After posting a video on Facebook, Filipina maid, Nargelene De Guia Mendez was rescued from her employer in Saudi Arabia. Her emotional plea garnered almost 500,000 views on Facebook, and over 100,000 on YouTube. Although the video is in Tagalog and many comments are in Arabic, Mendez described her situation as dire and abusive.
“They beat my colleague yesterday,” she says. “They also beat me. Please help us. I’m begging you.”
The Philippines is home to many who travel in search of work to the Middle East, only to find themselves victim of “Kafala,” a system that gives employers unlimited control over the lives of their immigrant employees. This controversial immigrant worker system is very similar to a type of slavery, and suffers from poor government regulation. One aspect of Kafala allows employers to control passports and visas, resulting in many workers, such as Mendez to become captive in abusive working environments.
Earlier this year, a different maid from the Philippines suffered serious burns after her employer’s mother threw boiling water at her. This resulted in scars throughout her back and legs. In that case, the maid was saved when her employers finally brought her to the hospital to treat the burns.
The Gulf Cooperation Council announced new regulations for Kafala, including an 8-hour working day, overtime compensation and annual leave. Domestic workers will also be given one day off a week, and would allow for maids to live apart from their employers. Most importantly, it would allow for workers to keep their own passports.
According to a member of the Human Rights Watch, Rothna Begum, many workers are afraid to speak out or tell others that they are in need of help.
“It was incredibly surprising to see in her video the conditions in which she was working but also to show herself.” Begum adds, “I’ve never really heard of a case of a woman who did this…”
Recently, yet another Filipina maid gave birth to twins after having an affair with her employer’s neighbor. She is currently facing criminal charges in Al-Nouf, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates for committing adultery. In that case, her employers claimed not to know she was pregnant at all.
Unfair treatment of women is not a new thing in Saudi Arabia. Inquisitr recently reported on the “tempting eyes” ban, which seeks to force women with beautiful eyes and makeup to shield their eyes with a veil. This would be in addition to the already-existing rules about covering up the body.
Sadly, this trend of abusing immigrant workers is not limited to workers from Asian countries. After the beheading of an Indonesian maid and reports of rape and beatings from the Philippines, Saudi Arabian employers have moved onto Ethiopian workers. With a population full of people who live on less than $2 a day, Ethiopia is proving to be more “compliant,” says Walden Bello, chairman of the Overseas Workers Affairs Committee in the Philippine House of Representatives.
The Philippine Embassy in Jeddah reports that Nargelene De Guia Mendez was rescued in October and taken to a consulate building. She awaits an exit visa there. The Filipina maid, Mendez, is expected to return home safely.
(Photo courtesy of BBC News)