Life had been hard for her in Kenya, and she went to Saudi Arabia in search of a better future.
What Mary Wanjiru did not know was that she would return home with severe injuries after being pushed off the balcony of a second-floor apartment in Riyadh.
A jobless single mother, Ms Wanjiru, 34, desperately needed a job so she could take care of her three children and support her mother and siblings.
She approached her friend in Njawatho village, Njoro sub-county, Nakuru County. The friend promised to connect her with a broker who would help her secure a job.
“It took us two months to prepare all the papers. When my travelling documents were processed, I left the country on April 22, 2021, and through my agent I was employed in a home in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as a domestic worker earning Sh29,000 per month,” she said.
But two months later, all hell broke loose. Ms Wanjiru’s boss started mistreating her. She was forced to cut all communication with family, friends and relatives. She used to check up on them via WhatsApp, as she could not afford airtime for phone calls. But this was prohibited.
She said she was not paid her first month’s salary and when she asked her employer about it the response was rude. She was told that her boss had spent a lot of money on the agency that had hired her.
When she was finally paid, she sent some of the money to her family and saved the rest, as she had hoped to open a boutique after returning home at the end of her contract.
“Being the firstborn in a family of eight siblings, I really wanted to change my life and that of my mother as we live in a slum,” she said.
“I separated from my husband five years ago and he left me with the burden of raising our children single-handedly. All I wanted was a good life for my children."
On the morning of June 17 as she cleaned the house, Ms Wanjiru said, her boss tried to force her into the main room where the family was holding their prayers. When she refused, he pushed her from the two-storey building.
She said she landed on a rock and broke her spinal cord and injured her legs and hands. She was rescued by a neighbour, who called the police and an ambulance, which rushed her to hospital.
When her employer was summoned to court, he maintained that she suffered the injuries while trying to escape.
She later learned that the case was withdrawn after she was forced to sign documents written in Arabic, though she did not understand the contents, and they were not explained to her.
At the hospital she met two Arabs, who inquired what had happened to her. They promised to help her get in touch with other Kenyans in Saudi Arabia. They took a video clip and shared it with other Kenyans in the Gulf, who circulated it on social media.
The video of her lying helpless in a hospital bed, she said, was shared widely on social media, and it attracted the attention of the agents who had arranged for her job in Saudi Arabia. This is what helped her fly back to Kenya.
Ms Wanjiru now lives with her younger sister, who does casual jobs in Jowatho village to help raise money for her medication. She said the private doctor who takes care of her and changes her urinary catheter visits every two weeks and charges Sh1,500 per visit.
She is also required to go for physiotherapy at Nakuru Level Five Hospital three times a week but due to financial constraints she cannot afford to pay the Sh4,500 it costs.
“I’m now bedridden, using diapers, but I thank God that I came back home alive, unlike the many girls who have died in the Gulf countries. I’m happy for the second chance in life.”
Her children, aged 14, 11 and eight, live with their grandmother and Ms Wanjiru said they all depend on her sister, who also relies on casual jobs.
“The agents have never even bothered to check up on me. I am here struggling by myself. This trend really needs to stop," she concluded.
The agent could not be reached for comment.