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Senegalese Domestic Worker In Saudi Arabia: “One Day, I Realized That I Had Been Sold”

When Boury recounts her stay in  Saudi Arabia , anger and fear disputed her with disgust:

” It was hell ! The first day they touched my thighs and buttocks. While I was working, the boss’s sons were always shouting at me. I slept dressed, a knife at hand.”

Boury was born and raised in Dakar, in the district of Sicat Liberté. At the age of 20, after finishing her architecture studies after a pregnancy, she began working as a waitress in restaurants. Then, in 2015, after her divorce, she went to work as a housekeeper in Saudi Arabia on the advice of her mother, a friend of whom runs a “recruitment agency”. She is 25 years old and a child of 5 years old, whom she leaves with her mother. On site, she will never be paid for the work done.

“I arrived at my employers’ house at 5 am They took my suitcase and knocked it down, they took all the electronic equipment. I said, “And the passport?” They said, “That’s the way we keep it.”

But the worst begins the day she expresses her desire to return to Senegal. First, his boss tries to place it in someone else’s house; then, the more degrading proposals arrive:

“The boss’s brother told me,” You can come to my house. Every time I want sex, you will be at my disposal and in six months you will have money, a house and even a car to send to Senegal. “Four men of the family gave me a similar proposal. “

Finally, Boury discovers the reason why we had never paid for it:

“In Senegal, they sold me! My boss told me that she paid the equivalent of 2 million CFA [more than 3,000 euros], she said: “I paid for your ticket, your visa and I gave money to your agency to make you come, so you will not go anywhere until they repay me or give me another girl! “

Rogue intermediaries

Boury is not alone in this case. According to the Global Slavery Index 2017 published by the Walk Free Foundation, an organization that fights against human trafficking, there were 40.3 million modern slavery victims in 2016: among them, many Asian and African domestics . Of the 67.1 million domestic workers in the world, 11.5 million are migrants, according to the International Labor Office, and of these, 73.4% are women.


Like Boury, it is estimated that every year hundreds of Senegalese – no reliable statistics are available – will work as housekeepers abroad, mainly in Mauritania, Morocco, Lebanon, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. In Senegal, the unemployment rate is 25%, and for women with little education, the most accessible work is that of maid, for about 70 euros per month: a misery compared to the promises of wages made by illegal recruitment agencies or by dubious middlemen who give women an enviable situation beyond Senegal’s borders.

Las, for the servants who seek to escape exploitation in Senegal, the scenario is repeated identically, even worse, outside. Only in a foreign country whose language they rarely speak, locked up at home, without papers or phone (confiscated by the boss), they work all day, without day off, leave or sick leave, for a pittance when it n is not simply non-existent. And the less fortunate are victims of psychological, physical or sexual violence.

“Some are in prison”

Emily Diouf, 34, worked in Morocco thanks to the interpersonal skills of a cousin who officiated there as a “little maid”. Today returned to Senegal, Keur Massar, 20 km east of Dakar, she recalls the “case of a 25-year-old girl raped by her employer”:

“When she told her boss, she told him that her husband would never do that kind of thing and she kicked him out. Shortly after, we knew she was pregnant, and then we had no news. She did not know anyone in Morocco. “

Another testimony, that of Ndeye Ndoye, 32 years old. In August 2015, when she was unemployed after an experience without any contract in a salon manicure, she went to Lebanon, where she was dangled a salary of 450 euros per month. But, on the spot, she quickly disillusioned:

“They beat me. The husband insulted me: “You are a slave, we do not respect the Blacks here.” Sometimes they left me with nothing to eat. I had to wake up at 6 am and work until 1 am the next day. I had to do everything and the house was too big. I could not rest, I could not even sit! “

Like Boury, it is often only when these women insist on returning to Senegal that they discover that they have been scammed and sold. They must then choose between two solutions: either wait for their agency to send a “substitute”, or run away. Those who have a laptop or an Internet connection seek help from their entourage, the embassy or even the Senegalese media; others are forced to flee, at the risk of tragic epilogues.

“They killed a lot of girls there. Some have disappeared or ended up in prison, “says Boury. For example, Mbayang Diop, 22, went to Saudi Arabia to earn money to raise his son and take care of his elderly and sick parents. Accused of killing her boss, she has been detained in a Saudi prison since June 2016 and sentenced to death. In Senegal, Mbayang Diop has become the icon of the battle for the rights of domestic workers.


Written by How Africa

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