The Philippines Embassy Takes the Lead in Protecting its Migrant Workers in Kuwait

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Having read the recent Jenny's Story in The Arab Times, as well as an article published today in The Kuwait Times by Ben Garcia that gave an estimate that 5 to 10 Filipina maids a day flee their employers. More importantly, the Philippines Embassy seems to have a vested concern about the condition of their female labourers in the country.

More than any other embassy that I have heard of so far, the Philippines Embassy utilizes the press very actively to shed light on abuses, a tactic that so far seems to be successful as it seems to provided positive encouragement for journalists to write more about these malpractices. I do not see other embassies nearly as vocal in terms of decrying the abuses experienced by their domestic workers in Kuwait.

They have helped move many articles on worker's rights awareness from the Opinion section and the Law and Order section into in-depth local reports. With the latest article today from the Kuwait Times, I also noticed a deliberate tactic to personalize and relate the account from the perspective of the abused maids. The reporter interviewed various mothers at the Filipino Workers Resource Center to hear their side of the story. I am highlighting the case of Yasmeen, as mentioned in the article:

"3-year-old Yasmin is the mother of a four-and-a-half year old daughter. She first sought the embassy's help on October 12, 2005, with her case possibly being the longest-ever battle in this category. Her husband refused to give her his consent when she wished to return to her native country with her then one-year-old daughter. Since then, her case has been in the hands of the Ministry of Interior.

When she first had her daughter, the father denied that the baby was his, but eventually he recognized her as his child and he and Yasmin were married in a Kuwaiti court. Yasmin was thankful that her mother-in-law supported her, ensuring that her daughter obtained a Kuwaiti passport. However, when she asked permission to return home to the Philippines with her daughter, her husband refused to give his consent, leaving her no choice but seek the embassy's assistance. According to Yasmin, her moved was triggered by husband's harsh treatment.

He would lock me up in the house and told me that if I leaved he would cut off my legs. I was afraid. I thank my mother-in-law, who supported me at least. She (the mother-in-law) brought me here to the embassy. I don't want to go home to the Philippines without my daughter. The police told me to just get permission from my husband so I could leave with my daughter, but my husband would not cooperate. So I've been here [at the embassy] with my daughter for almost four years now," Yasmin explained. Yasmin was also grateful to the embassy for providing her with shelter and food while she awaits her husband's decision.

I am very grateful to the embassy for providing me with a home [free of charge] for almost four years now. Much as I want to go back home, I cannot leave my daughter here alone," she said. Yasmin's estranged Kuwaiti husband is her former employer's son."

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