Brenda Dama

KENYAN DOMESTIC WORKER IN SAUDI ARABIA


BRENDA DAMA

MDWinfo interviewed Brenda Dama, a Kenyan domestic worker and activist based in Saudi Arabia, on November 10th, 2021. She shares her story on her TikTok (@iamdee_2540), revealing the conditions that migrant domestic workers such as herself are subject to in Saudi Arabia,

MDW IN SAUDI ARABIA

Brenda Dama has been a domestic worker since December of 2019, and came to Saudi Arabia in pursuit of higher wages than were available to her back home. Her salary in Kenya supported only her basic needs, but was not enough for any other expenses. Her aunt had worked in Saudi Arabia as a domestic worker previously for five years and encouraged her to try it out.

She explained that having a family connection who had already experienced working in Saudi Arabia as a migrant domestic worker convinced her that she could do it too, despite having heard about poor conditions and mistreatment before. Her recruiting agency insisted that the law in Saudi Arabia had changed in the past few years: that employers no longer confiscate workers' passports, and that working condition and hours had drastically improved. Dama agreed with this to some extent--acts of extreme violence and murder toward migrant domestic workers are uncommon these days. But mistreatment and sexual abuse, she says, still happen, although at a lower rate than before.

Dama explained that migrant domestic workers like herself are protected by the agencies that bring them to their country of work. These agencies can help workers to go back home or change employers if needed. However, she revealed that in these offices there are no Kenyan officers, so it is hard for the workers to understand and sympathize with their concerns. She recounted an episode in 2019 when her first employer treated her badly, so she went to the agency for help. They did not take her concerns seriously or take any action, and eventually her old employer was called. She explains that she stayed in the recuitment office for two weeks with many other Kenyans in similar situations, until she was "sold" to another family.

GOING VIRAL

Her TikTok account currently has over 30 thousand followers, but she explained that her intention when joining the platform was just for fun. After spending some time on the app, she saw videos by other migrant domestic workers and did some research on how to grow on TikTok by using trending sounds. She heard one that represented what she was going through and decided to create a video sharing this information, and went viral. Now, her intentions with posting videos include showing her fellow migrant domestic workers that they are not alone, and to inform employers of the plight their employees go through. She hopes that if employers see such videos, they will realize that the way they treat their workers is not right and must change.

To conclude, Dama offered some insight on what needs to change in order to improve the system for all those involved. Her primary concern was the Kafala system, which means that workers have to serve their employers unconditionally, much like a slave. She says that this system needs to change or even be eradicated, and people neeed to be more infomred about that system, and how domestic workers are treated. Despite having heard of the issues experienced by migrant domestic workers, they continue to come, and therefore it will help if accurate information about the situation is spread widely. She concluded, saying that "when they make decisions they should be ready and prepared for everything. That is, everything they hear from their home countries, they should know it's likely to happen to them because those things really do happen."