Janet Njeri who is a former worker in Saudi Arabia weeps where together with other women who have been working in Saudi Arabia addressed the press at a Nairobi hotel on Thursday,September 11 and asked the Government to intervene and return back many ladies working in Saudi Arabia
Her story is as startling and gut-wrenching as any that comes from Saudi Arabia.
Joyce Nyawira’s story paints a picture of the untold suffering Kenyan women undergo in this Arabian nation, fuelled by the greed of local agents and their brokers.
Nyawira left Nairobi in mid June with the promise from her agent (whose contact we have) that she would be serving a royal family in Riyadh, but she ended up working for a peasant farmer family in the north east oasis town of Sakaka, more than 1,200 kilometres from the capital. Her job? To wait on a family of 18!
She had to wash dishes, clothes and clean 18 rooms, including seven toilets and bathrooms every day.
She would also feed about 100 chickens and go to the ‘shamba’ in the evenings after the scorching heat of the desert subsides. “That notwithstanding, I was denied food and eventually I was so ruthlessly assaulted that I almost died,” she told The Nairobian.
Before the beating, Nyawira was locked in an open-air chicken shed in the harsh desert heat and chilly nights for three days without food. Her crime was stumbling upon bloody clothes in a dustbin in the compound.
“While tidying the compound, I came across a bloodied dress top in a dustbin, a Safaricom SIM card and Sh50 air time scratch card. This discovery threw me into a panic and I immediately called my agent, informing him about it and that I wanted to leave the home immediately,” she said.
However, the agent reported her to the employer, who reacted by throwing her into the shed. For weeks, she fed on the leftovers that were thrown to the chicken.
That’s what fired her determination to escape. When a few days later she was ordered to remove manure from the chicken coop, she stumbled on a grave that she now believes hold the remains of two former employees.
“While I unknowingly stood on top of the grave to rest, an Indonesian who worked next door tried to warn me through sign language to step away from the site, but I did not understand what she was saying,” she said.
Unfortunately, as she stood there, the madam of the house was watching her from an upstairs room and on getting into the house, she was locked up in a room and beaten to reveal if she had seen anything out of the ordinary. She says she was lashed almost to pulp and left bleeding in pain. The next morning, she was forced back to work despite her injuries.
Apparently convinced she was not aware of the grave, the employer sent her back to the shed a few days later. When raking the spot she had stood on earlier, she realised the soil there was lose.
“It dawned on me that maybe the Indonesian was trying to tell me that there was an escape tunnel in the ground. So I started digging. Initially all I got were broken pavement blocks, but on digging deeper, I unearthed the skeleton of a human leg,” she said.
In horror, she fled the shed, locked it and threw away the key. Later that night, she saw four men (unusually dressed in jeans instead of the traditional kanzu), come in and out of the compound carrying what looked like coffins. She realised that her discovery was no longer a secret and waited in fear expecting to be the next victim. But if they were going to kill her, they took their time about it and she even had a chance to go back to the now unlocked shed the next morning, where she found the hole dug out with only some human hair remaining as evidence of the horror the shallow grave had contained.
Convinced they would not let her go, Nyawira managed to pile junk and some timber on wheelbarrow to climb over the compound’s high wall.
She ran from the house like a mad woman until a Good Samaritan took her into her shop, fed her and called the police. She claims that before the two policemen took her to the safety of a ‘holding’ jail, they first assaulted her sexually.
She stayed in the jail at Sakaka, where she found more than 50 Kenyans, for about two months, before being rescued by a senior policewoman who was privy to the cruelty of the household she had been employed.
Her former employer was forced to pay her airfare back home and directed to drive her to the airport. En-route to the airport, the family physically assaulted her and tore her dress.
But she is lucky to have escaped, leaving behind other Kenyans who suffer the cruelty of their employers, including being burnt with hot iron boxes and even being stabbed with knives.
She returned to Kenya on September 2.