Life has been a rollercoaster of challenges, victories, and heartbreaks—a journey carved with resilience, sacrifice, and an unwavering pursuit of a better life for my family.
I am Anne, a mother from the humble country of the Philippines and a migrant domestic worker in the UK.
It all began with the sale of my family's coconut farm, leaving us with neither farmland nor financial stability. Marrying a sailor, I weathered the storms of a painful marriage for the sake of my five children. The year 2006 brought legal separation, a decision that tore my heart into pieces, as I could only take one child while the others remained with their father.
Determined to provide for my family, I sought opportunities abroad, leading me to Qatar in 2007. However, this new chapter was far from ideal. The agency treated me as if I were a prisoner, subjecting me to grueling work hours and conditions that seemed designed to break my spirits. I complained to the agency and left the job after 25 days.
My journey continued with fresh challenges and opportunities. As a domestic worker in Qatar, I faced demanding employers and unfulfilled promises of a work holiday leave, day off and rest. Despite the hardships, I pressed on, changing employers and eventually finding work in Qatar again in 2013.
After a trip back to the Philippines, where my family experienced many tragedies, I returned to my employer in Qatar in 2017. His eldest son needed chemotherapy in London. My visa was processed, I signed documents without reading them, and I travelled to the UK. Despite a signed contract for a 3,000 Riyals salary, I received only £340 a month — the equivalent of 1,600 Riyals. I endured monitoring, a salary discrepancy, and faced inappropriate behaviour of a personal nature from my employer’s brother, who threatened my life if I reported it.
Despite trauma, I stayed busy, cared for the child, and played music to cope. I was denied medical help that I required, and I returned to Qatar briefly but faced pressure to come back to the UK. My employer’s brother's return led to further abuse. Breaking free from this cycle of abuse in November 2018 was a turning point. A compassionate British woman offered me refuge, and though I was unaware of my rights and with no legal documents, I began my journey to find support. The Voice of Domestic Workers entered my life in 2019, becoming a lifeline for legal support and resources.
I have been awaiting my National Referral Mechanism (NRM) conclusive ground decision since I received my positive reasonable ground decision in 2020. My story shows how strong migrant workers are, but we need systemic change and support, such as legal representation to protect our rights and adequate psychological and counselling for our well-being.
Many fellow migrant domestic workers become undocumented while waiting for first responder services to clear. Many fail to pass into the NRM assessment without evidence and witnesses to support their testimonies. The NRM system is designed for the protection of victims of trafficking and not for the group of vulnerable domestic workers whose rights were stripped way back in 2012. The real issue and problem is that for more than a decade, migrant domestic workers have been trapped in the cycle of violence and exploitation taking away our basic rights and livelihood, unable to rebuild our broken lives.
As I reflect on my ability to bounce back from tough times, my journey is not just about me. It mirrors the journeys of many fellow domestic workers and migrant women too. This isn't just about what happens behind closed doors; it's about creating a world where every woman, in every community, can live without the fear of harm. I am fighting for my own survival against the environment this government has created. But I can no longer suffer in silence. We move toward a future where no one is voiceless.
At The Voice of Domestic Workers, we campaign against violence and exploitation to bring about lasting change for women and domestic workers everywhere. This organisation is more than a support system; it's a beacon of hope, offering a platform for voices that would otherwise go unheard. My experiences highlight the pervasive issue of violence against women, particularly in the context of migrant workers. My story aligns with the global campaign to address violence against women, urging society to confront and eradicate these injustices so migrant women and migrant domestic workers can participate actively and be part of the solution process that ends violence against women. Migrant women and migrant domestic workers are stepping up and rising. We deserve to be heard and deserve to be safe.
About the author
Anne was born in the Philippines, and is a mother of five and
grandmother of two. She decided to work overseas to support her children and to give them a good and successful life. She was brought by her employer from the Middle East to London, where she managed to escape after suffering abuse and exploitation. She has been an active member of VODW since February 2019, who referred me to the NRM and offered free English classes.
In her free time, Anne likes to watch funny movies and television shows, as well as read books and talk to her family back home in the Philippines.