I know we haven’t talked in a long time, but I wanted to reach out. When we met last year — albeit briefly — and you told me your story it stuck with me. It didn’t fit the pattern.
I had always seen in the news how domestic workers were being abused abroad, exploited for money by illegal recruiters or treated like second-class citizens by condescending employers. Awful, for sure, but as always these stories got a lot of media attention, then quickly fell out of the headlines. And nothing ever changed.
But your story was different. It surprised me. You migrated abroad to find work, and you actually had a pretty good family that you worked for. They gave you a day off, paid you a fair wage, and you were happy — for the most part.
It was your son who brought you back home.
As a mother working in another country, you were missing your son growing up, caring for him with your husband. You left to earn money for your family, to give your kid a better life, but it was bittersweet being so far from loved ones.
Finally, you came back home and found work, again as a domestic worker. You were able to be close to your family again. But this time your job threw you a curveball.
The family you worked for didn’t follow what you had initially agreed to do. Suddenly you were pressured into taking care of their kids 24 hours a day, staying at their house instead of going home to your own son. You had no time off, no rest. You had little bargaining power, and your employer wouldn’t listen to your concerns.
Their kids loved you, but was keeping this job worth being away from your own family? After all, that’s what drew you back home.
It was ironic, sad really, that you were abused in your own country. Stories like yours are rarely part of the national conversation on domestic workers’ rights — perhaps people just want to want to close their eyes to the fact that people from the same place can hurt each other. It’s easier to assign blame when the problem is far away.
I hope by now you’ve found a new family to work for, that your life has improved. And I hope that people start to realize that abuse of domestic workers isn’t just a problem abroad — it happens at home too.
IOM X is the International Organization for Migration's innovative campaign to encourage safe migration and public action to stop exploitation and human trafficking. The campaign is produced in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).