Sat, 03 Jun, 2023

Dreaming While Poor

By Ashmita Kunwar

Photo Courtesy:  “Mom, what has happened to you, why are not you talking to me? Please! Speak up, open your eyes, we all love you and miss you very much mom”, small girl aged 12 cries out loud with tears rolling down her face. Though, she knows that her mother is no more, she tries to overlook the fact. A handicapped man with both legs cut off from his knees is observing the scene holding the hand of small 5 year old son, with regret for having such insignificant life. The little innocent boy pulls his hand off from his father, runs towards his sister and asks, “Sister, sister, what is wrong with mom and why these many people are gathered here in our home?” These questions from her brother made her cry even louder and she nearly fell down unconscious. The man, father of those children, finally, could not control his tears; he rushes to move in his wheel chair towards the dead body of his wife and children, embraces them and cries his heart out. The people around them also could not help; the eyes of most of the people were watery. All of them are worried, what will happen now, who will feed them, what will be the future of these children? Oh! God this scene is so tragic and remorseful. The dead body lying there is of Bimala Tamang, who went to Saudi Arabia with an aim to earn money for her family 5 months ago, but then the result is that her dead body is lying down with no money, no happiness but just a thick layer of sorrow surrounding them. Her poor income and lack of opportunities here in Nepal forced her to leave her small children, the disabled husband and move abroad as a domestic worker. She was the only earning member of her family; her husband was a policeman, who lost both legs in an accident. After that, the whole responsibility of her children and family came upon Bimala. She did every possible work here in Nepal, but could not earn enough to fulfill the basic needs of her family. For the last time before moving to Saudi, she was a sweeper at a manpower agency. One day, the director of the manpower suggested to her to go abroad, she thought deep and hard, made a plan to go to any of the gulf countries and earn money. She was asked to pay 60K as a visa fee. She somehow arranged the money and did her paperwork for going to Saudi Arabia as a domestic worker, but she had told nothing about her plan to her family. Lastly, she managed to tell the truth one week before of her flight and convinced her family. She assured her son, “I will bring lots of chocolates, books and copies so that you can go to school.” The boy replied, “If that’s the reason, then you can go mom, but promise us that you will return back soon.” She cried as if her heart was about to break and promised her son to be back soon. The next day, she told her daughter, “I will teach you everything what you have to do when I am not here, you will be the one to look after your father and your brother. You have to take care of them”. And, the day finally came when she had to say goodbye to her family. The moment she said “goodbye” with tears rolling down her eyes was the most painful situation she ever had in her life, but nevertheless she had a hope to return back with happiness. She finally landed in the unknown land with new hope and dreams. In the airport, she was picked up by an agent of the manpower company. Next day, she was dropped in the house where she was supposed to work as a domestic worker. For couple of weeks, she was in real trouble, as she could not understand anything, then slowly she learned her work and felt comfortable but she was unaware of the future. After one month, unexpectedly the behavior of the owner was different towards her, she was punished for no reason, and she was being abused. Every single day she was shouted at for her faults in her work and was punished badly, her different body parts were burnt many times with hot iron. She cried for help, but no one came to rescue her from hell. She only received the salary of one month and after that she was never paid for her work, she lost her hope of getting the money, she just wanted to return back to Nepal to her family and she was seeking help. She was then slowly pushed into sexual violence; she was allegedly beaten, raped and abused by the employer. If she disobeyed or protested she was punished badly. After the severe punishments she had to suffer badly, she could not stand due to pain and she was not offered any food to eat.  She had no option, other than to do what they demand, to save her life and return back to Nepal with her family as her passport was seized by the owner. She was abused sexually and physically every day. She lost her hope. Slowly, she went into depression. One day when she was alone at home, she decided to talk with her children through telephone, and when she heard the voice of her son “Hello, who is speaking”, before she could say that she was his mother, the phone was cut by the owner. She was punished and only punished, not given food for 2-3 days; she could not think of anything and committed suicide at the end. This is the story based on the real life, which reflects the life of most of the women who go abroad as domestic workers. This is how the Nepalese women are treated in foreign countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Dubai and many other countries. Most of these women are mistreated and exploited, some commit suicide like Bimala, some manage to come out from hell with different diseases like HIV while some remain there helplessly forever suffering in dreadful situations. Just simply making rules will not help to solve the problem, they should be strictly implemented and government should take it seriously. As per research, the total remittance inflow from women working in foreign countries is 11 percent (Source: Nepal: Women’s Remittance and its development nexus); it does not matter whether it is either 11 percent or 100 percent, money is not more important than the life and respect of these women. The country should end the exploitation and create a secured environment where women can work without restrictions, with dignity and respect.