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Seema A.

2015 (Narrative date)

Men and women migrate from South and Southeast Asia, Egypt, the Middle East, and increasingly throughout Africa to work in Kuwait, predominantly in the domestic service, construction, hospitality, and sanitation sectors. Several labor-sending countries, including India, Nepal, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and Bangladesh, restrict their female nationals from domestic employment in Kuwait. The vast majority of migrant workers arrive voluntarily; however, upon arrival some sponsors subject migrants to forced labor, including through non-payment of wages, protracted working hours without rest, deprivation of food, threats, physical or sexual abuse, and restrictions on movement, such as confinement to the workplace and the withholding of passports. Many of the migrant workers arriving in Kuwait have paid exorbitant fees to labor recruiters in their home countries or are coerced into paying labor broker fees in Kuwait which, according to Kuwaiti law, should be paid by the employer—a practice making workers highly vulnerable to forced labor, including debt bondage. In Nepal, poverty forces people to seek work overseas to provide for themselves and their desperate families. Migration across the border is unsafe and uncontrolled, which is how Seema was trafficked and forced into slavery.

The open border with India is just 10 minutes from my house. This same route has no check post, so traffickers have trafficked many women. I too was tricked and trafficked from this point.

I went to Kuwait for foreign employment because my family's financial situation was bad. I'd seen a lot of women in my village go abroad. I thought I could earn enough money and do something with it. I worked as a domestic helper and did household chores for more than two years. 

Usually women who come back after working abroad recieve no support from their families and society looks down on them. I joined Shakti to get training and develop some skills, so I can live in my family and society with dignity.

We've been doing home visits to inform women going abroad. We tell them to use government-registered manpower agencies. When women are going abroad, we check to see if they are being trafficked. Last year we found five women being trafficked at the border and referred them to authorities for help. I want to continue my work with the aim to free people from human trafficking and slavery. I hope that in the future, no man or woman suffers from trafficking or slavery.

As told to Free the Slaves