Rescue Kenyan workers from Middle East slavery

Diana Chepkemoi at their Chelaino village in Bomet county.

Diana Chepkemoi at their Chelaino village in Bomet county on September 9, 2022.  She was saved from her Saudi employer  thanks to a photo of her emaciated body that she posted online and went viral.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The pros and cons of these jobs need to be explicitly explained so that job seekers are able to make informed decisions.
  • Sensitisation of the concerned people and stakeholders is key to ensuring that these cases are reduced or eliminated altogether.
  • Sending these young women to these jobs is akin to postponing a problem or treating the symptoms of a disease.

Recently, when I was leaving the office, I met a group of young women in the lift.

They were all carrying bags and busy chatting among themselves. They were full of enthusiasm and excitement.

You could tell that from their faces. I guessed they were travelling somewhere. 

I intentionally asked them whether they were travelling to Saudi Arabia and if there is a travel agent in the building (It was not my first time coming across a similar group around that area).

They told me they were actually on their way to Bahrain and that the agent was on the third floor. 

I kept quiet and enjoyed the rest of my ride to the ground floor. But I was also busy trying to connect the brief encounter to the current affairs in the country.

Remember, the Foreign Affairs principal secretary is on record as recently saying we should not send this category of workers to Saudi Arabia. 

It is shocking to see parents, guardians and relatives not heeding the government's advice.

But they will be quick to run to or request assistance from the same government when things get out of hand. Do we really have to risk more lives? At what cost?

We may not be in a position to know who is responsible for what is happening to these young women while working abroad.

We may also not know who is telling the truth. But it’s not a secret that most of them go through a lot at the hands of their foreign employers.

As a starting point, I always ask myself if somebody in their early 20s with no education, skills or experience is ready for employment. Are these jobs sustainable?

Squandering the proceeds.

When I narrated this story to a colleague, he said: “The TVET sector has been expanded to give skills to the youth but parents see that as a very long and tedious route. They, instead, opt to send their children away to do menial jobs and build rental houses in the name of securing an income. 

“I’ve seen these girls come back and settle down after their stint in the Gulf. They don’t have the guaranteed income as envisaged. Some end up selling these houses and squandering the proceeds. They then go back to the life of a pauper.

“The best guarantee to a decent income is education and skills. The earlier we accept this, the better.”

I have gathered a lot from my interactions with some of these young women who travelled for work and came back.

I concluded that sending them to these jobs is akin to postponing a problem or treating the symptoms of a disease.

I may be viewing it from a different perspective but this is a must-have conversation; let us all engage and see if we can find a permanent and localised solution.

Sensitisation of the concerned people and stakeholders is key to ensuring that these cases are reduced or eliminated altogether.

The pros and cons of these jobs need to be explicitly explained so that job seekers are able to make informed decisions.

Mr Mabruk, managing partner at Mabruk & Associates Certified Public Accountants, is a business administration PhD student at the University of Nairobi. [email protected]

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