Baba smiles as I approach and when I pass, he slaps me lightly on the bums, saying: “Uganda”.
Our undercover journalist was smuggled through Entebbe Airport to Dubai on a promise of a good job. Her agent held her for almost a week before she sold the reporter in a slave market. We follow the journalist's experience on kyeyo
It is not easy, transforming from an office person into a hardworking, back bent, ask-no-questions maid. My official title is kadama, which means housegirl in Arabic.
I wake up at 4:30am daily, mop and sweep the veranda, the big tiled compound, the kitchen, the bathroom and the toilet. Baba, the husband, usually delays me. He locks himself in the bathroom, showering and smoking for over 30 minutes. I have to wait for him to come out because I have to keep the bathtub dry.
The bathroom is very big. Imagine using bare hands to clean filthy toilets!
If you knew how picky I am, you would not believe it was me doing such disgusting work. My bosses have a tendency of forgetting to flush the toilets after visiting them.
My back ached at the beginning, but with resolve, I got used to standing for long periods. Truth is, I used to cry at the beginning of this work. I am not sure if I used more water than tears to mop the floor. By the end of the week, I felt stronger.
I am determined to work for a month, get my money, and call New Vision to evacuate me. I am feeling safer now because New Vision knows where I am. I have a phone and Wi-Fi, but I am not allowed to take any picture. Mama told me if I did, she would confiscate the phone.
For the six days, I spent in that home, I never saw the woman taking a bath. Her daughter showered about twice. It is only Baba who showered twice a day.
This is unlike in Uganda where it is usually the women who shower more often than the men. I guess it is a way for desert people to save water.
I also think we are cleaner generally. A Uganda family at the same level with the one of Mohamad, would be washing their clothes and changing bed sheets more often. But for the week I was a kadama in the house, I never washed their bedsheets. It is only the pillowcases that I was given to wash.
Their daughter, Mariam is a good-for-nothing idle teenager. I do everything for her, from preparing breakfast for her before she goes to school to picking her clothes, socks, and knickers from the floor of her bedroom.
Mariam's bedroom is the worst. She is messy, never flashes after using the toilet, her sink always gets blocked and I have the impression that she is disorganising her room on purpose to see how I clean it up.
Mariam and I fail to get along. I think she does not like me. She is bossy, which is understandable, considering her age. But it is extreme many times. If she wants something from the kitchen, she shouts: "Kadama! Come here!"
She expects me to drop everything and run to where she is. She then asks me to bring her what I should have come along with.
If I ignore her call, she will come to the kitchen and tell me what she wants, say a fork. She wants me to take it to her bedroom.
But the worst is when Mariam starts her menstruation. She leaves her knickers on her floor and her mother wants me to pick them up. Mama orders me to first separate the pad from the attached knickers before throwing the knickers in the washing bin and the pad in the dustbin. I am of the opinion that Mariam does this by herself.
It is disgusting! There is no way I am going to separate a bloody pad from the knickers with a straight face. Mama, who is watching me, accuses me of being disgusted with her daughter's menstrual blood and loses her temper.
She starts a litany of abuses and does not stop until I have thrown the pad in the dustbin and the knickers in the washing basket.
The next day, Mariam again leaves her soiled padded knickers on the floor for me to pick up yet I have no gloves. Whenever I ask Mama for gloves, she blows up and barks at me in Arabic. I do not mind because I do not know what she is saying.
I am using liquid soap to clean the floor and the toilets and I think it is corrosive. My nails darken and my fingers get wrinkled. When I request Mama for gloves, she instead gives me vaseline.
Members of the family cough and blow their noses into wipes and then throw them about the house. They then call me to pick them: "Kadama, Pick that!"
I pick them with my bare hands and take to the polythene bag in the toilet. It affected my appetite at first before I got used to it.
One time, I demand gloves and mama ordered me to understand my level and stop thinking I am a member of their household. I cried and ran to the wash-rooms!
Then Mama brings me a uniform, but without gloves. The uniform is a pink shirt and trouser. It is old, torn behind, and a bit too small on me. I refused to wear it, to her surprise and anguish. She scolds me loudly in Arabic while gesturing.
Her husband, who is attracted by her noise, comes and then leaves without a word.
Later, he brings me two pairs of gloves. He also gives me two dresses, tighter on me, but longer. He asks me to try them on and when I return for them to see, he compliments me heartily, which marks the beginning of my problems with Mama. She storms out of the room.
Maybe, it would not have been bad if, a few minutes later, something terrible did not happen to me. I meet Baba in the corridor. There is a one-way glass window where someone in the living room can see what is happening in the corridor, but the one in the corridor can't see into the living room.
Baba smiles as I approach and when I pass, he slaps me lightly on the bums, saying: "Uganda".
Suddenly, Mama, who is seeing us from the living room calls out: "Kadama!"
Baba takes off, leaving me to face Mama in an embarrassing encounter, which I will narrate next time. This story was done with the support of the Democratic Governance Facility
DUBAI STORY DIARY
January 7, 2020: Facebook comment by Monica "The Proud Mukiga" about the lucrative nature of kyeyo in Dubai. She offers contacts to undercover journalist to try it.
January 8: New Vision clears the mission with some safeguards to ensure personal safety. l January 9: Monica introduces an agent who offers to work on visa application and required medical documents.
January 14: Journalist gets a visitor's visa to enter United Arab Emirates. Monica introduces her to Nusura Zawadi, who will link her to the Dubai agent. Nusura asks for sh500,000 to facilitate manipulation of Entebbe Airport staff.
January 21: Nusura asks for sh100,000 for medical documents. Money is paid to Biira Asanati on 0773512913.
January 22: Journalist gets an invitation letter from Nuwagaba Silvano of Dubai on telephone number +91502557013, passport number, B1338837. She also pays sh500,000 to Tadeo Ategeka on 0773152928 to help her beat the trafficking surveillance. She gets her ticket the same day she travels on to Dubai aboard Kenya Airways, via Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi.
January 23: She arrives in Dubai and the promised agent, who is supposed to meet her, is not there. Instead, she is picked by an Ethiopian-looking tall, muscular man, wearing a head hoodie, who confiscated her passport. She discovers they are five going to the same agent. The man takes them to Ajman municipality, at a Sheenah Building on Ajman Pearl Towers. They are handed over to a woman called Sara at Apartment 502 on the fifth floor. Sara says they all belong to her and will sell them. Anyone who wants freedom, can refund her money, which was used to pay for their visas and tickets.
January 24: They are herded into a small room, which is going to be their prison room for four days. There was a single metal bed, two small mattresses on the floor, pillows, and four small blankets. There is no access to the outside and aeration is through the AC.
January 25: They are made to shoot advertorial videos for online buyers of housemaid. Two are sold off that way. Later, six more girls come from Uganda. The small room contains 11 girls. Newcomers have WI-FI on the laptop and the girls communicate to Uganda and discover their exact location.
January 26: Food is low and from three meals, it is reduced to two and then one. The girls suffer hunger and scavenge on the family leftovers.
January 27: Girls are taken to a slave market that Sara calls office in Al Wadad Labour Recruitment Centre. But our undercover reporter does not go because the car was full l January 28: The journalist is finally able to go to the slave market. Al Wadad is in the municipality of Ajman. She is almost bought, but she botched the deal, to the chagrin of her dealer, Sara.
January 29: She is bought and taken to the family of Mohamad