For women going to Gulf countries as domestic workers, poverty is the enemy

Diana Chepkemoi (right) is received by her mother Clara Jerotich (left) at the JKIA upon arrival from Saudi Arabia, September 6, 2022. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

They might also think that this is the first time Kenyans back home are complaining about the plight of these workers and asking the Government to act, or complaining that the Government has declined to help.

As a matter of fact, some of them may think that these recruitment agencies sprung up in the last ten years when the economy went from bad to worse and to the worst where it is currently. Nope. What is happening is not new. Kenyans have been crying for help for several years, even when the economy was supposedly booming and it could probably be said that there was no need to go searching for greener pastures as domestic workers in the Gulf countries.

The recruitment agencies which process these women too, have been elusive and evasive for all those years, never accepting responsibility or negotiating better terms for their charges. About 20 years ago, when Kenya's economy was good, the agencies were few, but their numbers have grown in tandem with impunity with which they operate and which has become part of Kenyans' value system and culture.

A general view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. [AP Photo]

The oddest thing about the whole scenario is that the plight of these women has been discussed even in Parliament. Task forces to look in to the matter have been formed, and reports submitted but the situation does not get any better.

It is natural to blame the ambassador, the governments of the host countries and the employers for their attitude towards their Kenyan employees, but the root cause of the problem is at home, or even at the household level.

The Government, it seems, fails to make the recruitment agencies commit that they will bring back any of the employees who fall victim to torturous acts otherwise their license get cancelled.

Either the agents convince these women who sign up with them that the victims who come back in coffins are to blame for their plight, or hide contracts and addresses of their employers from them, and they travel not knowing the nature of work they signing up for, or where they will be working.