Happy to be home in Nepal

By |22 March 2012|

By Laura Sheahen

Thirty-year-old Madhu Tharu has been working for other people since she was a little girl. A bonded labourer in a village of bonded labourers, the Nepali woman basically belonged to her landlord. The system of serfdom that trapped her wasn’t abolished in Nepal until the early 2000s. So for years, she worked all day. Her brothers, at least, were allowed to go to school. As a kamalari–a servant girl– she wasn’t.

As teenagers, Madhu and thousands of girls like her were prime targets of traffickers, criminals who sell girls into forced prostitution or forced labour. As adults, women like Madhu are prime candidates for overseas work as housemaids. Uneducated and impoverished, they sometimes face physical and sexual abuse when working for Middle Eastern families in places like Kuwait.

Though some women do indeed earn money when they go abroad, the risks of migration are serious.  Even in the best […]

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    Alem’s life is over, but her story is not: ending domestic worker abuse in Lebanon

Alem’s life is over, but her story is not: ending domestic worker abuse in Lebanon

By |22 March 2012|

Recently, a viral video showing the abuse of an Ethiopian migrant in Lebanon shocked those who saw it. The Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center (CLMC) has worked with abused housemaids for years and sends us this timeline in the life of Alem, who was known to CLMC staff. By Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center Staff Like over 200,000 migrant women in Lebanon, Alem Dechasa-Desisa, a 33-year-old Ethiopian, made the difficult choice to leave her family and two children, and come to Lebanon as a housemaid to improve her family’s living conditions. Unlike many women who are able to realise this dream, Alem faced the harsh reality that some domestic migrant workers experience in Lebanon. In the video, Alem’s employment agent showed publically, in the streets of Beirut, the same treatment that some employers keep secret and hidden. Before LBCI news released the video on 8 March, the International Woman’s Day, the TV […]

Dangerous trains

By |16 March 2012|

Trains are the main means of transport used by migrants from Central America to cross Mexico and reach the border with the United States. But climbing onto their roofs or perching between two rail cars is a dangerous undertaking.
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    On board trains to the United States, migrants are not alone

On board trains to the United States, migrants are not alone

By |16 March 2012|

It is 7:30pm, in Amatlan, in the province of Cordoba Veracruz. The train whistle blows in the distance. In Norma Romero Vazquez’ kitchen, headquarters of the “Patronas ”, women bustle about.. Carmen, 90, the oldest of the women in the family, takes a crate filled with bags of food.

Along with her daughters and granddaughters, Carmen goes to the railway that passes about ten meters away from her house. Over a distance of a kilometer, the fifteen women share the crates out between themselves. When the light of the train appears, they get as close as possible to the tracks and stretch out their arms laden with food bags. “God bless you”, cry the migrants aboard the goods train. In a few minutes, the train has gone. Back to Norma’s kitchen.

For over 15 years, Carmen, Norma and the others have been handing out food, clothing and medicines to the migrants on […]

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    Caritas in Mexico: Standing alongside migrants who are hostage to violence

Caritas in Mexico: Standing alongside migrants who are hostage to violence

By |16 March 2012|

Criminal gangs are not the only danger that migrants must face. Private security forces responsible for the protection of trains and goods, and some representatives of the State (federal police, migration officers) also take part in exploiting the weakness of migrants.

Home alone in Nepal

By |16 March 2012|

By Laura Sheahen “Where’s your mother?” Usually when you ask small children this question, the answer is predictable: At home. At the market. At work, a few kilometres or a drive away. In villages of Nepal, a deeply impoverished country on India’s northeast border, children answer differently. “In Kuwait.” “In Saudi.” “She’s in a foreign country.” Mahesh Upadhaya is older—he’s 17. “My mother went to Saudi Arabia for two years. I was 15 when she left,” says Mahesh, who lives in an area of western Nepal called Bardiya. “When my mother wasn’t here, I couldn’t go to school. I had to do chores and work in the fields.” Mahesh’s father is deaf, and as the oldest of five children, Mahesh had to help the family get by until his mother began sending home the money she earned as a maid for a Saudi Arabian family. About 200,000 Nepali women like […]

Bhutanese refugees in Nepal: A day in the life

By |13 March 2012|

In the early 1990s the country of Bhutan, in the Himalayas, forcibly drove out over 100,000 ethnic Nepalis they claimed were not true citizens. These Bhutanese refugees ended up in eastern Nepal as migrants in limbo. Required to stay in refugee camps, they’ve lived for 20 years without electricity or good health care. The camp residents are also vulnerable to underhand job offers. In March 2012, photographer Katie Orlinsky and Laura Sheahen of Caritas Internationalis visited the camps with Rupa Rai, who runs safe migration programmes for Caritas Nepal. 8:00 As we drive along the road to the camp, we see refugee men bicycling into the nearby town of Damak for work like bricklaying. At the camp entrance, we pass a dozen thatched-roof kiosks with Western Union signs. Many refugees have finally been admitted into countries like the USA, Australia, and Canada. Some are doing well and are sending money […]

Domestic worker abuse: Battered, bruised but back in Nepal

By |8 March 2012|

By Laura Sheahen, “When I got home, my family saw my condition and cried.” Twenty-four-year old Damber Kumari Gurung had left her village in Nepal for Saudi Arabia to work as a maid. More than a year later, she came back covered with bruises. She’d worked long hours in a private Saudi home, getting about four hours of sleep each night as she struggled to keep up with the cooking, cleaning and washing. The family she worked for rarely paid her, and when she asked for her salary, they sent her back to the employment agents in Riyadh. She can’t say exactly what happened next. She remembers fighting back when they tried to strip her, and ripping one of the agent’s shirts. When she arrived at the airport in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, she was black and blue. “I was crying bitterly. People surrounded me,” she says. A woman at the […]

Justice and care for migrant women

By |7 March 2012|

More women than ever before are migrating alone in search of a better life, but Caritas Internationalis says systems aren’t in place to prevent them from being exploited or abused. In a report published today, Caritas says governments and social services dealing with migration need to address migrant women’s needs.

In its report The female face of migration: advocacy and best practices for women who migrate and the families they leave behind, Caritas documents the challenges faced by some of over 104 million women who are seeking opportunities outside their homelands and travelling independently from their families. Some find better jobs, education opportunities and greater freedoms. But too frequently on their journey and upon arrival they are cheated, abused, raped or discriminated against.

“We urgently need to change the way we think about women’s migration,” says Caritas Internationalis Advocacy and Policy Director Martina Liebsch, “because the current system is failing to protect […]

Female face of migration

By |7 March 2012|

When impoverished women decide to leave their countries to work abroad, they often are deceived or abused. Smugglers and human traffickers may exploit them, forcing them to work as unpaid prostitutes or beggars. Women who become domestic workers are sometimes beaten, overworked, or not paid. Many women leave behind their own families to care for others, making their children vulnerable. The Female Face of Migration, a report by Caritas Internationalis, describes the problems that migrant women face. Explore this page to learn more: read the policy paper, get to know to stories of four women, and play our interactive game “Follow the Migrant Woman” to see what choices you would make if you were a poor woman going abroad.

Migrants risk all to cross from Mexico to the US

By |7 March 2012|

Human smuggling is a boom business according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, with the profits in the billions (over $32 billion in 2005). Caritas Internationalis says that while every country has the right to regulate immigration, restrictive measures are simply encouraging people to resort to more dangerous and expensive channels of migration.
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    Drugged, kidnapped and enslaved in brothel: how one Nepalese woman fought back

Drugged, kidnapped and enslaved in brothel: how one Nepalese woman fought back

By |7 March 2012|

By Laura Sheahen “In the brothel, there were no windows. The only light was from the lightbulb—that was the sun and the moon for us.” Charimaya Tamang grew up in the hill country of Nepal, working on her family’s farm. She was used to the outdoors and sunshine and freedom. But after waking from a drugged sleep thousands of miles from her village, the sixteen-year-old was shut in a room behind three doors, each one locked after the other. Unlike most girls from rural Nepal, Charimaya knew early on that the men who eventually abducted her were criminals. One had approached her in her village, complimenting her intelligence and her classroom work, suggesting she leave her home for better opportunities. “They’d say, ‘You have potential, you could work in a business,’” she remembers. But Charimaya had read in a book about human traffickers who buy and sell unsuspecting people into […]

A future for Congo’s women

By |27 February 2012|

“Karibu, welcome,” said Adèle. She and a dozen other women are hard at work in a field beside the Goma to Rutshuru Road in North Kivu, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Adèle is an agronomist and also heads three associations supported by a Caritas project to rehabilitate women war victims.

“We’ve planted peanut seeds and we’re in the process of taking out the weeds so they don’t overrun the place,” she said. “When Caritas launched the project, 60 women were involved. We were given peanut, bean and pea seeds. After the first harvests we bought some maize seeds. Look at what they’ve turned into. We have two hectares of fine maize that we’ll soon be able to harvest.”

Marie-José is one of the women who have benefited. “When I joined the association, I wasn’t in very good shape,” she said. “My husband had been killed and all our property had been […]

‘They’ve sold you’: sex trafficking in Nepal

By |27 February 2012|

To mark the launch of a new Caritas report on the female face of migration, communications officer Laura Sheahen and photographer Katie Orlinsky travelled to Nepal to document the trafficking of young girls and women. Follow their journey.
By Laura Sheahen 

“We girls were hidden under floorboards during police raids. There were ten girls there — it was so cramped you couldn’t breathe.” Rekha* was fourteen when she left her homeland of Nepal for India, saying yes when a friend’s mother offered her domestic work abroad. But when Rekha reached India, there was no maid job. Instead, she found herself in a dark room with many other girls. “I cried a lot. I didn’t even know how to speak Hindi,” she remembers. “I met another Nepalese girl, and she said, ‘They’ve sold you.’”

Over the course of 18 months, Rekha was sold into three different brothels. In the last one, she convinced […]

U-turn Ukraine: There’s no place like home

By |27 February 2012|

Oxana had left Ukraine to join her husband. He had gone to Brussels to look for work after being made redundant and with the lack of job opportunities at home.

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