Today women represent around half of the total population of international migrants worldwide. They move, more and more, as independent workers, usually to more developed countries in search of a better life for themselves and for their families. Reproducing patterns of gender inequality, at destination they tend to find work in traditionally female-dominated occupations such as domestic work. Their vulnerabilities are often linked to precarious recruitment processes (including passport and contract substitution as well as charging of excessive fees), the absence of adapted assistance and protection mechanisms, the social and cultural isolation they can face at the destination due to language and cultural differences, lack of advance and accurate information on terms and conditions of employment, absence of labour law coverage and/or enforcement in the country of destination, and restrictions on freedom of movement and association, among other things. Maryfe migrated from the Philippines to Hong Kong in the hopes of earning more money abroad to support her children. Maryfe took a job caring for her employer’s disabled child and bedridden father. She was subjected to violence and threats daily and eventually broke her contract to return to the Philippines. However, still needing to provide for her children, Maryfe travelled abroad again, this time to Dubai, taking a job as a nanny. Maryfe was forced to work long hours with little sleep and no time off. When the family she worked for moved to a different country she was forced to go with them. Though Maryfe was able to escape her employment, she is now stuck undocumented in a foreign country.
There are an estimated 24,000 people living in modern slavery in Kyrgyzstan (GSI 2018). The country remains a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. Women from across the former Soviet Republic often travel to neighbouring countries with the promise of jobs as nannies, domestic workers, work in hotels and in the catering and entertainment sectors. However, upon arrival they find themselves sold to a pimp and forced in to sex work to pay off debt incurred for transportation, accommodation and the opportunity. Originally from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Luiza Karimova* left her son with her family and travelled to Osh, Kyrgyzstan to find work. In Kyrgyzstan, she was sold into sex slavery and trafficked into Dubai. After 18 months, she was arrested and sent to jail. Today, Karimova works with Podruga, an organization based in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, which is supported by UN Women. Podruga works to end violence against women and assists women subjected to sex and drug trafficking.