35 C
Doha
Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Qatar families urged to grant domestic workers respite during Ramadan

-

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

While many Qatar residents enjoy reduced working hours during Ramadan, one segment of the population often sees its load increase exponentially – domestic workers.

In the Gulf, this is often one of the busiest times of the year for migrants working as cooks, cleaners and nannies.

For some, it can also be an emotionally stressful period because they are isolated from their families, a local migrant rights group has said.

A new campaign by Migrant-Rights.org to promote fair employment conditions for migrant domestic workers in the region includes posters created by VCU-Qatar students.
A new campaign by Migrant-Rights.org to promote fair employment conditions for migrant domestic workers in the region includes posters created by VCU-Qatar students.

To raise awareness, Migrant-Rights.org is launching a campaign encouraging residents in Qatar and across the region to give domestic workers adequate time off during this month.

“Very often, I don’t think employers of domestic workers intend to treat them badly, but get caught up in their own schedules, are very busy and aren’t aware,” Vani Saraswathi, an advisor with Migrant-Rights.org, told Doha News.

She said she hopes that the new campaign will inspire more families to grant their house helpers adequate leisure time, include them in social activities and allow them to speak with family members in their home countries.

Other organizations are also working to draw attention to the issue.

In a recent op-ed published in the Huffington Post, Human Rights Watch researcher Rothna Begum described the daily schedule of some housekeepers in the Gulf:

“Many domestic workers in the Middle East are expected to help host large iftar meals to break fasts. They work during the night when families can eat, and during the day to clean and take care of children … One 42-year-old Filipina domestic worker in the United Arab Emirates told me, ‘During Ramadan I would go to sleep at 3am and would wake up (to work) at 5:30 am.’”

Begum added that Gulf-based embassies of labor-sending countries often report high numbers of women fleeing their employers especially during the Ramadan season.

Not enough rest

Locally, a spokesperson for the Philippines embassy in Qatar told Doha News that the diplomatic mission has not seen a spike in complaints from its citizens working in the Gulf state during Ramadan.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

However, the head of Qatar’s Search and Follow-up Department at the Ministry of Interior has previously said that his officers deal with more domestic workers during this time of year.

“Yes, many maids tend to run away from their employers during Ramadan because of heavy workload. They don’t get enough rest,” Brig. Nasser Al Sayed said in 2012.

Even outside of the fasting month, domestic workers in Qatar are estimated to work more hours a week than those in any other job in the country.

Maids, nannies, cooks, cleaners and other house helpers are not covered under Qatar’s labor law, which leaves them particularly vulnerable to abuse at the hands of their employers, Amnesty International said in a 2014 report.

It also means they have limited legal recourse in such cases.

Bruises on the victim.
Bruises on the victim.

Earlier this year, a badly beaten Indonesian women was held in Qatar’s Search and Follow-up detention center – which is typically used to hold expats awaiting deportation – after being released from hospital. She was eventually able to return home.

Saraswathi said it is rare that such cases are publicized in Qatar, arguing that there is generally less media coverage of domestic worker issues here than in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain or Kuwait.

As part of her organization’s Ramadan campaign, Saraswathi and her colleagues are speaking to newspaper columnists across the GCC and encouraging them to write about the subject. The hope is that such coverage would prompt more employers to think more carefully about how they treat their employees.

Saraswathi also argued that more nuance is needed on the subject, saying that discussions are often highly polarized and either revolve around employers being classified as horribly abusive or as housekeepers being seen as untrustworthy.

Unmet expectations

Outside of the Ramadan project, her organization is undertaking a wider campaign that involves speaking with employers in informal, off-the-record group conversations.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

One of their early conclusions is that there is a need to change recruitment practices to reduce the “huge gap” in expectations on the part of both employers and domestic workers.

For example, some recruitment centers promise families employees with specific skills, such as first aid, cooking and the ability to speak English fluently.

In practice, however, the women “are not being trained for what the employer is asking for,” Saraswathi says.

On the other side, the women who sign up to work in the Gulf are often promised shorter work hours, higher pay, more personal mobility and even a completely different job than what actually awaits them, she added.

“(Some women) come to Gulf thinking that she’s just going to clean a house. Then she arrives and is expected to take care of children, cook, etc. Some of them just don’t have the skills, or are not interested,” Saraswathi said.

Conflict can arise when both employers and their employees are let down, she added.

“There is a real need to change the recruitment practices and orientation in the countries of origin.”

Thoughts?

13 COMMENTS

Subscribe
Notify of
13 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Rane de Beer
Rane de Beer
6 years ago

There obviously is a problem, given this article (which did not elaborate on why the workers are distressed) that appeared this month.
Embassy partners with airline to fly home distressed Filipino workers
Nearly 100 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will be flown home to be reunited with their loved ones this month through the efforts of the Philippine Embassy in Qatar and Cebu Pacific Air. http://www.gulf-times.com/qatar/178/details/442218/-embassy-partners-with-airline-to-fly-home-distressed-filipino-workers

johnny wang
johnny wang
6 years ago

This is not a new problem but this abuses have been going on for such a long period of time and with the local authorities doing nothing much to solve this issue. In fact its the authorities here who contribute and make this abuses and brutality worse by keeping quiet and allowing this abuses to go on and on like they don’t exist and then when its brought to their attention they try to hide and cover this abuses of this poor and helpless workers. Hope the local authorities are aware all this abuses are a shame and a disgrace to the country itself

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
6 years ago
Reply to  johnny wang

What do you expect “the authorities” to do?

Maids aren’t covered by the Labor Law. If you want your maid to work 20 hours a day in Ramadan that is abhorrent but not illegal.

This is the same story every Ramadan. Dozens of maids with abusive sponsors flee from their homes and wind up at their embassy. We then read stories in the local press where their sponsors complain about how maids have absconded and left them to do their own cleaning, probably promoting other sponsors to put their homes into lock down so their own maids don’t try to escape.

All this during the “Holy Month”…

The Reporter
The Reporter
6 years ago
Reply to  johnny wang

The system whereby immigrants are exploited by their employers was devised by the government of the State of Qatar, not by the individual employers. To the State it works absolutely flawlessly as was intended.

Adam
Adam
6 years ago

Other countries should stop sending domestic helpers – that is the best solution to this issue. But as long as there are people who are willing to be servants in spite of the many horror stories heard and unheard, this problem will persist. We can never blame the host countries or the sponsors of this maltreated maids. Because even in their home countries this issue exist. That is more abhorrent I believe.

Misha
Misha
6 years ago
Reply to  Adam

Would you say that you wouldn’t blame a stranger for beating a lady because her brother beats her? Wrong is wrong no matter how many people or countries do it.

I do agree with you though there are problems that have to be dealt with in home countries. I also agree that some countries don’t get blamed at all for the mistreatment there but that that doesn’t mean we could never blame for mistreatment.

Some ladies have abusive/alcoholic/gambling/deadbeat husbands and most have children that depend on them as well as elderly parents. This makes them willingly come because of their home situation.

anm
anm
6 years ago

I know photos are generally for illustrative purposes but is it just me who thinks that the picture of the maid with the full make up, painted nails and diamond rings is at odds with what the article is saying?

Shaiju
6 years ago

quite simple “…. Be merciful on the earth, and you will be shown mercy from Who is above the heavens. …” at-Tirmidhi 1924

Win
Win
6 years ago

The fact that an organization even needs to send out a plea is shocking. Not just because it is Ramadhan but because it is so widespread that such a plea is needed. Be it Ramadhan or any other time…those working for you are human beings who feel pain, get tired, need sleep, need to eat, have families that depend on them and who have love ones that miss them. The faster idiotic employers realize that those working for them are also just like them, meaning humans and not some kind of subhuman species or property, the better things will be. I think…the government should make it mandatory for everyone who wishes to hire a live in domestic helper to attend a course on how to treat employees, their rights as an employer, the the employees rights and the legal complications should they mistreat employees or vice versa. This will strike out declaration of not knowing the law and of course stern legal actions to those who flaunt the terms. Love your people, spoil them but also teach them that others too are humans and must be respected.

Bingo
Bingo
6 years ago

Thanks DN for talking on this issue, especially in Ramadan they are overloaded with work.

MarkDoha
MarkDoha
6 years ago

Two things need to happen, employers need to remember that their domestic staff are human beings too and secondly, they need to take to heart the values of Ramadan, rather than just playing lip service to the rituals. Following the rituals without embracing the values is like having a shower with the water turned off…it may look like you’re having a shower, but in reality you start dirty and finish dirty.

Misha
Misha
6 years ago

On Qatar TV this Ramadan they run a commercial/public service announcement for water and electricity conservation and one cautioning overeating junk food (both done very well in my opinion). They should do one for domestic servants although it is a touchy subject.

Amber
Amber
6 years ago

Qatar really needs to establish unions. Only then will you see real change and rights of the worker being enforced.

There is definitely a need for a domestic workers union. Minimum wage and hours should be set.

Related Articles

- Advertisment -

Most Read

Qatar’s amir raises retirement pension to QR 15,000

0
Sheikh Tamim issues a new retirement law to ensure that retired citizens live a decent life after years of serving the country.  Qatar’s Amir Sheikh...

Subscribe to Doha News below!

To be updated with all the latest news, offers and special announcements.