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PAID TO BE A SLAVE (PART TWO)

General News

Narrated to the Daily Statesman’s correspondent, October 31, 2018. The subject asked not to be named but is keen to share her story with other Ghanaians.

Narrated to the Daily Statesman’s correspondent, October 31, 2018. The subject asked not to be named but is keen to share her story with other Ghanaians.

Upon reaching Kotoka International Airport on May 1, 2014 and going through all the formalities, I was sent back home, seeing that my police report was not the original.

We returned on May 13 that same year after getting the right police report, and I was ready to leave for Kuwait.

In the plane I saw other women and younger girls like myself who looked very nervous. I had a conversation with the lady sitting next to me and learned she was travelling to work as a teacher, as she had heard working in countries in the Middle East paid more.

Immediately after we arrived, my agent in the country spotted me and took me to the agency. There my passport and phone were taken from me. He said it was to ensure I never ran away and make sure I did my job properly, and after settling my debt I would get them back.

After waiting, the family I was assigned to came for me and took me to their home.

Short of water

I was sent to a poorly ventilated and filthy room with no bed. This was supposed to be where I would sleep. The next day, I started working tirelessly.

The people were very dirty and they didn’t care about our personal hygiene. [They said the house helps used too much water.] I had to wake up at dawn to take my bath while they were going to pray.

Eventually I got caught, and the people I worked for locked the washroom any time they were going to pray. Bathing became a problem for me and especiallyfor  the young girl I was working with.

I had reduced my age because I looked young, and also there was an age range [fixed by the agents]. I was 57 at that time but I reduced my age to 38, which meant I was in my menopause, so I was not menstruating.

The young girl, on the other hand, was. She would go for days without bathing and she used old clothes in place of sanitary pads.

Personally, I was never brutally beaten ‒ unlike the young girl, who was Togolese, and could not speak English. Occasionally I would stand up for myself, which they found daring and wanted to sack me.

But they did not, because I was very hard-working, and I spoke English and took care of their children properly.
While working one day, I heard a loud, piercing cry from the house next door.

I ran outside to see what was going on and what I saw was very disturbing. The young girl was bleeding profusely and her madam was pulling her around, hitting her. It came to an end and she was left to bleed.

After two days we never heard from her again. I decided to snoop around and ask, and I was told: “She got sent back home.”

Whenever I went out to shop, I recognised Ghanaians and would speak to them. Some would break down in tears and show me their scars and tell me how they were suffering.

Battered

The young lady I was working with was sent back home after failing to do her duties properly one afternoon. That very day she was brutally beaten, to the point where I had to interfere because I feared for her life.

This was not the first time the madam beat her like that. She would throw her slippers at her and often hit her. It was too much, I had to do something.

I remember that day like it was yesterday and I can still hear her screaming. With no medical aid, she was sent to her room and I had to take care of her till she was sent back home a week after.

After two years my contract was over, but my madam asked that I extend my contract until they found a replacement. Even after all the error I had witnessed I was still willing to extend my stay. I stayed because though I received less pay than we agreed to, it was still better than nothing.

At least it was helping my family back in Ghana.After staying 15 months more, the family refused to let me leave.I was able to get hold of my passport but they lied to me about the day I was supposed to leave, resulting in me missing my flight.

I ran away after they got another ticket for me, because they planned to take my passport from me. I arrived in Ghana safely in October 2017.

Shattered family

There was never a break from all the work. They would give us a break knowing we had nowhere to go, so such breaks proved futile as we still stayed to work.
Working for all those years has affected my health. I now have hypertension and whenever I do not take my medication, it affects me.

Not that I was any healthier back then. But things are even worse now, as most of the time I was in Kuwait when I got sick my health issues were not attended to.

The things I saw and had to endure have also had an impact on me psychologically. Whenever I remember how badly I was treated and the names and insulting things that were said to me …

No human deserves to be treated that way. I was mistaken for a man when I arrived, and they refused to send me on their vacation outside Kuwait because they said I was shameful to look at.

I lost my mother a few weeks after arriving in Kuwait. No one was there to support my family during her burial and I could not even witness my own mother’s burial. I have no proper relationship with my children, especially my daughter, because she says I was never there for her. She refuses to call me her mother and once, she sacked me from her home.

I came back to Ghana with no place to call a home, a disintegrated family and unstable finances. I still have receipts from sending money home from the money I made to my account, my family and my children.

I made money. But as we are speaking, there is nothing left from what I made. All my work was in vain, as I still have to work as a house help in Ghana.
It is not worth it.

Let people hear my story and know seeking greener pastures in countries in the Middle East is not worth the torture and pain, and it is not as fancy as people like to paint it.

* In part three: how lawmakers are trying to make a difference for African domestic workers living in foreign countries.