Undercover as a slave part 5 : Starting off as a housemaid

Apr 29, 2020

The family must have been waiting because they all came out to see the new Kadama — housemaid.

I am bought on the second day of my shelf experience at ‘the office' in Al Wadad Labour Recruitment Centre, which looked like a slave market in all forms. My new masters, a man, and his wife, take me out of the slave market at about 9:00 pm and drive for about an hour to their home. 
I am scared about what will happen next. My bosses question me about my age, my children, and details about my previous job.

Sara, my agent had advised me to lie that I had experience working as a maid. During the conversations, I refer to the wife as Madam, but she tells me to call her Mama.

The man, who was in his early 50s, is to be referred to as Baba.
Their English was not well-polished, but Mama's is much more terrible than Baba's. I later learn that it is the family of Mohamed. Our home is at Al Qusais 2 on 11th street, opposite the mosque, the first gate — cream in colour.
The family must have been waiting because they all came out to see the new Kadama — housemaid.
Mama introduces me to Mariam, her teenage daughter and Ahmed, a two-year-old boy. The boy smiles widely as I lift him up and the parents are happy about it. If you want to win the heart of an Arab, love their children, according to some of the girls we met at Sara's place.
There is no time for the welcome. Mama orders me to lift the jerrycans of liquid soap they had bought on the way home, from the car to the house. The compound is wide and paved. She shows me the ironing room and says it is where I will be sleeping. There is no curtain on the only window and she orders me to never lock the door. Immediately, some of the stories I had heard from the girls at Sara's place, such as that Arabs were cannibals, haunted me.
I later follow her to the kitchen, where a heap of dirty utensils are waiting for me to clean.
Supper is salads. Ahmed decides to eat with me.
Mariam brings her uniforms and teaches me how to use a flat iron. While ironing, Mama comes with an alarm clock, sets the alarm time to 5:00 am and says my days will be starting at 5:00 am.
When I ask where the mattress and blanket are, she tells me there is none and says the carpet is soft enough. I protest. I need a blanket because it is wintertime. She brings me a mat, which she spreads before moving out of the room. I follow her and knock at her closed door. I insist on a blanket and mattress. She seems surprised and offended! She moves angrily into a store and gets for me a small mattress and a blanket. 
I retire to my small room, close the door and place a plastic bucket of clothes strategically so that if anyone opened the door in the night with intent of harming me, the bucket would fall and cause me to wake up. I recite my rosary and place my life in God's hands.
I hardly sleep, but wake up by 4:30 am, take a shower and, at 5:00 am, open the door, only to meet Mama in the corridor coming to wake me up. She smiles. She gets a mop and broom to show me how to clean the verandah, compound, and kitchen. Then she shows me how to prepare breakfast for her school-going children.
We then clean the bathrooms and toilets of the parents and children. She warns me never to sit on her daughter's toilet. I clean Mariam's bedroom, wipe the side bed tables and bedroom mirrors, lay her bed, and organise her closet, perfumes and bedroom fridge.

The next cleaning is the living room and organising Ahmed's toys. All this time, Mama watches me repeat her instructions. She later demands that I repeat the chore and uses her finger to check whether the floor is clean. 
All the cleaning must end by 11:00 am. I later take a shower and join her in the kitchen to prepare lunch. She shows me how to cook and serve the food, leaving mine in the saucepan. I lay the table and wait in the kitchen till they complete their meal. I am not supposed to eat before they finish. I clean the dishes and keep them in the different cabinets.
After lunch, I have to play with the child. She later teaches me how to operate the washing machine before we start preparing dinner.
The following day, I am supposed to do the same tasks unsupervised. I think it is hard work since there is almost no rest. But something in me tempts me to try it for a month and earn my money as Kadama. 
I almost lived to regret that decision.
This story was done with the  support of the Democratic  Governance Facility  (DGF)

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.
JANUARY 9: Monica introduces an agent who offers to work on visa application and required medical documents.
JANUARY 14: Journalist gets 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 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
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


Undercover journalist sold into slavery in Dubai - Part 1

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