Women from across Malawi share their experiences of surviving human trafficking.
My name is Emily and I am 29 years old. I truly regret travelling to Kuwait. I didn’t know at the time that I was being sold as a slave and it was just by God’s grace that I managed to escape and return home. My friend introduced me to an employment agency in Malawi known as Asepter Business Solutions that was making arrangements for Malawian girls to travel to Kuwait for employment.
I visited the agency and was told to contribute $20.00 for the trip and that the rest was going to be sorted by them. I pleaded with them that I could not afford to contribute the money, but could raise $5.00 to get to the hospital for an HIV test. I was told that the agent will get the balance and travelling expenses from her salary in Kuwait.
I departed Malawi together with 10 other girls on 12 June 2016 and arrived in Kuwait on 13 June 2016.
My employer ill-treated me from day one. I was eating leftovers, had no off duty time, and was not allowed to go out of the compound. I was not being called by my name, but instead called “Khadama” which means slave.
The father of the house started making sexual advances on me. He used to call me when he was in the bathroom. Sometimes he used to knock on my bedroom door during the night. When the mother was away and no children were around, he used to sit in his underwear in the lounge when I was there cleaning. He once asked if I knew how to do massages, but I refused.
When he realised that it was not possible for him to sleep with me, he started calling me “Haiwana” which means animal.
Months passed without receiving my salary. Every time I asked about it, I was told one story after another. After I had been working for a year, my boss told me that she was going to give me the whole salary at the end of her contract. I was never taken to hospital whenever I felt sick, but instead was just given painkillers and had to carry on with my duties without resting.
In December 2017 the whole family went out and — as usual — locked me inside the house. However, I bribed the guard with stolen food to open the door and I escaped to the Malawi embassy in Kuwait.
My mother sold some of my belongings at home to raise money for my return ticket and arrived in Malawi on 16 February 2018.
I am a 15-year-old girl named Esther and I come from the remote area of Neno district. I was recruited by a trafficker who came to my village in the usual way of looking for girls to fill domestic worker jobs in town. My friend and I accepted as we dreamt of a better life. We travelled to Blantyre where, surprisingly, the recruiter told us we would be required to work at his pub and sell beer, while also serve men as sex workers.
As it was our first time in the city, and we had nothing in terms of money, we stayed at the pub for two months. It was two horrible months of serving men, sexually. I recall having sex with eight men a day. We were poorly fed and slept in terrible conditions. We were often assaulted by the pub owner if we did not sleep with as many men.
When we could not handle it any longer, my friend and I escaped. We walked 10 miles to find a police station. At the police station, they recorded our statements and we were kept there for four days as we waited to appear in a court of law. However, a relative of the accused person abducted us from police on the very day we were supposed to testify in court. We were taken to a nearby bush where we were threatened to be killed with a knife if we did not agree to escape from the police.
I was traced by a local NGO, People Serving Girls At Risk (PSGR Malawi), through a newspaper article. PSGR Malawi took me to the hospital where I received treatment for sexually transmitted infections. The organisation has also linked me up with experts to receive psycho-social counselling and psychiatric treatment. I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Today, I am responding well to the treatment and my case has since returned to court. We hope for justice.
*Stories edited for clarity
Malawi Network against Trafficking in Person (MNAT)
Address: Private Bag 345, Lilongwe, Malawi
Phone: +265 21 2 278215
Catholic Development Commission in Malawi (CADECOM)
Phone: +265 99 6 382232 / +265 88 8 849401
Young Women Christian Association of Malawi (YWCA)
Phone: +265 88 1 151091 / +265 99 1 041424
People Serving Girls At Risk
Phone: +265 88 8 555570
National Officer (Mixed Migration) /Liaison, International Organisation for Migration (IOM)
Address: Lilongwe — Malawi
Plot №156 Area 14
Off Presidential Highway
P.O Box 31305
Phone: +265 99 5 313007