Wednesday, May 13, 2009

It's here

Mena is a domestic helper who came to Kuwait to support her young children back home. At her employer's home, the 'baba' throttled her, and the 'mama' poured hot water on her. Mena called her agency repeatedly, but they refused to do anything about it. Later, when Mena was cleaning the window, the 'mama' decided that she had had enough of Mena and pushed her out of the fourth floor window. Mena broke a lot of bones on impact.

Naturally, due the present state of the law, after Mena's recovery, she went to jail. These cases always really trouble me because we must be one of the few places in the world where people go to jail because no one has figured out where else to put them. She still hasn't been sent home. Her kids are still waiting for her...
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Whenever I hear something like this, I can't help but think:

"How horrible the employers are! They must be uneducated, they must live in the really 'out there' areas. If they were more educated, or more cultured, they would treat people well. There is only a small part of society that would tolerate such abuse."

I don't think that anymore

I used to give private tuition to a family's two children, in a very rich part of town. The man and woman of the house had been educated in the States, spoke perfect English and were in leadership of companies that you would almost certainly recognise. We did things that regular people do - like talk about music, exchange tips on child rearing, discuss politics, exchange DVDs.
But every week, I noticed that the two helpers they had, an Ethiopian and a Filipino, looked sad and almost never smiled. I tried to be nice but even casual conversation seemed to scare them and they always rushed back into the kitchen. I found out later that these ladies were kept under house arrest, never had a day off, were paid below normal wages and were treated very badly ... all in a modern, forward thinking person's house.

I stopped teaching their children because it seemed obscene that for four hours work, I was making more money than these ladies were in a month. At the end of the day, I am a foreigner too. If my mother had come in on a maid's visa, could I expect this man and woman with whom I laughed, to treat her any better?

Ever since then I have heard modern, forward thinking people tell me that they think domestic helpers are insane for jumping from windows. That they believe these ppl are offered a better life than they are back home and should be grateful. These are university educated, intelligent people. And yet, isn't it far more intelligent to ask the question - WHY are they jumping from windows?

The abuse isn't in the far out areas of Kuwait, it is not just among the 'less educated'. It's right here. It's in areas like Salwa, Jabriya, Shaab, Mishref, Qortoba, Nuzha or Hawally, Salmiya, Sharq ... it's here in our neighbourhoods. It's here.

3 comments:

eshda3wa said...

it is ..

and you do your best to prevent it

but at the end of the day ..

there really isnt much u can do..

the laws in kuwait is for the strong

not the weak..

sad

nabeel said...

So hopefully we'll get some law changes :)

Anonymous said...

To esh,

I strongly disagree. Saying that "there's nothing you can do about it" is something only the weak abide by, to sort of try to live with the guilt somehow and trick themselves into thinking there's nothing they can do.

There is always something you can do and it is never too late to start.