The Silent Agonies of an Ethiopian Generation
The Africa Report
by Tewodros Abebe
A report by HRW on the plight of migrant workers in the middle east in 2010 shocked many. However, little was done by concerned governments to address that issue. The burning of Hannibal Gaddafi’s Ethiopian maid and the recent brutal beating, and eventual suicide, of another Ethiopian maid in downtown Beirut, Lebanon have been met with insignificant diplomatic efforts. In this piece, Tewodros Abebe calls for international condemnation of “the tragic end of lives caused by the unbearable living conditions.”
They dream. They agonize. They leave. We see it happen frequently. Dreaming of a better life, agonizing over tough choices, deciding to leave their loved ones behind, and departing to unknown destinations. It is a painful cycle. A casual observer may call it life’s dilemma and a soul-searching saga. But, beneath the surface, it is a gloomier affair.
Shy, modest, and with no viable means to support themselves and their families, they join scores of Ethiopian women as the latest batch of domestic workers —maids as they are called— in the Middle East. These are my sisters, my Ethiopian sisters. I may not know them individually, but I am well aware of their collective characters, their decency, their kindness, and their compassion. I may never be able to know the full extent of their agonies, but I am very familiar with their hopes, fears, innocence, heartbeats, and their tears. My Ethiopian sisters; born with inner beauty, dignity and God-given grace, yet taking desperate measures to secure a decent living, primarily for the sake of their impoverished families. Yes, there are far too many of them scattered across countries of the Middle East.
People commonly migrate from one geographic location to another in order to improve their living conditions. What we know of Ethiopian domestic workers in the Middle East, however, is quite the contrary. For years, we have heard horrifying stories that originated in Middle Eastern homes involving several of them. Lives have been shattered due to the abuse of these helpless Ethiopians many of whom are mothers who end up paying a heavy price to support their children. We have heard of the tragic end of lives caused by the unbearable living conditions the women encountered.
Since such abuse is already well-documented, I do not wish to cite specific cases. What I would like to do, however, is to add my voice to the women’s appeal for relief and justice. No woman, irrespective of her place of residence, her ethnicity or national origin should be subjected to the types of abuse that Ethiopian women suffer in the Middle East. I believe the future and continuity of the human race depend on the well-being of women. The international community, therefore, must come together to condemn unequivocally such barbaric acts. Domestic workers are human beings who, like anyone else, are entitled to dignity and respect.
Poverty and hopelessness, along with debilitating policies of an oppressive and ethnocentric regime, are the main forces that compel Ethiopians to leave their motherland. As is the case with Ethiopian women in the Middle East, there are also many helpless Ethiopian children who are suffering similar indignities in the name of adoption. Until a government that protects the rights and well-being of its own people emerges in Ethiopia, these women and children desperately need your voice. They need our collective voices. Otherwise, the misery and humiliation will continue.