Eunice arrived in Kenya from Saudi Arabia making her way straight to the morgue where her son had lain for nearly 4 months. He died by suicide. Almost a year on, the pain is evident in her eyes and flat tone as she narrates her experience and ordeal.
Her main aim in her venture to Saudi Arabia was to secure funds to sponsor her late son’s fees for university.
Her stay in Saudi Arabia portended difficulty and challenge right off the bat when she tested positive for Covid-19, progressively deteriorated in health over the next couple of days yet was denied sick leave to recuperate. She refused to withstand such mistreatment and demanded to be returned to the agency office. She had been at the office awaiting a new employer when she received the news of the untimely demise of her son.
The news triggered her repatriation processes which were riddled with a myriad of challenges. She had been to the Embassy to seek for help with the support of the agency, yet she was chased away and asked to wait for 5 days, she didn’t her from them again. Eunice then discovered that her former employer had falsely reported her to be a runaway and there was a pending warrant of arrest out for her. Subsequently she was arrested and transferred to Sakan Deportation Centre where she was held for three months before her exit visa was processed.
“Kama singeenda, ningekuwa na mtoto wangu” (if I hadn’t left I would still have my child alive) To date, she blames herself for the passing of her son who she feels may have got wind of the challenges she was undergoing in the course of her employment and that he had attributed the same to his need for university school fees. Her state of grief has made her assume a hunched and almost shrunken posture which she clarified is causing her aches. Grief really can manifest physically.
No sooner had she arrived the mortuary and began to mourn her son than she was slapped with mortuary bills and funeral expenses that needed to be catered to. This was compounded further by the fact that she had barely earned even two months’ worth of her salary since she went to Saudi Arabia.
Eunice is convinced that though her intention had been to seek a better income to improve the living standard of her family, she inadvertently caused them more pain and economic hardship. Her family has not been kind on her either, constantly reminding her in word and deed that she abandoned her family.
The gendered impact of labour migration cannot be overlooked. The impact of migration by and on women at the smallest unit – being family is often the hardest.