KAMPALA – Female domestic workers who have previously served in the Middle East have asked the government to work out technicalities with its Saudi counterparts before considering the option of suspending activities of labour recruitment agencies.
This comes after cabinet yesterday contemplated placing a total ban on labour export, particularly to the Middle East.
According to the cabinet spokesperson Chris Baryomunsi, the decision followed several reports of untold suffering that Ugandans undergo while working abroad, with the Middle East being pointed out.
Addressing the media on July 14, at Hotel Africana in Kampala yesterday, the women shared that there are a wide range of factors that enticed them into seeking employment in the Middle East such as unemployment, the high cost of living among others.
Fatuma Nakate of Kasawo in Kayunga District, a beneficiary of Middle East employment noted that she went to Saudi Arabia in 2015 when the monthly salary was Shs 750,000 but she worked tirelessly until her salary was increased to Shs900,000.
She attributed the increment to the good working relationship she established with her bosses which enabled her to always speak out in case she met challenges.
Nakate asked the Ugandan government to at least negotiate a fair deal for all Ugandans in Saudi Arabia to earn some good money as their colleagues from Ethiopian and other countries who do the same jobs like them (Ugandans) but end up earning fat salaries.
Betty Namugosa a resident of Buwenge Sub-county in Jinja district, another beneficiary who has worked in the Middle East for four years revealed that for many years before travelling to Saudi Arabia, she had tried out several jobs but she continued staying in a miserable state.
She urged all those planning to and those working in foreign countries to maintain a high degree of discipline as well as respect for their bosses because it is the only way through which they can gain a conducive working environment.
“I had separated with my husband for mistreating me and he left me with the responsibility of taking care of our four children. I have used the money I have been earning for the four years of my two contracts to educate my children as well as setting up a catering service business as my side income,” she said.
In a meeting with labour export sector players on July 13, Minister Betty Amongi shared that cabinet is hell-bent on suspending labour externalisation unless they can prove to the president that suffering of Ugandans abroad will end.
“To the cabinet, the number one complaint is mistreatment, this year alone, we have received 300 cases of mistreatment and the second is sexual harassment,” Amongi said.
She said that the cabinet was divided on this issue as the majority of the cabinet ministers called for a total ban of labour export in the country, while others proposed that the sector should be temporarily suspended as the government puts in place stringent measures to address the key concerns.
A report from the Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA) indicated that approximately 350,000 Ugandans work in the Middle East doing both domestic and non-domestic jobs.