Family in agony as daughter's body is stuck in Saudi Arabia; Kenyans warned to be cautious of Middle East jobs

for Tv47 Digital September 14, 2022, 03:07 PM
Janet Fikiri Ngowa stuck in Saudi Arabia
Elizabeth Kadzo Ngowa, sister to Janet Fikiri Ngowa who died under mysterious circumstances while at her employer's home in Saudi Arabia in August 2022.

Kenyan women have been urged to take precaution when seeking jobs in the Middle East and specifically Saudi Arabia.

This is after a rise in cases of mistreatment, death and unexplained disappearances of local women in the Gulf country.

In most cases, women desperate for jobs are easily deceived by unscrupulous agents out to make money and send them outside the country without proper job description and documentation hence the sufferings for this section of Kenyan women.

Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) has urged the government to also stiffen the labour regulations to protect Kenyans against exploitation by rogue employment agents.

Ms. Affey Swalleh, an official with MUHURI, said that lack of proper regulations in the labour industry was a contributory factor in the mistreatment of Kenyan workers especially in Saudi Arabia.

“We have had the challenge of having so many agents, most of them are not genuine and they are not documented by the government. An audit of these employment agent firms should be undertaken to weed out cartels. And to Kenyans, before you fly out of the country for a job you should do a background check of the agent you are dealing with to avoid trouble,” she said.

“We cannot tell them not to go when they are genuinely looking for jobs hence we need to get them alternatives at home if we need to stop the exodus to Saudi Arabia,” she added on why it was tricky to deter Kenyans from working in the Gulf countries.

Kenyan woman goes missing

A family in Malindi is also in a state of confusion after their daughter left the country in March this year for greener pastures in the Gulf never to be heard off again.

Janet Fikiri Ngowa left her family in search for a job in Saudi Arabia early this year but her silence has left her family in distress.

Her sister, Elizabeth Kadzo Ngowa says that her sister, a form four leaver, was in jovial mood when she left the country with the hope of changing the families economic status but what followed was anguish.

“She left on 29th March this year and she never communicated to us whether she arrived safely or not. We don’t know if she is employed or not and when we inquired from her agent three weeks later, we were told that she had run mad and could not be employed,” she said.

She added that efforts to get her back have been met with empty promises and false hope as the agent keeps on changing statements on her sister’s condition.

“My sister was in good health when she left for Saudi Arabia and we were shocked when the agent told us she was mad. We urged the agent to bring her back but it is now September and we have not seen her. They even told us that she missed her flight and it was only recently when they told us to go to Nairobi to pick her only not to get nothing before they later told us that she is dead. Our mother is now in confusion and we are demanding that they bring her back whether dead or alive,” she added.

Janet’s mother, Dama Tsofa is in a state of confusion and the only thing she wants is to see her daughter whether dead or alive.

“If she is mad why are they not bringing her back, I am now distressed because I have my grandchildren who are now wondering where their mother is,” she said.

The family of Janet Fikiri Ngowa, a woman from Malindi who is said to have died in Saudi Arabia. She left her family in search for a job in Saudi Arabia early this year but her silence has left her family in distress. PHOTO | TV47

Stakeholders' pleas

Stakeholders now want the government agencies dealing with labour issues for Kenyans working outside the country and employment agents to work closely with human rights groups to enlighten job seekers about what they are looking for, how to get the best and how to conduct themselves with their employers.

Trizah Bwire, an official of 'Sema Nami Mama', a community based organization based in Malindi town, Kilifi County said the collaboration of stakeholders will enable both the employees and their employers to understand their rights which will go a long way in addressing mistreatment.

“We have some agents who work with us human rights activists here in Malindi because most of these girls are never prepared psychologically when they are going out and there must be systems put in place in host countries where our women will be received and empowered before they are released to their employers. I have been urging the agents to involve stakeholders,” she said.

"The language barrier I think is the main cause of the sufferings of our women since they find it hard to communicate with their hosts. Some we are told they communicate through google translator which might translate wrongly and anger the host of the women hence it breeds hostility.

"The jobs are good because if a house girl is paid Sh. 30,000 out there when at home they are barely paid Sh. 10,000 and we cannot tell our women not to go but there must be empowerment and enough information.

These girls, most of them are class eight dropouts, they neither understand English or Kiswahili. How then will they understand the Arabic language?"

Going forward, the stakeholders as proposing that he agents train the women on basic communication skills in both languages to tame the language barrier.

Brian Wachira, a human rights activist in Malindi urged the government to follow up on all cases involving Kenyans and their foreign employers in an effort to reduce conflicts.

“The government should follow up on these cases because it is not the first incident, the women should be trained and counseled before they fly out and when they come back and the findings should be made public,” he said.

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