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Thirst for income: Tragedy of Kenyan women

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Somewhere in Hong Kong, four Kenyan women who flew to the Asian city to work as househelps are living in a dormitory-style cubicle.

They are in a group of nine sharing the cubicle that has been offered by a Christian charity as they await the conclusion of court cases they have filed against their former employers. The five other occupants come from Indonesia and the Philippines.

Hope took them there. In the city that is a special administrative region of China, the minimum and compulsory monthly wage for a househelp from another country is 4,630 Hong Kong dollars, equal to Sh63,242.

Add that to the fact that the employer is supposed to offer accommodation and food and the total is a city that is a coveted destination for people interested in domestic work.

Aware that Hong Kong is an attractive workplace, unscrupulous persons have found ways to make a killing, what led to the four women to go there ending up at the charitable organisation.

They were rescued from different dramatic situations and their stories have one point of convergence: they paid a rogue agent in Hong Kong Sh150,000 to “facilitate” their placement in the city’s homes.

They made the payment before leaving Kenya, unaware that by Hong Kong laws, no foreigner should pay more than 10 per cent of their first month’s pay to be placed. In other words, each of them paid Sh150,000 whereas they should have paid just Sh6,324.

But after securing what looked like a handsome opportunity that would recover the money spent and bring in some more, the situation on the ground was different: harsh working conditions that left them with no option but to quit.

Those who did not quit were pushed out by their employers in what looks like a well-choreographed scheme to take more Kenyans and more Sh150,000 deposits to a market that clearly has enough supply of househelps.

Mr David Bishop, a lawyer and lecturer at the University of Hong Kong, has worked with a number of Kenyan women who have fallen victim.

He told the Nation that he has assisted at least eight Kenyan women who have fallen into the trap. “We know there are dozens more that we have been unable to reach, or who have already left Hong Kong,” he said.

The agent, who exported the Kenyan women, uses the Facebook page named “Talent — Kenya Company Limited”, which is based at Hollywood Plaza in Hong Kong.

The agency says on the page that it “specialises in providing well-trained domestic helpers from Kenya as well as some other parts of Africa”. There is always one suitable for you,” it states in another post targeting Hong Kong residents.

The agent, who uses the alias “Ivy”, had not responded to our requests for a comment by the time of going to press.

Initially, she worked with an agency in Nairobi but quickly abandoned it and started working with two female lawyers in the capital, who helped collect payments from unsuspecting women.

At the cubicle in Hong Kong, one of the Kenyans currently living there is 38-year-old Esther Njenga Wanjiku.

She used to work as an M-Pesa shop attendant at Thika Road Mall before the opportunity came. She would later borrow money from her father to raise the Sh150,000 required.

Esther left Kenya in August 2019. By then, she had a contract indicating that she was to work at one home for two years.

That would bring her at least Sh720,000 a year, and that she saw an opportunity to raise fees for her daughter in college and get her some more money for other expenses.

It was all a pipe dream. By mid-October, she had been ejected from that household and had to seek shelter at the charity.

Life in that household, she told the Nation last week, was a nightmare. It had a father, mother and two children aged nine and seven.

One of the most humiliating things she had to undergo was not directly touching the food she prepares.

“I had to wash utensils and cook for them using gloves. I was never supposed to touch their food with my bare hands. And I was never supposed to eat their food. I had a different fridge for my food,” said Esther.

She also remembers being overworked and denied off-days. Then out of the blue, the employer asked her to pack her bags and head to the agency, from where she could be paid her dues.

Esther suspected a raw deal because she had not even settled down. As she packed her bags, she called Christian Action, the charity currently taking care of them, and they advised her to co-operate and leave the homestead.

When she told her employer that she could involve labour offices, she was reluctant to let her go but she called police, who later took her to the Christian Action premises.

“I’ve been with Christian Action for six months now,” she said. There, they are whiling time away, taking turns to cook.

Another Kenyan who used to live in the cubicle is Grace Mary Wariu, a 26-year-old who left Bahrain in December last year and headed to Hong Kong in January.

Earning Sh63,000 a month was a better deal than the one she had while working as a househelp in the Middle East.

Even though she had her doubts along the way, she eventually paid the Sh150,000 to the Hong Kong agency and subsequently got her visa and plane ticket.

Grace travelled to Hong Kong on January 10. There, she faced the shock of her life because contrary to what the agent had promised, there was no employer waiting for her.

The agent was to be her employer and she remembers facing a difficult time. She was supposed to prepare meals but never eat, and her host was always quarrelsome.

For a sleeping place, she had to climb a cupboard. For meals, she was only given rice or macaroni, which she was to boil and only add salt.

Moreover, she was never allowed to use her phone in a house that had several surveillance cameras.

She could not take it any more by the second week. On the morning of January 26, she left the homestead and, through connections she had made before travelling, found herself at the Christian Action facility.

The charity organisation has a department dedicated to foreign domestic workers who have been mistreated. It offers them shelter, food, counselling, education and other kinds of assistance.

Grace weighed the pros and cons and reasoned that it would be more costly to stay there to wait for the finalisation of a court case.

After having her former employer compelled to pay her ticket back to Kenya, to pay her for the duration of her work and make other payments, she returned to Kenya on March 24.

She is currently in quarantine at the Kenya Medical Training College in Nairobi. “I have to move on because I don’t have a choice. It’s hard but I need to do it,” she said.

One of the striking elements of the women’s story is the lawyers that the Hong Kong agent worked with.

Esther made her initial dealings with lawyer Joan Nthenya, through whom she paid Sh73,000 to the agent; while Grace paid her Sh150,000 through lawyer Euphrasia Ziriba. The lawyers were collecting money on behalf of the agent and sending it to her.

Both lawyers admitted having offered services to the Hong Kong agent but said they terminated the association once dealings with the agent became suspect.

Ms Nthenya said she first met the agent in late 2018 and that by June last year, she had stopped associating with her.

“When I found out that she doesn’t want to comply with [househelp agency] rules, I stopped dealing with her immediately,” said Ms Nthenya.

Ms Ziriba said she cut ties with the recruiter in February “after discovering it could be a sham”. Ms Ziriba also denied being part of a con scheme.

“I didn’t facilitate anything. Because if I had sourced them, that is a different story. I didn’t source them. I was doing my legal work, guiding them through contracts — of which they were even paying for those legal services,” she said.

At one point, Ms Ziriba noted, she refunded money to Kenyans who had paid their first Sh73,000 awaiting processing of documents so that they could later top it up to reach Sh150,000.

According to Mr Bishop, the lawyer-cum-lecturer who has been assisting distressed Kenyan women seek justice, they have been pushing to have the agency closed — like they have done with others that have been importing househelps into Hong Kong from Indonesia and the Philippines.

“I believe they received their licence in 2017. They have got away with charging Kenyans for a few reasons. One is that they were doing things pretty quietly for a while and no one really knew they were doing it,” he said.

Mr Bishop advised people to first research before signing up. “If Kenyans are offered a job in Hong Kong, then they should know that Hong Kong agencies are not allowed to charge them large job placement fees. The minimum wage and other laws for Hong Kong are posted pretty clearly, so do your research and make sure that the things the agency is telling you are true,” he said.

“The current minimum wage for a foreign domestic worker is HK$4,630, so if (she) had that salary, her job placement fee cannot be more than HK$463,” he said.

By Nation.co.ke


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Health

Comedian Flaqo opens up on rare condition he has been battling

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Popular Kenyan comedian, Flaqo born Erastus Ayieko Otieno has for the first time spoken about a rare condition that he has been struggling with for some time.

Turns out that despite the funny man the Kenyan audience and beyond has grown to know as Flaqo Raz, he has his fair share of battles behind the cameras.

Flaqo opens up

The Internet sensation shared a photo showing red, itchy welts like a form of skin reaction on certain parts of his body.

Depending on the reactions, the welts appear and fade repeatedly and vary in size.

The YouTuber shared his condition with fans in the hope that maybe one or two can relate to what he has been going through and maybe work out a solution on the same.

“Anyone with this condition, how do you go about it?” he posed.

Comedian Flaqo rare skin condition

“Sometimes I have to postpone my shoots because they are unbearable. Zangu zilipotea for 6 months straight. Now they are back…” he replied to a fan who shared a similar experience.

Funny enough, soon as he had put up the post, he got so much feedback, with so many individuals able to relate to his skin condition, to his amazement.

“So far: try staying in the sun for a bit, bathe with warm water after taking antihistamines. To understand your condition better, make a point of seeing a dermatologist,” Flaqo shared with fans battling a similar condition, after gathering responses from his fan base.

Wrapping up urging fellow victims to take plenty of water, work out more often and avoid proteins since hives get triggered by things like particular foods, medication and stress.

By Ghafla.com


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News

REVEALED: How three teenage sisters were impregnated by a shamba boy – police

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Police in Tana River county in Kenya are looking for a shamba boy  (gardener) who fled after allegedly  impregnating all three of his employer’s underage daughters at around the same period.

The girls said the man would often lure them to their farm where he would sexually defile them. One of the sisters confessed to sneaking into the gardener’s room at night.

“I did not know he was having affair with my sisters as well because we didn’t share that part of our lives with each other, as we didn’t trust each other with secrets,” one of the teenagers told Daily Nation.

The further divulged that the man would entice them with gifts such as money and clothes.

“He used to give me pocket money and would sometimes buy me clothes. He was so nice to me. I did not know he was doing the same to my sisters,” another girl said.

Each of the three sisters gave birth to a set of twins at a Garissa hospital on Saturday through a Cesarean Section.

All the three are Class Eight learners and are expected to sit for their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination in March next year.

On her part, the girls’ mother said she noticed her daughters had new sets of underpants but she did not suspect something was going on between them and the gardener.

“I noticed some funny set of underwear which caught my attention. But my last-born daughter kept saying she had bought them with her pocket money,” the mother explained.

“What I did not understand was why she chose that funny type of underwear,” she said.

She learned of the gardener’s affair with her daughters after she stumbled upon a message on one of the girls’ phone informing the man of the pregnancy.

She then discovered the two were planning to get rid of the pregnancy, prompting her to ambush all her daughters with a pregnancy test the following morning. Two of the girls admitted they were pregnant before the tests.

The shamba boy is said to have fled after learning that the three sisters were all pregnant with his children. Police are still looking for him.

The first-born daughter was expecting triplets but she could only deliver two children safely and without complications.

“They all had slim chances of survival, and that is why we looked for a specialist. But for the girl with the triplets to come out alive, we had to agree with the mother to choose between her daughter and the third infant,” a doctor said.

The three were discharged from the hospital following the operations and are recuperating at home.

 


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Lifestyle

Ciru Muriuki in mourning again, just months after losing her dad

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The loss of a loved one is a feeling one can never put into words. But losing another person so close to your heart, becomes a tall order.

July 2020, BBC journalist, Angela Wanjiru wa Muriuki alias Ciru Muriuki lost her dad to COVID-19. A man she dearly honored, loved and cherished.

A man she still misses more than words can say; a man who would have turned 72 years on October 10, were he still alive.

Pain and agony that she wonders how long it will last.

Amid COVID-19 and strict health measures put in place, her dads send-off left a different mark in her life.

“Heh. Losing a father. Nothing prepares you for the pain. Nothing. I wonder if I’ll feel this agony forever. My father’s funeral was the worst experience of our lives.”

Remember, Ciru also contracted the virus and had to mourn her late dad in almost complete solitude.

I cannot think of anything worse,” she tweeted.

Another loss

It has been barely 4 months that the celebrated media personality was allowed to mourn her loss, and death has stricken once more.

Taking to her Twitter, the broadcast journalist mourned the loss of a beloved mother, a grand mum and an aunt – her fathers sister.

Messages of condolences continue to flow in from fellow personalities, friends and fans as they comfort a dear Ciru, having to bear 2 consecutive losses amid a pandemic.

May their souls rest in eternal peace!

By Ghafla.com


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