Monday, 6 December, 2021

Ensure safety of expatriate female workers

Ensure safety of expatriate female workers

At present, expatriate men as well as expatriate women are playing an important role in the economy of Bangladesh. The journey of women workers in exile started in 1991 with the sending of 189 women workers abroad. According to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) of the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment, there are currently about 1,26,44,056 expatriates in 173 countries, of which 8,00,432 are women workers. Among them, there are 3,32,204 workers in Saudi Arabia.

In a country with a large population, more than two million male and females are being added to the labour market every year, but the employment generation rate is much lower than this. As a result, we are forced to think about labour migration.

At present about a million Bangladeshi women are working abroad. Most of them are facing the burden of torture and poverty. It often comes to our notice in the news that many of them have to work non-stop for long periods of time, without being paid their salaries on time, without being allowed to eat properly and often returning home after admitting insecurity, rape, physical and mental abuse.

According to the Refugee and Migrant Movement Research Unit, most of the remittances that came during the Corona period came through women workers. Which is about 69 per cent. Although women workers send almost all of their income to the country, we are indifferent to this huge share of women workers’ needs. According to statistics, 35 per cent of women returning home from abroad have confessed to physical or sexual abuse and 44 per cent of women have not been paid their dues.

In the year 2020, 4,25,698 workers have returned home from abroad due to the Corona epidemic, out of which 50,619 are women. Of which 22,000 returned again back to Saudi Arabia. Most of these women admit to being tortured in one way or another. As a result, even after returning to the country, these women workers are being subjected to degrading behaviour and inhumane treatment in the family as well as socially.

A recent study by the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies entitled "Social and Economic Status of Migrant Women Workers Returning to the Country'', found that 55 per cent of female workers returned home physically and 29 per cent mentally ill and 6 per cent did not receive treatment for mental illness. In addition, 75 per cent have no savings, 63 per cent are failing to meet the needs of their families and 36 per cent are considered low-caste women in society.

Although they have gone to the Middle East as domestic workers, many women are being raped by their landlords. Some of the raped women are also giving birth to children. A woman has been forced to return home empty-handed after handing over her six-month-old child. There are many more women who have been raped but not given birth to any child. They did not get any solution even after going to the court. A few days ago, a child whose identity was unknown was found near the luggage belt at the airport. It is believed that the child's mother left the unidentified child at the airport after returning from abroad.

Moreover, a woman from Habiganj took a job as a housemaid in Saudi Arabia in the hope of changing her fortune. Her dream was shattered in 15 days. She fled the country to escape the torture of her landlord. Describing the torture, she said, "She did not give me food, she beat me and hit me with a spoon and spoke in bad language." When asked to leave the job and send to the Bangladesh embassy, the landlord did not do so and instead increased the level of torture.

Even after coming back to the country, she is in a bad situation, she is not getting her children after divorcing her husband and even her own family is not interested in taking her in. "My daughter is very ill. She was not allowed to communicate with anyone in the country while she was abroad. She was not fed. After going on like this for a while, she went completely crazy," said mother of Mamtaz, a foreign worker from Faridpur.

In the last five years, the bodies of 47 women workers have come to the country. Of these, seven committed suicide, 18 died of stroke and 61 died in accidents. A total of 115 deaths have been reported, most of them in Saudi Arabia. In addition to being corpses, many women have returned to the country after being deceived, physically, mentally and sexually abused according to the non-governmental organization BRAC and the Foundation for the People.

Even then, Bangladeshi women are going to different countries including the Middle East in the hope of changing their destiny. With the dream of giving transparency to the family. The foreign exchange reserves are smiling at the remittances sent by them. But the smiles on the faces of many of them are disappearing as the families concerned have fallen into a deep sea of trouble.

Women workers must be trained before being sent to the Middle East or other parts of the world. The government must provide all kinds of security to women workers. It is better for women to be sent as caregivers, garments workers or other occupations instead of being sent as domestic workers. And even if they go as domestic workers, they have to make sure to use their mobile phones. If there is any torture or harassment of women workers abroad, the system of providing assistance to them should be initiated immediately. Our country's embassies and government need to work to ensure their rights abroad. Just as women workers on foreign soil have to work to ensure their expected livelihood, they also need to undertake various programs, including rehabilitation, to ensure their normal life after returning to the country. The relevant embassies including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Overseas Employment and Expatriate Welfare, Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training must come forward to ensure safety and technical training of workers to increase their employment opportunities as well as protect the rights of migrant workers in line with the world market.


Kazi Farhana Islam, student, Jagannath University