Ugandan Women in Boston Protest against Exportation and Enslavement of Desperate Ugandan Girls in Saudi Arabia

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By EADM Correspondent

Waltham, Massachusetts, USA

Members of the Uganda Women’s Association International (UWAI), who took part in the peaceful demonstration Waltham Square in Massachusetts USA on Saturday. (Courtesy of UWAI)

In Summary: Ugandan women in Boston on Saturday held a peaceful demonstration to denounce the inhumane treatment and brutality meted out to young women working as house maids in Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries. The demonstration at Waltham Square was organized by the Uganda Women’s Association International (UWAI),

Waltham, Massachusetts—Ugandan women in Boston on Saturday held a peaceful demonstration to denounce the inhumane treatment and brutality meted out to young women working as house maids in Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries. The demonstration at Waltham Square was organized by the Uganda Women’s Association International (UWAI), a body that brings together Ugandan women living in the diaspora. UWAI was launched in 2015 in the USA.

The women, joined by a few male activists braved the cold and snowy morning to draw the attention of the world to the plight of the women who are subjected to harsh conditions tantamount to modern day slavery and the gross human rights abuse. This was the first demonstration of its kind by Ugandan women in the diaspora under the leadership of UWAI against human trafficking and the brutality of Saudi nationals to their Ugandan female domestic workers. The demonstrators also blended their protestations with a call to end president Museveni’s 30 years in power.

A cross section of Ugandan women at the Waltham Square, protesting against trafficking of girls and the inhumane conditions they endure in Saudi Arabia and other middle east countries. (Photo courtesy of UWAI)

The president of UWAI, Dorothy Lubowa said the demonstration was organized to condemn the trafficking of young women from less developed countries around the world, specifically from Uganda. She said the women, some as young as 13 yrs., are subjected to hard labor by their masters, working long hours with no breaks, beaten, tortured, maimed, sexually exploited, held incommunicado from the rest of the world, and sometimes working without any pay. She said a few of the women have lost their lives due to the extreme inhuman conditions and torture their so-called masters subject them to.

With unemployment biting hard in Uganda, unauthorized private recruitment agencies have been targeting desperate unemployed youth wooing them to the Arab world with promises of securing them jobs with higher wages and good working conditions in super markets, hotels, restaurants and malls. In July 2015, Uganda’s Minister for Labor Muruli Mukasa signed an agreement with his Saudi Arabian counterpart to export thousands of unemployed youth to Saudi Arabia to be employed as domestic workers.

Minister of Labor, gender, and Youth affairs, Wilson Muruli Mukasa signed the agreement to export workers to Saudi Arabia. 

Since then, more unscrupulous agencies have sprung up charging their targets exorbitant amounts of money purportedly for visa and air ticket to go to Arabic countries. This agreement has since been cancelled.

In deals similar to ancient slave trade, the illegal recruiters work with ‘middle men’ in the Middle East who receive the unsuspecting women and thereafter sell them to their would be masters. The women’s passports are confiscated and communication to the world is cut off. Ugandan police spokesperson Fred Enanga singled out Khalima Abdallah and Pashar Ral Suaaery as some of the notorious middle men who have benefited from these dealings. Enanga said Ugandan police has contacted Interpol to track these people down and bring them to justice.

Social media has been abuzz with stories of women who escape from the despicable conditions under which they were working pleading for help to return to their families. In January this year, 24 women escape from their tormentors and returned to Uganda after being detained in various centers in Saudi Arabia.

Consequently, the Ugandan government announced a ban on sending maids to Saudi Arabia. This followed a public outcry for government to rescue the women who were stuck in Saudi Arabia. Uganda is the forth country to ban sending domestic workers to the Middle East following Ethiopia, Indonesia and Philippines. But activists have not given up the struggle. They believe there are still thousands of women holed up in Saudi and other Arab countries.

A case in point is that of Nambi Fatuma, a Ugandan woman who had a baby out of wedlock in Kuwait. She was recently sentenced to five years in prison and her baby taken away from her.  Islamic laws are strict on having children out of wedlock. Some women have lost their lives while attempting to terminate their pregnancies.

The demonstrators blamed the government of Uganda which they accused of failing to get a lasting solution to the high unemployment and for signing an agreement to send its citizens to work as house maids. Ms. Lubowa wondered how a government can take pride in exporting its citizens, some of whom are college graduates to work as house maids in a foreign country.

The women activists said as long as the illegal agencies shipping innocent women into slavery in the Middle East are still operational, the problem will not be solved. Some of these companies are allegedly owned by individuals with close ties to government insiders.

The women activists also alleged that officials at the Ugandan embassy in Saudi Arabia are not paying close attention to the cries of the poor women who need to be rescued. There have even been unconfirmed allegations that embassy officials are beneficiaries of the money from the illegal agencies in Uganda. But last month, Uganda’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Dr. Rashid Ssemuddu dismissed the claims as unfounded after the embassy rescued seven of the girls and flew them back to Uganda.

(Photo by Agencies)

During the same week, Ambassador Dr. Ssemuddu visited Riyadh detention center where girls from Uganda and other African and Asian countries were being detained.

Some of the Ugandans recently facilitated to return home with Uganda's ambassador to Saudi Arabia Sheikh Rashid Yahya Ssemuddu (Photo by Observer Newspaper)

As more women cry out to be rescued from the Middle East, Ugandans are eagerly waiting on government to come clean and rescue as many more women as it possibly can. Human rights organizations worldwide have consistently condemned the gross human rights abuse of domestic workers in the Middle East countries.

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