Women who migrate from Asian countries to the Middle East to work as housemaids or in factories are often abused
Below are stories of women now living in Amman, Jordan, who are being helped by Caritas Jordan and by Catholic religious sisters.
Elizabeth, age 29
with her daughter Ruksi, 10 months old
In Sri Lanka, I went to school a little, but my family couldn’t afford it. When I was ten, I started working as a maid. I got very little money. My brothers work on a tea plantation.
I came to Jordan when I was 14. An agency sent me. They said I was 20 years old.
The employment agent where I lived in Sri Lanka was very strict. After they made a passport for me, I changed my mind about going abroad, and my brothers said “No, you can’t go.” But the agency made me go. The employment agent said, “If you don’t go, we’ll send you to the police.”
In Jordan, the baba (male employer) wanted to ‘play’ with me. I ran away to the agency. They beat me with a belt.
Then I went to another house in Jordan. I had to look after a flock of goats from morning to evening, and after that do housework—cleaning windows, the bathroom, and so on. The people I worked for did not give me enough food. When I took care of the goats, I was very hungry. I would get one-quarter of a roti (small round bread). Sometimes I’d secretly eat the family’s cheese without telling them. They were also poor. They would drink a lot of coffee.
Now I work in another place. I met a man here in Jordan and we became friendly. My baby was born at home, not a hospital. If there is no marriage certificate, you can’t go to a hospital in Jordan to deliver. Caritas gave me diapers and food.
Some Sri Lankan people here like my baby. I have been offered 500 Jordanian dinars for her.
Mariam, age 25
My family lives in Indonesia–Jakarta. I finished the sixth grade.
I came to Jordan through an employment agency. I wanted to send money home so my family in Indonesia could have a small grocery store.
I worked for two years as a live-in maid. When the agency contacted madam (the female employer), they said, “Don’t give her money and don’t let her talk to her family.”
When I lived at madam’s house, if they found something missing from the refrigerator, they would shout at me. Sometimes I got up at 7 am and worked until 2 am. I cleaned floors, the bathroom. I washed dishes and took care of four children. It was hard to keep the children clean. Madam always shouted at me.
I got the first few months’ salary and sent it to my family. Then they didn’t pay me any money. Madam said she gave the money to the agency. The agency said they didn’t have it. The agency said to madam, “We’re sending money to her family, so you should pay us.”
Now I rent an apartment in a poor area of Amman. I work part time cleaning houses. I have a two-year contract with the agency.
I am afraid to go back to the agency. They kept my passport. I can’t go home and I can’t get a work permit. What I earn goes to the agency.
When I go to the employment agency, the agent ties me up while I am standing and beats me with shoes or a stick. They tied me up very tightly from head to toe, and from the morning until 9 pm, with no food or drink. They won’t let me go to the bathroom—the agent says, “pee on yourself.”
The agent says “You’re a liar. You’re hadami—a servant.”
I stay there until I give up and say “I don’t want anything from you.”
I’ve been beaten four times in the past two years, the last time in June (2012). When they beat me, I said, “I’ll go to the police.” They said, “They’ll put you in prison for three years because you have no work permit.” Finally I went to the police anyway. I gave up. I have nothing to lose.
Rina, age 39
I grew up in Bangladesh. I have been in Jordan for 9 years.
The Bangladeshi employment agency told me they would pay me a certain amount each month, plus food, to work in a garment factory. I had to pay 500JD to come here. They didn’t pay me all the money they promised. Then the factory closed. So I went to Amman to start cleaning houses.
If I am sick, I get medicine here at Caritas. The Sri Lankan sister always helps us.
Priyanti, age 28
I am Sri Lankan. My first job in Jordan was as a live-in maid. It was bad. The 11-year-old son beat me with a broom. I told madam that the boy beat me, but nothing changed.
Then I found a husband. He is Bangladeshi. When I was six months pregnant, my husband was caught by the police and sent to Bangladesh. It was my first baby and I was alone, without a husband, mother, father. I was so sad. I was alone with the baby.
Then I found sister. She is so good. Sometimes I couldn’t pay my rent. It was hard to go to work with a baby to take care of. Time after time, the sisters helped me.
Everyone said, “Give your baby away.” But I couldn’t let him go.