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Don't I deserve Kindness?

By Katie Angeles

On International Human Rights Day, I want to ask this question,'' Don't I deserve kindness? ''

This is because I never experienced being treated as a human being but a slave. I have been working with this British Family for 2 Months now. Two weeks ago, my employer asked me to live in even I am a live-out domestic worker. They want me to look after them and their children who are all suffering from covid19. They didn't even inform me before I came to work and it's too late for me to back out. After 2 weeks, it is me who now succumbed to the virus, my employer asked me to leave but who will take me in when I am already positive in COVID19? I couldn't blame anyone if they refused because they might get it from me too. We all know how deadly this coronavirus is. I found a room where I could quarantine myself in the next 2 weeks and I also know The Voice of Domestic Workers will deliver food and medicine for me. I am not so scared of this virus because I am vaccinated, thank you VODW for your efforts to ensure we are all vaccinated even the Government is not helpful.

My employer from Pakistan brought me here to the UK in 2013 to work with his son and his family including extended family. Back in Pakistan before coming here to London, when my employer told me that he was taking me to London, I couldn’t say no even though I didn't know what would happen to me in London and also I needed to earn a living in order to survive children and my ill mother. The secretary of my employer accompanied me to apply for a visa in the British embassy in Pakistan. The officer just received my documents and signed them. They didn’t say anything, I was told by my employer to just say ‘yes’ to everything. I signed in the contract the salary was £800 a Month with free food and accommodation. They told me that when the British embassy asked me about the salary, I should say £800 per Month in order for me to get the visa. But the embassy didn’t question me or tell me anything about my situation in the UK.

In London where my employer handed over me to his son and daughter-in-law, I never had time to rest. The baby was already a 24 hours job, I was still being forced to work in the flat of my employer’s mother-in-law. I wanted to say ‘no’ because I was hungry and tired from long hours of travel but I wasn’t allowed to say ‘’no’’. I asked where I could sleep. They told me in the baby’s room because I had to look after the baby at night also. The room has no other bed but for a baby only so I slept on the floor with just a piece of cloth. Even though I didn't have proper sleep, I had to wake up at 6.30 AM to prepare breakfast for them. I was also humiliated when they told me to eat their left-over food. I ate the leftover because I was very hungry. After a month, I was expecting a pay of £800 but I received only £200 and with that salary, I had to buy my own food. I had to buy food when we went out together because I wasn’t allowed to go out alone. I had no day off, the baby was with me all the time and I had to do the housework also when the baby was sleeping. I struggled a lot in London because I also have to work with the mother in law. My contact with my family was very limited, I needed their permission and the time of talking to my family was limited too.

August 2013 after we went home to Pakistan from London, I begged to let me go home to see my own family in the Philippines but also I felt my body would collapse already, I needed a break and rest. I was given 2 weeks only instead of 1 Month in the contract. But also the money I had was a loan to my employer so even though I didn't want to return I had to because of this loan. I didn’t have enough, the little money that I have was quickly finished for the needs of my own family and my mother. Being back to my family reminded me why I had to live them in 2012 to work in another country as a domestic worker. As a young child, I experienced severe poverty because my parents couldn't afford a decent living and education for me and my 2 siblings. My father was a carpenter and my mother was a launderer and we could hardly eat twice a day. I tried to make my life differently when I had my own family and have my own 3 children. I worked hard to add up to the earnings of my husband. Our life was not prosperous but we were eating three times a day. But then my mother was diagnosed with Diabetes and my father became very ill and died of lung cancer. I was forced to sell our house but this wasn't enough to cover the medical expenses. I have children to feed, we had to rent a house, I could see I was going to witness my own family in severe poverty again. I didn’t want my Mum to die, I wanted her to get better. Although my sister was in Pakistan already, she had her own family to feed also so she couldn’t help us.

I decided to work abroad, I didn’t want my family to suffer from hunger. I wanted my mum to live. I needed to be strong because working abroad would mean leaving my family behind for years where I didn’t know I would see them again. My aunt was working in Pakistan and she helped find an employer and she had to find an agency and then this agency had a partner agency in the Philippines. This agency processed my visa. I never had a chance to talk to the employer because it was my aunt who discussed everything but also because I will be joining my sister with the same employer who was expecting a third child. My children were very young when I left them. They were 6, 10, and 12 Years old (now they are 15, 20, and 23 Years old).

In January 2012, I went to Ninoy Aquino International Airport. I arrived in Pakistan on the same day. The driver picked me up at the airport and he immediately took my passport and documents. He took me to the house of my employer’s mother. It was a huge house. I was told to work as soon as I arrived without rest and food. I had no choice but to follow the instructions of the mother. I stayed and worked here for one Month. I didn’t receive any salary and I wasn’t allowed to go out. My employer picked me up and we lived in the city, I arrived there and my sister was there which was a relief. I was in charge of taking care of the 4 Years old boy while my sister was the nanny of the 2 Years old girl. My employer wasn’t really good, for every little mistake she would shout and call me stupid and also would gossip about it. I would cry with my sister but I think my sister was immune already because she put up with this abuse for 4 Years because her family needs her income so even though it was difficult, she had no option but to keep going. After 2 Months my sister had an argument with my employer and because of this, my sister escaped. There’s nothing I could do about this and even though I didn't know my sister was gone already, I tried to call her but her phone was off. When my sister was gone, all the work became mine including the new baby. My employer became very cruel too. I was heavily guarded because she thought I run-away also like my sister. I wasn’t allowed to have a day off. I would wake up at 6.30 and get ready for the children’s breakfast and go to school. I had to take them to school and pick them up from school. My breakfast is every day's bread. My salary was only $300 per month (equivalent to 50,257 Rupees and 14,567 in the Philippines Peso). I was not allowed to eat their food so I was given 2,500 Pakistani Rupees for food allowance (724 pesos) per month which was not enough so I had to be thrifty in food. My salary was not given every month but every 3 to 4 months. My family wouldn’t survive without my Monthly salary. I had school children and a very ill mother to support. It was stressful to work hard without a salary, I had to beg my employer all the time to give me my salary. I told my children to focus on their studies despite the hardship because that’s the only ‘’treasure’’ I could give them that no one could take away. After 6 Months, My sister contacted me so I told her to help me escape because I couldn’t take the abuse anymore, and also I was overworked. My sister helped me to escape. I didn't have my passport because my employer had kept my passport and was never given it to me. I was only wearing my uniform on the day I escaped, I had nothing.

In October 2012, I found a new employer with a better salary than the previous job. My salary was £400 per Month (66,953 Pakistan Rupees and 19,428 in Philippine peso). I was happy that I thought I could work longer in this employer but my aunt found out where I worked. I thought my aunt was helping me but actually, my aunt received a commission from the agency and even took money from my first employer. My aunt reported me to my previous employer who threatened to file a case against me and my aunt if I refused to return to my first employer so I was forced to return. I was scared so I didn’t have a choice.

In December 2012, I went back to my first employer. They promised me that they would treat me better and that they would give me my salary every month But they lied and didn’t give me my salary and treated me very badly. But they lied and didn’t give me my salary and treated me very badly.

In May 2013, My sister helped me again to escape from my abusive employer and found me a new job. My salary was 75,323 Rupees which is equivalent to 21,856 in the Philippines Peso. He was good and he even helped me get a new passport. This employer was the one who brought me to London to work with his son and his family.

In 2016, My employer told me to apply for a visa again because we're going back to London. I was financially dependent on my job that I couldn’t afford to lose because my children were all studying and my mother was sick. Even my employer was taking advantage of my situation knowing I couldn’t say ‘’no’’ even if I wanted to. The treatment was the same, I was not given a proper salary. I had to work with my employer's mother-in-law. The children became bigger and heavier and had less sleep so managing the housework and cooking was even harder. There were times I was very ill and they didn’t even bring me to see a doctor, I had to buy my own medicine whenever I went out with them. I was never left alone on my own and I didn’t even know where I was whenever we went out because my eyes are on the 2 kids. In this family, even though I was very ill, I had to work.

I told my godparent about my worst situation and she contacted my cousin who happened to be here in London. My cousin helped me to escape. But then my cousin was not kind to me either because she used me to cover for her work so she could go for her annual holiday. When she was back from holiday, she asked me to pay back all the clothes that she gave me. Later on, my cousin kicked me out of the house even though I was sharing a rent. I told her I had nowhere to go and that she’s my only family but she said she didn’t care because she already helped me escape from my abusive employer.

I walked out of the house not knowing where to go, I just walked and walked until I found a church. My mind was blank and I was traumatised as well because my employer kept on calling and threatening me that she would punish my sister. I was very worried about the safety of my sister in Pakistan. I didn’t notice that the bicycle came on my way and hit me badly. Though I was hurt and injured, I didn’t report to the police because I was scared that my employer would find me. I called my family and told them about me, they were very worried. My daughter’s sponsor in school in the Philippines was British so my daughter contacted her sponsor to help me and she did help me but then she didn’t know what to do about my situation so I just carried on working. I had to work to survive. Many abusive employers abused me all those years, sometimes I never received a salary, I experienced being shouted out and was forced to work with 4 families including other houses that are rented out with very little pay because I knew nothing about the law here. I already believed that I’m truly a slave because no one was treating me as a human being. I thought I would be ok here in London but many employers abuse me the same as the Pakistani family. I didn't know about my rights so they took advantage of my situation.

It was pandemic when I found out about The Voice of Domestic Workers (VODW). During the lockdown, VODW supported me financially and delivered food whenever I needed to. I am tired of being abused so I asked VODW what I should do. I am hoping I could still make things right for me so people would treat me as a human being, don’t I deserve kindness too?

Being active with The Voice of Domestic Workers (VODW) educated me since it started on physical classes in October 2021. They helped me understand the bigger picture of my vulnerability is linked to the removal of rights on the Overseas Domestic Worker Visa in 2012. Employers abused me because the system itself allows them. When I managed to escape from abusive employment, there was nothing that could protect me, I didn't know where I should seek help about my work condition. I know, I am in good hands now because I could access classes through VODW and I am also accessing counseling to help me recover from trauma and stress. I also meet my fellow domestic workers every Sunday, I am happy that I have family and friends. I have written my story because I want the people and the UK government to understand us and listen so they restore the rights they have taken from us.

Pledge your Support to reinstate the pre-2012 Overseas Domestic Worker Visa

Read the response to the letter of the Home Secretary Priti Patel, MP, Minister for Future Borders and Immigration Kevin Foster, MP, and Minister for Safeguarding Rachel Mclean, MP

Response to Kevin Foster 10 12 2021
Download PDF • 554KB

Pledge your Support to reinstate the pre-2012 Overseas Domestic Worker Visa

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