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On the 7th of September, 2022 the body of the late Grace Atieno’s was laid to rest after arriving in Kenya on the 1st of September 2022. The body had been detained in Saudi Arabia for three months after Grace Atieno died under unclear circumstances. The burial took place in Alego Kogelo Siaya County, at Uhuru Mbeja Mwanda’s ancestral home, who is her father. The burial was poorly attended because the family had long settled in Likoni Mombasa and had little contacts with relatives in their ancestral home.

Many families have been in the same situation where they end up burying their loved ones whose only “crime” was poverty.  A state that drove them to seek greener pastures in the gulf nations only for them to come back in caskets. Unfortunately, none of these deaths, and in what is turning out to be killing fields is ever investigated to conclusion.

When a young Kenyan woman leaves home for the middle east, and in this case Saudi Arabia, she is full of hopes and unfulfilled dreams. She leaves her home country knowing that she will be able to find a good decent job, make money and snatch her family off the claws of poverty. She heads out to a completely new land, new culture and new people, different system. For such women, most available opportunities are informal employment that some will call house management. They become house helps.

Well, this usually doesn’t happen. A few become successful and find decent well-paying jobs, support their families and even transform their lifestyles. On another side, one faces a life full of misery immediately on arrival, they fall into the hands of employers who turn their service into Modern Slavery. Such women travel to Saudi Arabia in search of greener pastures but instead suffer and get mistreated in the hands of their employers. In some cases, phones, Identification and travel documents get confiscated by their employers, making it impossible for them to move around and communicate freely . In some instances, they are denied the right to leave the house compound and even go through physical and sexual abuse. But these cases go unreported. The only available mechanism for the victims to report is through their agents. This is because mostly the Kenyan embassy turns deaf ears to these cases.

Kenya has seen a number of these cases where women subjected to inhumane and dilapidated working conditions have come out to speak and even share their deplorable working conditions on social media. Just last week, two women were brought back home after the media highlighted their plight while working in Saudi Arabia as house helps. This was only possible after a nationwide social media outrage and the public questioning the involvement of the Kenyan Embassy in Saudi Arabia.

Muslims For Human Rights (MUHURI) has been on the forefront of following up such case and in the case of the late Grace Atieno, her case was brought to attention by her family who were in agony of losing their love one and denied the opportunity to have the body without proper and official communication from the Kenyan and Saudi Arabi’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Kenyan Embassy in Saudi Arabia. Kenya must negotiate better working conditions for its citizens in Saudi Arabia.  It must work on ensuring that citizens traveling to the Gulf in search of greener pastures are protected and their rights respected, It must work toward ending the torture, the killings and the modern-day slavery that it’s citizens face while working in the Gulf Nations.