I have been getting a lot of emails lately from domestic workers in Kuwait and even from other countries in the region. But before I get into the questions and answers, I would like to write to you from the heart. A lot of people have been asking me why I am speaking up about the abuse of domestic workers, telling me this is not my battle to fight. That I should let it go, that it is none of my business. So excuse me while I share with you where I am coming from.
I was your average Kuwaiti growing up. My parents fortunately were well educated and both worked long hours at oil companies. We lived in your average Kuwaiti house and just like your average Kuwaiti we had ‘domestic workers.’ My nanny ‘Leeli’ has been working with us since I was 3, she did everything for me. By everything I mean she cooked my meals, made sure I did my homework, she chose my clothes for me, cleaned my bedroom, gave me advice on different things that I dealt with, from kindergarten all the way to college. She was and still is a mother to me. She was there for me more than anyone else. So it saddens me to see that she will always just be a ‘servant’ when she is so much more. So I am doing this for her, to say thank you for everything she has done. Thank you kindly!
I am sure there is a lot of good people out there, treating their domestic workers much more than employees, treating them like family. With that said people usually only reach out to me when they are in desperate need, so I am in return sharing with you the end of the spectrum that I receive. I hope that by sharing such articles, some insight and awareness will be created towards domestic workers, and I hope I will be able to reach out to more domestic workers, aiding them in asking for assistance to escape from the illegal and inhumane situations they are in.
To be completely honest with you, I usually create awareness but there are heroes working under the Social Society of Workers, a non-profit organization that assists social workers in Kuwait. I am very grateful in particular to my role model Bibi Al-Sabah, she’s helped so many people.
Question: I am working every day from 6:00 am until 1:00 am. I get no time off. Is this legal?
Fajer: Although there is a new law set in place for domestic workers it has not been implemented yet but it should be soon. Unfortunately the new law has the maximum at 12 hours of work a day. According to Kuwait labor law for private company employees the max working hours per day are eight hours, with one hour break compulsory after every five hours worked and to think that’s for a desk job. So can you imagine how tiring it is for someone to work 12 hours a day of physical labor, taking care of kids and so on. I urgently ask employers to be compassionate and humane and be fair with their domestic workers, making them work acceptable hours a day.
Question: I got to Kuwait thinking I will be working in a computer assistant, because that is what I am qualified for. I was shocked to know when I arrived to the airport that I will be working as a domestic worker. I had no choice but to sign the documents provided to me at the airport. I am making a third of what I used to make back home. They have taken my phone away from me, I don’t know what to do. How can I go back to my country?
Fajer: I see this all the time. Please know you are not the only one. There are some crazy things happening out there and they need to stop. This is human trafficking and it is absolutely illegal, yet unfortunately continues.
Please follow these steps:
1) Speak to your employer and ask them for a release or a ticket to go back home, some are nice enough to do so. If you feel like your agency will just take you back and send you off to another employee than don’t do that.
2) Call your embassy, please find below numbers of embassies applicable:
Ethiopian Embassy in Kuwait: 2533-0128/2533-4291
Indian Embassy in Kuwait: 2253-0600
Indonesian Embassy in Kuwait: 2253-1021
Filipino Embassy in Kuwait: 2534-9099
Sri Lankan Embassy in Kuwait:
2533-9140 / 42 / 43 / 48
3) If your embassy number is not available above, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the following information:
How you are being mistreated
Your civil ID number
Your sponsor’s name
Your sponsor civil ID number
I am personally relieved that a new law is in place to further protect domestic workers rights, but with that said, do we really need a law to be humane? If you are an employer and you are reading this, please go home today and just say ‘thank you kindly’ to the people that make sure you have food on your plate, keep your house clean and take care of your children.
By Attorney Fajer Ahmed