Why Women Defy Nepal’s Travel Ban to Take on Domestic Work Overseas

BY ROJITA ADHIKARI– Phurpa Tamang, 36, has been struggling for almost an hour to find a mobile signal in the remote village of Sindhupalchok. He’s trying to make a video call to his wife, Kalpana, in Dubai.

When Phurpa and Kalpana got married around eight years ago, they were farmers. But couldn’t grow enough on their mountain farm in central Nepal to support the family each year.

She was aware of the stories of awful work conditions and abuse brought back by women who had taken jobs in the Gulf. But she felt she had no other choice. In 2014, she left for Dubai.

Now, she is grateful the stories didn’t stop her. She earns $420 a month working as a housemaid for a family that treats her well. She has learned to speak Arabic and has freedom to travel. The money she sends home has been enough to rebuild her family’s house, which was destroyed in the 2015 earthquake, as well as putting some aside for savings.

The job in Dubai has been so good for Kalpana that after taking a few months off to spend time with her family in Nepal, she risked breaking the law to go back. While she had gotten a permit to go to Dubai the first time, her second trip over there was planned after Nepal banned women from traveling to the Gulf for domestic work. For Kalpana, the promise of providing for her family was stronger than the ban, so she returned to Dubai undocumented.

Banned from Becoming Foreign Domestic Workers

 Figures from the Department of Foreign Employment of Nepal show that more than 176,000 Nepali women have been granted labor permits since records started in 2008, traveling mainly to the UAE, Kuwait, Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Cyprus and Jordan.In response to reports of the abuse of maids in the Gulf, Nepal made it illegal for women to travel to the region for domestic work in 2016. Still, in 2017, more than 20,000 women were given permits to travel for other kinds of jobs, a 8.95 percent increase from the year before. And experts say the number of Nepali women working in foreign countries could be twice as high, as many travel out of Nepal undocumented to circumvent the ban.

Many of these women end up being exploited and return to Nepal worse off than when they left. But other women say migrant work offers them the chance to make good money and learn new skills – opportunities they could never have if they stayed home.

By working abroad to improve the lives of their families, Kalpana Tamang and women like her also benefit their country’s economy: The money they send home contributes to remittances that make up almost 30 percent of Nepal’s gross domestic product.

More than 42 percent of Nepali adult women are illiterate and most are jobless, according to the 2011 national census. But they can find work in places like the Gulf, since domestic work doesn’t require any formal education.

Women who are not able to make money in Nepal can make thousands in the Gulf,” Amina Maharjan, Livelihood Migration Specialist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), says. A woman who has never left her village on her own can now move to a foreign country to learn life skills and earn a decent wage, putting her in a position to make her own decisions back home. “This is the biggest change to the condition of women that Nepal has seen over the last decade,” Maharjan says.

It helps explain why so many women are willing to travel for domestic work, despite the horror stories. “Nobody can stop them going – they will go anyway,” Maharjan says.

Mahesh Prasad Dahal, secretary at the Ministry of Labor, says the government is working on signing bilateral agreements and memorandum of understanding with various destination countries with the aim of eventually lifting the domestic work ban. “Once we sign such agreements, we will again allow women to go [to those countries] as housemaids,” he says.

Nepal has already resumed granting work permits for women going to Jordan, after the two countries signed an agreement in October 2017. As part of the deal, Jordan agrees to make sure employers pay their domestic workers a minimum wage of $250 per month, cover necessary medical costs and don’t subject them to forced labor or confiscate their passports. The government says it will fully investigate reports of violence against domestic workers. For its part, Nepal set up support services at its embassy in Jordan for Nepali women who go to the country for work and suffer abuse.

Amina Maharjan, the migration specialist at ICIMOD, says more of these types of agreements are needed to make sure women migrant workers get the benefits of working in a foreign country without suffering the risks.

“When these women have earned some money and enhanced their skills, they will return to Nepal and start doing something effective,” she says.

Read the full article here: https://www.newsdeeply.com/womensadvancement/articles/2018/06/20/why-women-defy-nepals-travel-ban-to-take-on-domestic-work-overseas

 

#AllWomenCount

#AllWomenCount: art and culture at the forefront of World Refugee Day

RO MURPHY –The number of forced migrants is now at an all-time global high – and a majority of these are women and children. Images of refugee women are a familiar sight in press coverage of the variously defined “refugee” or “migrant crisis”. These are portrayals of victims – their eyes downcast, arms clutching a young child in tearful desperation as they teeter aboard an inflatable craft.

Yet these images do not represent the richly complex identities of refugee women themselves – nor do they give voice to their often overlooked gender-specific concerns. These include issues such as the threat of sexual violence – both while on the move and in UK detention – as well as gender-related persecution, inadequate housing for families (a particular concern for women with children), and entrapment in domestic violence due to spousal “leave to remain” arrangements.

World Refugee Day on June 20 presents an important opportunity to commemorate “the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees”. And it is heartening to see that asylum-seeking and refugee women have now been channelling the current surge in global feminist activism to make their voices heard with particular clarity and force. So here are just some of the reasons we should be celebrating woman power and listening to their message – that #AllWomenCount.

Riding the wave of the hashtag

From #TimesUp to #MeToo, the campaign for women’s rights has never been more globally visible than in 2018. If Donald Trump’s presidency has given one (paradoxical) gift to the world, it has surely been the international galvanising of feminist opposition. Women have stood shoulder to shoulder across cities, countries and continents to protest at endemic sexual violence, misogyny and gender discrimination, institutionalised and otherwise.

The art of protest has been both reignited and reinvigorated, as street marches have been matched with an awareness of the power of the hashtag and the viral image. And at grassroots level, refugee women have been riding this wave with impressive style. As Monica Aidoo, intern for the London-based grassroots organisation Women for Refugee Women, puts it:

“Refugee women have always taken a strong stand for their rights through different kinds of protest. However, it is now exactly 100 years since women in the UK fought for the vote and it is frustrating to see that refugee women are still having to fight for their rights in almost every aspect of their lives: immigration, healthcare, housing … Women have decided to make their voices heard in any way they can.”

While woman-focused support organisations have undertaken bold and highly visible political protests in 2018 – instigating, for instance, a day-long lobby of the UK parliament involving 20 women’s groups for International Women’s Day, or flying protest banners at the 100-year suffrage celebration marches on June 10 – equally important has been the virtual visibility of these activities.

Today, refugee women are making their voices heard not only on the streets but through social media: on Twitter at “4refugeewomen”, for instance – as well as by blogging and through the use of hashtags such as #AllWomenCount and #SetHerFree. The result is a new-found global visibility and solidarity that is louder and reaches more people in more places than ever before.

Read the full article here : http://theconversation.com/allwomencount-art-and-culture-at-the-forefront-of-world-refugee-day-98326

Women Fleeing Domestic Violence Need Asylum

By Michelle Brané

With all eyes on Singapore this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions took the opportunity to ramp up the Trump administration’s assault on asylum-seekers at the U.S. border, with a special focus on women and children.

In his decision on “Matter of A-B-,” a case in which a Salvadoran woman fleeing 15 years of domestic abuse, including rape and death threats, had been granted U.S. asylum, Sessions overturned her approval essentially by changing the rules. Despite long-standing precedent to the contrary, he now claims that those seeking asylum because of domestic or gang violence “generally” no longer qualify for protection.

He argues that, because domestic violence and gang abuse are committed by private actors and not by the government directly, this kind of harm and abuse falls outside the scope of asylum cases.

Despite this rhetoric, recognizing that private actions can qualify for asylum does not provide blanket protection for anyone and everyone who has ever suffered harm — all applicants are required to meet rigorous standards and prove their case through U.S. law. 

Sessions also states that the applicant in this case was targeted because she was the abuser’s wife and not necessarily because of being a member of a particular social group as required under law.

This point demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of domestic violence generally as well as a distortion of the context surrounding domestic and gang violence in Mexico and Central America. Persecution, particularly against women and children, is often hidden behind so-called private acts, such as domestic violence. And perpetrators are routinely protected by the government or state agencies such as the police.

This was the case for the woman in the “Matter of A-B-,” and it is the case for many other women in similar situations. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, more than two-thirds of women fleeing violence in Central America report that they have attempted to relocate internally but have been unsuccessful in finding safety.

In closing his argument, Sessions also makes vague and unsubstantiated assertions that asylum-seekers are not credible and are exploiting the system under false pretenses. He provides no basis for this assumption.

Evidence from the region documented by the U.N. and other agencies shows the opposite to be true. These are women and children seeking protection as a last resort and availing themselves of their right to seek asylum under international and U.S. law.

But the United States is increasingly sealing off any legal pathway that they have to survive. With Sessions’s ruling, these women are trapped between unspeakable violence at home and the U.S. border.

The Trump administration is taking us back to a time when women’s rights were not considered human rights and cementing a new set of values in our name: that we are a nation that no longer wants to uphold our long-standing commitments to protect refugees, that we no longer value our own rule of law, and that we are willing to turn our backs on our fellow human beings and look the other way when our help is most needed.

Read the full article here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2018/06/13/women-fleeing-domestic-violence-deserve-asylum/?utm_term=.4f549883e2a7