Updated: May 18
“sikujua time ya kulala nilikua nafanya kazi."
“I did not understand when I was allowed to sleep”.
Two days’ travel notice is what the Kenyan recruiting agent gave Everlyne. Time accorded to say goodbye to all that she knew, at least for the next two years, sort her four children and larger household, then depart to an unknown land in search of greener pastures. Attempts to renegotiate this short notice were met with threats to refund a whooping $200 fee, alleged amounts used to process her passport and prepare her for travel. Everlyne in her desperation to flee poverty was at a loss for choice.
On 4th December 2018, Everlyne was enroute Riyadh, holding onto the Kenya recruiting agent’s promises of decent working and living conditions that would see her gain a monthly income of about $258. With these amounts she was certain that she would alleviate her family’s status and improve their livelihood. A rude shock befell her upon arrival at her employer’s home. Her phone, passport and contract were confiscated; barked orders and frantic hand signals owing to language barriers to leave her bag on the floor and immediately collect trash. Before the rude reception dawned on her, she was granted permission to enter the house and whisked to a storage room which she soon realized was her new abode, with neither bed, blanket nor mattress in sight. Notwithstanding, she diligently undertook her overwhelming tasks as a single worker in a household of nearly 30 people, forfeiting sufficient rest on most nights just so she could fulfill her obligations. Everlyne took on back-breaking tasks for 4 months, but paid for only one, which queries for just remuneration were dismissed under the guise that he lacked the funds.
One day, Everlyne was asked to pack her bags that they would be taking a trip – which turned out she was being ferried across the border into Kuwait to work for her Kafeel’s daughter under treacherous conditions. She objected the transfer by staging a ‘sit-in’ until she was picked up by her Kafeel. Her return to Saudi Arabia marked a new chapter of her nightmare where her Kafeel denied her food, and when she was too weak to work; was beaten with a rolling pin and threatened with suffering to death.
“You decided to come back to Saudi Arabia, you will suffer here until you die”.
Everlyne’s numerous complaints landed her at the Saudi agency office who forced her to sign a 2-year contract with a new employer. Her new employment started out well. The situation took a nasty turn when she requested pay for working in other houses. Her employer was categorical that they had bought her, and she was to work wherever they deemed fit. This degenerated into sexual harassment where her employer would snoop on her as she showered, follow her around and eventually threatened rape at gun point, which raised all red flags around her and she knew she needed to run away to preserve her life.
She wore the t-shirt she had on when travelling to Saudi Arabia which had details of both Kenya and Saudi agents, hid an abaya and flooded the compound. The efforts to drain the water presented an opportune moment to run away, never mind that she did not know where she was running to. She managed to get the help of a taxi driver who dropped her off at the agency office.
Unfortunately for Everlyne, the rug was pulled from under her when the agent declined to help her and instead ordered she returns to her employer. Still determined to get help, she went to the Kenyan Embassy where she was thrown out onto the streets where she ended up spending the night in the sweltering heat. A bad situation turned worse when she found herself back at the agency office, where the latter’s officers were fed up with her and resolved to poison her.
Her life story was not to come to an end so abruptly, the stars aligned for her in that moment when the health inspection authorities found her collapsed on the floor as they were carrying out their routine inspections. A case was instituted on her behalf against the first employer, which she won more than 18 months later, despite threats and misinformation that her loss would impose on her a 15-year jail term. 28th December 2020, more than two years since she left, she was back on Kenyan soil, with nothing to her name, physical and psychological injuries and deceased parents owing to the stress of their child being stuck in a foreign land. Everlyne despite the constant fear and anxiety, losses, and social stigmatization; holds hope that one day she will recover losses she incurred and that her dignity will be restored.
Global Justice Group is initiating a survivor's led project in Kenya with the purpose of providing survivors with restorative justice, and ending exploitation, abuse and killing of women migrating to Saudi Arabia as domestic workers.