompetent recruitment agencies and traffickers, to put in place more legitimate agents and to ensure that there is accountability when a case of trafficking arises. Because all that’s left are scared mothers and sisters willing to come home but worried for their lives, worried what their agents will do to them if they return to Uganda out of defiance.
In this war of trying to handle how employers treat their employees in the privacy of their homes, it is important to do personal checks and evaluate ourselves as humans. How would I treat a maid in my own home? Is it right? What example am I teaching my children or the cycle continues over generations and we are left thinking we can act like small gods and make another person feel worthless because they are poor or have a different skin tone than we do.
Please help me sign my petition to bring awareness to my cause. I want this treatment to stop and to ensure that better laws are put in place to protect immigrant workers and put an end to human trafficking.
* Not real names