A Malawian woman, who is one of the 38 women that have been repatriated from Kuwait since July this year, told Weekend Nation on Tuesday that she was forced to flee from her master because of deplorable conditions she was subjected to, including threats to kill her.
Cathy Maloya, from Chigumula Township in the city of Blantyre, said she was sharing her bedroom with 15 cats, which she had to bathe and feed every morning after which she was expected to clean the house, a five-floor building (flat) which was the home to 20 family members.
“I was tasked to attend to all of these family members ensuring that I have prepared a bath, food and clothes for all of them. I was only given one chapatti and a cup of coffee the whole day. My day ended at 2am, after working for 20 hours,” said Maloya.
She said she decided to run away after working for three weeks. “There was a day when one of my master’s grandchildren was playing in the kitchen and slipped where I was cleaning.
When his father came from work that night, he shouted at me, and brandishing a knife he threatened to kill me.”
Secretly she charged her cell phone and called her Kuwait agent to tell her about the abhorring conditions that she was living in.
But the agent told her to endure as there was no Malawi Embassy in Kuwait, which was not true.
Not believing what the agent told her, she used her phone to search for the Malawi Embassy in Kuwait. She got the address and contact numbers.
Although she had no money, she took a taxi and told the taxi driver to take her to the Malawi Embassy. Her taxi fare was paid by the ambassador. That is how she managed to escape.
She further claimed that she was promised a monthly salary of $350 (K250 000) when leaving the country, only to be offered an equivalent of K166 715 on arrival in Kuwait.
“Early this year, a man came to my house and told me that there was an opportunity for employment in Kuwait and that I was only required to have a passport, a medical report and a police clearance as all other documents would be arranged for me. I already had a passport since I once worked in South Africa.”
She said she had her medical tests at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, which included tests for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and malaria, for which she paid K10 000 and another K5 000 for a police report from the National Police Headquarters in Lilongwe.
Maloya said she was in a group of six Malawian colleagues on a similar mission to Kuwait. On arrival, the agent took away their passports.
“He searched my bag for a cell phone and then left me in the hands of my prospective boss. He did not find the phone because I had hidden it in my undergarments,” said Maloya.
She said from the discussions between the agent and her prospective boss it was obvious that she was being sold at a price of 750 Kuwaiti dinar(KD).
“My boss tried to bargain the price to KD650. But the agent argued that the price of African girls had gone up because it was no longer easy to obtain them.
As such, they settled for KD 730 (about K1 738 603) as the price for my sale,” she said.
Revelations about the horrors of Malawian women being trekked to Kuwait have irked a gender activist who has urged
government to pounce on the local agents to arrest the situation.
Chairperson of the board of trustees of NGO Gender Coordination Network in Malawi, Emma Kaliya, in an interview on Wednesday called upon government to track the agents and hold them responsible for the situation that has befallen the women, including compensation.
Said Kaliya: “We have been following these issues with keen interest and what we can see here is an obvious case
of human trafficking where Malawian women are being taken to work in slave-like conditions in the Gulf states.”
According to Kaliya, the government should not be spending taxpayers’ money to repatriate people whose liability should have fallen in the hands of their agents.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson John Kabaghe confirmed in an e-mail response that a lot of Malawian women were leaving their jobs and going to the Malawi Embassy in Kuwait to be repatriated citing horrible conditions they are subjected to by their Kuwaiti masters.
Said Kabaghe: “A total of 38 ladies have been repatriated from Kuwait so far. Of these, the Malawi Government has paid for the repatriation of 33 ladies, while relatives have managed to raise tickets for four women, and the Kuwait Salvation Army raised a ticket for one lady.”
He said most of the women arrive at the Embassy destitute, having run away from the unbearable conditions and with no money. In view of such desperate circumstances, members of staff and their families have been organizing clothes, food, and groceries for the women while awaiting repatriation.
National Police spokesperson Nicholas Gondwa said on Tuesday the police were still gathering information on the issue and would give a status report as to what will happen to the local agents implicated.
Weekend Nation was unable to talk to Maloya’s local agent as his phone could not be reached.