Caritas staff members and colleagues from six continents were in Rome for Caritas Internationalis governance meetings this week. They also had time to see a photo exhibit showcasing Caritas’ work to stop human trafficking and unsafe migration. The exhibit, hosted at the residence of U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Miguel Diaz and funded by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, featured images of young women in Nepal who are at risk of being trafficked. The photographs, which were taken by Katie Orlinsky, showed rural and urban scenes of women in Nepal, one of Asia’s poorest countries. Caritas members around the world work together to raise awareness of false job advertising and other tactics that traffickers use to lure women into unsafe situations.
In summer 2011, when famine and violence were engulfing her country, Fadumo “Mama” Sharif Mohamed left Somalia with her husband and ten children. On their eight-day trek to the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, militia attacked them and they lost the family’s food. Her children, like thousands of others, suffered from malnutrition. But she and her family made it to the refugee camp and were put in a section called Kambioos, where Catholic Relief Services (a Caritas member based in the USA) is working to build and improve water systems. Fadumo became a leader as she settled into camp life. She was the founding member of the MIDNIMO women’s group, which began with 25 people and today has 183 members. The group does basket weaving, woodcarving, and henna decorating, and also bakes traditional bread. Due to strong management, the women’s group is able to successfully earn money by selling their […]
In Asia’s slums or impoverished villages, women and teenage girls will listen when a well-dressed stranger offers them a job. In Nepal, a poor country on the northeast border with India, thousands of young women leave their homes in search of work abroad. Sometimes the jobs offered are legitimate—the women earn money and help their families. But sometimes they are sold by human traffickers and are forced to work for free. In the worst cases, they are beaten or forced into prostitution. Click on the photo to the left to see an audiovisual feature about the problem—and to find out what Caritas is doing to help. Photos by Katie Orlinsky or Laura Sheahen Audio by Laura Sheahen
What is human trafficking? Human trafficking is a crime in which traffickers deceive and recruit people, often across national borders, for the purpose of exploitation (forced labour, beggary, prostitution or removal of organs). Traffickers often lure impoverished victims with false promises of good jobs. When a person is working against their will, is not being paid, and is unable to leave--or if the conditions of their work are not regulated--they may be victims of trafficking. Where is Nepal and what is happening in Nepal? Nepal is an extremely poor country on the northeast border with India. Due to poverty and lack of jobs, many Nepali people consider working abroad to earn money for their families. What kinds of fake jobs are being offered? Unscrupulous employment agents in Nepal might offer teenage girls work as a housemaid, or offer to make them a movie star in India. Other agents offer men construction jobs in the [...]
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 [...]
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 […]
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 [...]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 [...]
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.