It was so close and every day since they escaped the ‘capture’ to Saudi, these two young girls rejoice. Recently, one of them said to me “Oh, sister I wake up each day and ‘Thank God’ by now I would have been in slavery.
‘Whitney’ and ‘Loice’ never met before but found themselves on the 5th floor of a new ‘gorofa’ (storey house) the large building on the end of this page. Both of them had finished F/4 but their results could not take them to college. They were unemployed and lacked any skills. Whitney always wanted to study Beauty care as her mother (a widow) is a hair stylist and she felt that if she got a training to combine both, then she could take good care of herself in the future and help her family too.
She saw an advertisement for good, clean jobs in Saudi Arabia – fares paid, passport with visa, a generous salary and good off duty – it all sounded ideal. Loice also saw the same advertisement as it was posted in many venues of their local town. On the 5th floor there were ten girls, aged 17 to 20 years old – only two of them were adult age. On this floor they were to live ten days to two weeks while awaiting their visas. They were to cater for themselves and money for food was supplied. They were also given some ‘lessons’ how to bath a baby, how to care for an elderly person, use of an electric kettle, dusting, mopping, clean a bathroom and wash an SUV, etc. etc.
Shaken to the core
One day both of them went into a local kiosk to buy some green vegetables and cook them for supper. The owner ‘Schola’ is one our most experienced Trainer of Trainers (ToT) on Human Trafficking (HT). She had heard some ‘gossip’ stories about who owned the large multi-storied building? Her kiosk is very close to it. So she got into some lively conversation with the girls. What she told them about HT shocked them to the core – what of the enthusiastic recruiter and the new job prospects in Saudi was definitely a ‘downer’ on their day. They decided there and then not to say much to the other girls that night but they offered to do the food shopping next day and returned to Schola. This time she had some of our training books and posters ready. They were totally aghast and discussed between themselves what they could possibly do to avoid falling into such a life-changing trap. They also agreed that it was best to share this big secret with the remaining girls so, after supper that night they briefed the others about their changed plans. Most of the other girls were very dismissive of what they had been told. Early next morning they sneaked out early and took the bold step of returning home. They knew the big risks they were taking, but how would they tell their families? Whitney said she could not face her mother alone. Schola offered to accompany her home and since Loice lived in the same direction, they called to her family first. Her mother could not believe it, what would she do with her daughter now? Loice is the eldest of seven children, her father had fallen from the top floor of a large building site and the insurance had already taken 3 years to debate the case for compensation. So far, there was no mention of it despite numerous trips to the lawyer for the company. Loice knew that if she could attend sewing classes it would help her to be a seamstress in her village.
A new turn of events
Schola knew that if any help were forthcoming for them she ought to approach the CHTEA office. Hearing the story we knew from long experience that it was better to help them now to attain some skills careers rather than go through a ‘living hell’ for an indefinite period of time and maybe lost to her families forever. Every day we hear a litany of bitter experiences including injury and death of young people by their Middle East employers. They are now both attending Thika Industrial Business School (TIBS) not far from their homes. We know the future is bright for them, but it comes at a cost and that is where you can also ‘chip in’ to assist them and many others we meet who badly need a ‘leg-up’ on the ladder rather than as I recall very vividly from another lady who was also was trafficked to Saudi “Better be a beggar in Kenya than a Slave of the Arabs”
Mary O’ Malley
Above: A building where “Whitney and Loice” were housed awaiting departure