The world is witnessing modern slavery with international smuggling and trafficking of humans to the Western part of the world, particularly from Africa. Well, that is not the only pressing transnational issue. Less attention has been given to the predicament of migrant women in the Middle Eastern countries such as Lebanon, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, etcetera engaged in maidservant ‘paid’ outfits. After several years of advocating for better conditions for these domestic workers trapped in their system of neo- slavery ‘Kafala system’, the practice still goes on. We continue to receive increasing reports from these areas about servants’ masters abusing migrant women terribly, most of which are lethal. As usual, when bitter experiences are spilt, African citizens can never be out of the picture. Most, if not all are desperate African women…robbed off their rights in exchange for ‘income.’ Sadly, the COVID-19 has worsened their plights. Slave masters that are unable to accommodate these women further end up ejecting them unto the streets of nowhere to wander in misery.
What have countries done about this? What happened to the general clauses on social protection? Where is the legislation for women’s rights? Can stricter international laws be implemented to safeguard the rights of our women who travel to such countries? Can restrictions be imposed or possibly a ban on migrating women to these regions for domestic work? Ghana has taken the pre-eminent initiative to organise mass evacuation for such victims, which is commendable. However, the main issue is yet to be tackled. We need concrete policies that would translate to a concrete agenda; governments must change
attitudes and policies towards women like women’s right, opportunities, health, and status of women and girls around the world. However, this seems a long-term target whose immediate effect is highly improbable. For now, effective interim policies can be implemented to save women from encountering this situation. Poverty should not be a prison term.
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Ghana (WILPF) have executed projects on feminist peace and used our social media platform to advocate against abuse of women, trafficking and other human rights violations. As feminist right advocates, we believe that if the countries involved in these unscrupulous acts are not ready to treat their foreign workforce with the deference due them, then they should as well be made to use their local workforce. We cannot compromise to risk the lives of our women to satisfy the folly of agents and foreigners.
As the lockdown is gradually being lifted, countries, especially in Africa, must incorporate these needs into their COVID-19 recovery programmes.
- Give credence to women’s economic rights
- Extend anti-smuggling policies to capture this issue (if not done already) and dealt with indiscriminatingly.
- Ban the migration of women to these areas for domestic services
- Make provisions to keep track of and protect the few women locked up in these territories.
As we operate in Ghana, we urge the president to take cognisance of the essence of incorporating women’s economic needs into the national agenda.
By: Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) Ghana Communication Manager, Diaspora