Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ethiopia bans housemaids from working in Kuwait: And more on Domestic Helpers in Kuwait

And another nation opts out....

Kuwait times, 26 November 2013
Ethiopia bans housemaids from working in Kuwait

KUWAIT: Ethiopian authorities have banned local domestic workers to travel to Kuwait for work until recruitment procedures as well as regulations that organize the work of recruitment offices and medical tests in Kuwait are reviewed, a local daily reported yesterday, quoting Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor insiders.

Speaking to Annahar on the condition of anonymity, the sources warned that the decision is likely going to increase fees for housemaid recruitment with the number of main markets becoming limited to the Philippines, India and Sri Lanka. Several attempts to contact the Ethiopian embassy to confirm or deny the report were unsuccessful. If true, Ethiopia would join Indonesia which banned domestic workers from traveling to Kuwait in 2009 as well as other southeast Asian countries including Vietnam.

The step would also increase fees that recruitment offices collect which currently ranges between KD 650 and KD 750 to hire a domestic worker from the Philippines, according to the sources. The sources also confirmed that local recruitment offices contacted the interior and social affairs ministries with demands to finalize requirements necessary for Kuwait to sign agreements of understanding with countries that export domestic helpers that protects the rights of both workers and employers.

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That comes on the heels of stories like this....

Death upheld for Kuwaiti woman
Kuwait Times
KUWAIT: The supreme court upheld yesterday a death sentence against a woman for murdering her Filipina maid after torturing her, and confirmed a 10-year sentence on her disabled husband. The Kuwaiti woman was convicted of premeditated murder based on evidence that she had regularly tortured her maid before driving over her in a remote desert area.  The husband was handed the jail term for “assisting her”, according to a copy of the ruling. The couple were both sentenced to death by the lower court in February last year. Three months later, the appeals court upheld the death penalty against the woman but commuted the sentence against her husband to 10 years in jail.

According to the ruling, the woman beat her maid for several days until her health deteriorated. The couple then took the maid “unconscious” to a remote area in the desert where they threw her from the back seat of the car and then drove over her until she died. More than 100,000 Filipinos, many of them women working as maids, live in Kuwait, where some 600,000 domestic helpers, mostly Asians, are employed.

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Times are a'changing.  Kuwait is finally getting serious about abuse/violence against domestic helpers (mostly because of international pressure from not only human rights organizations, but from the countries of origin of the helpers), but on the other hand, it is now more difficult to find full-time, live-in maids.   Pretty soon, there will be daycare centers and retirement homes in Kuwait because no one will be able to get a maid to look after the elderly and their kids; or it will just cost too much  (like in the US where you must pay an hourly minimum wage and provide benefits).  

I look at it from both sides:

Point of view of the employer:  My friends are decent and I know that when they tell me that their helpers are doing things like stealing or neglecting their children, I believe them.  They have paid a fee to a recruitment agency and they have to return the helper to an agency and request another helper who they've got to then train and build a relationship of trust with.  That's all very stressful.  When both the mom and dad work, they need someone to take care of the kids and run the house.  For many young Kuwaiti couples (and some that aren't so young), a maid/helper is really a necessity.  It isn't like there is affordable daycare here.  I ask my American friends with full-time, live-in maids and they tell me the same thing; it is difficult to find a good helper.

DG POV:  I know that I would have a really hard time inviting a stranger to live in my home and entrusting her with the care of my dog.  I can't imagine what it would be like entrusting your children to a stranger.  My part-time maid does weird things and I suspect she's trying to do some kind of magic (yeah, it happens).  She leaves long strands of her hair throughout my home (including in my personal items) and it not only grosses me out, but freaks me out at the same time.  A former maid who was working PT for both myself and one of my American friends stole around $10,000 worth of jewelry from me - and stole my friend's diamond engagement ring; then left the country.  She had worked for both of us for years.  If they ever implement employment regulations/pay like they have in the US, I wouldn't be able to afford a maid.  I LIKE that I can afford one here; even have a live-in maid if I chose to do that.

Point of view of the helper:  What if you're sent over here, you don't know the language, you don't know the people you are going to live with, and they all seem demanding and arrogant (and in extreme cases, abusive). You don't have any friends and if you do, you can't get out to see them.   The employer may or may not abide by the law, paying salary on time (or at all), and giving a day off for rest. What do you do?  Who do they call?  The "maid's rooms" in many of these homes is more like a cell.  Or they're asked to sleep somewhere like the living room and roll up their bedding in the morning.  Do that for a few years?  Not me.

I've been here for 17 years and the majority of my friends are Kuwaiti.  Of course, I consider my friends to be good people (if they aren't, I wouldn't stay friends with them).  I've only seen 1 case in all my time here when I went to a friend's home and saw that they were abusive to the maid.   It was 1997 or 1998 and I saw the eldest brother (around 45-50 years old) slap a maid.  He wasn't my friend; it was her family's home where we went for lunch.  It was shocking and I didn't go back. You can usually tell when a maid/helper is happy or not just by looking at them - even at the malls.

I HATE to see domestic helpers dressed in uniforms walking through a mall.  Their low-class employers must consider it chic to have them dressed up and paraded around in public.  I find it disgraceful.  I always want to run up and say, "Who the hell do you think you are?!"  These people are NOT of the upper classes. My friends who are from the Kuwaiti royal family or upper class wouldn't do something like that.  In fact, the people I know treat their employees like friends and the helpers have been with them for many years. My dear sheikha friend has a helper who raised her; and sheikha has no problem telling  you that she did.  She loves her and it is obvious; helper lady smiles and laughs from the heart and often (similar to other helpers I know working for other friends).

One of my friends brought his maid/nanny to the camp last weekend to watch his 3 young boys (it didn't do any good because they are little "skamps" and the oldest almost got his head cut off riding a bungee).  Anyhoo, she had on tight jeans and looked like she as his girlfriend not his nanny... until he asked her to go clean my tent (I had a little hissy fit because someone I didn't know went in there without asking).  One minute girlfriend is sitting around joking with us and the next she's sweeping dirt off my carpet.  She was happy and didn't mind at all.  I brought her a Pepsi.  She seemed to be a very happy domestic helper.

On the other hand, I have an acquaintance who posted a video of an Ethiopian domestic helper walking with a suitcase out of a neighborhood, crying, at 2 am.  He videotaped her as he asked her what had happened (she had been abused in a home that night and was leaving); and then, instead of helping her get to a police station or someone safe, he drove away!  I wouldn't leave an animal on the side of the road and he just drove away!

I can see how countries would ban their workers from going to a place where they had too many complaints.  The next step to that would be to create agreements with the government so that there are enforceable laws in place or measures so that their workers would be protected.  Yeah - kind of like the balls that the Philippines Embassy in Kuwait grew a while back.  Be nice, or we send our help elsewhere.


Unknown said...

I have a friend that works as a teacher has two children and guess what she still manages to take care of her own home and her children, why can't other people take care of thier homes instead of relying on maids?

Chirp said...

I applaud women who are able to be super women and take care of their homes and their children and everything.
But why is it always on the women to do everything?? Why should she work, clean, cook, take care of the kids, be their teacher, their doctor their everything?
Some men would help around the house but most men don't so the women is left to do everything on her own.
If I had the opportunity to get help around the house I would definetly take it, I hate the process of cleaning and ironing, I had to do it throughout college and I am thankful I do not have to do it anymore.
Some women can't do it all, and there is NOTHING wrong with it. I can't be out of the house at work from 7-4 and then be expected to cook, clean, do laundry, iron, teach my kids and STILL be sane.

I really think there should be rules and laws that are followed on how people treat their house help, they are not slaves and you do not own them, they need time off and they need good space to live and sleep.

Anonymous said...

I feel that if you make a mess you can clean it up. I really don't understand how anyone can have a maid, to bring a complete stranger into your house and have to trust her. I just don't get it. People here are so desperate to be as lazy as possible they will give up their whole selves for maids to do it all. I cant Even stand someone bringing a maid to my house for a few hours. Just get off your arse and move! Ive had american friends here with maids and problems and I have had to explain to them the whole concept of 'don't expect her to be your kids mother and to love them, they have left their OWN children to come here just to make money' that works the other way too. Why oh why do people expect female teachers here to be good teachers, real teachers, where they love to go to work and love your children?
These are the same women who have hired other women from other countries to take care of their own children. Its an insult to ask these women to be good teachers or good mothers. When we put our kids in kindergarten here, my american friends were the kindergarten teachers and ALL the kids would run to them to get hugs in the morning but the kuwaiti teacher didn't touch the kids in the morning. Years later my husband will still mention how surprised he is by this, mainly the teachers hugging the kids, he is used to the kuwaiti way. I have always felt that the true problem of this society is the maids doing everything. I think that is the root of all the problems here.

Crazy and opinionated said...

I hate to admit it but it is very easy for some people to take their frustrations on the "Help" or whoever it is that they view as weaker. This post brought to mind something I've seen last winter. It was one of the coolest night and my friends and I were out having dinner. A family were having dinner and had their maid waiting outside in nothing more than a uniform and a light cardigan. The poor thing was freezing! Also, they were all eating and she was just sitting without even a bottle of water. In the end we bought her dinner and tea to keep her warm.

We have helpers at my family home because it's a big house and there's a lot of us (and children); they have their own suite in our place, Fridays off, and half a day on Sunday so they can go to church. They work scheduled hours and they get a living allowance, clothing allowance, as well as their salaries.

A lot of my friends are managing to live, work, and raise their kids without domestic helpers. which is what I plan to do in the future.

I support what Ethiopia is doing. If people refuse to change, change has to be forced onto them.