Enduring Abuse and Returning home as a ‘Failure’: Experiences of Ethiopian Female Domestic Workers Trafficked to the Middle East

Selamawi Woldemichael | September 22 | 2:45 - 3:45 PM | Room 2591

Ethiopian women who are sent to the Middle East to work as domestic workers and send money home find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. When families send their daughters they place a heavy burden of high expectations on them particularly because most of the rural families from where domestic workers are recruited are poor and often borrow money that is used to finance the long and tedious process of migration. In cases where families have borrowed and invested money, migrants are forced to pay the debt. On arrival in the Middle East, they become subjected to conditions of slavery, imprisonment, physical and psychological abuses. However, the gravity of their suffering at the hands of their masters is considered insignificant compared to the poverty at home.

This study focuses on a large number of women who returned home sooner than expected. Some women that returned without fulfilling their obligations have experienced rejection by families and communities and a number have committed suicide. This study examines the experiences of returnees through the intersectionality of cultural gender perspectives in Ethiopia (women’s low social status); the dynamics of globalizing Arab world cities where local traditions and practices of slavery may have become fossilized; and poverty of rural communities in Ethiopia, which often forces families to put their daughters in the hands of unscrupulous traffickers.

The objective is to commence a discussion among conference participants about how intersectional identities of gender, race and class shape the experiences of female domestic workers.

About the Presenter