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Filipina domestic helpers offer advice on working safe in Kuwait

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Avoid talking directly to the male members of the family, do your work well and build your employers’ trust.

These were the pieces of advice given by Filipina domestic helpers in Kuwait to their fellow Filipinas now working there.

Emerald Estrada, who worked a Filipina domestic helper for the past 10 years, said she avoided talking directly to male members of the household.

She also said she understands why she was initially not given a day off, as it was meant to protect her during her first contract.

“Maybe they didn’t trust me yet. For me, it was okay; it takes time to build relationship and trust, so I stayed at home for two years. I know many Filipinas who have been in Kuwait for 10 years without a day off. They are still alive. If you do not like this, tell them to take you back to your embassy or agency,” she said.

Also, Estrada said she has experienced several types of verbal abuse, but managed to earn her employers’ trust.

Yet, Estrada said she avoids the male members of her employer’s family.

“I don’t talk to male members of the family. If they need something, I tell my madam to pass the message to me. In this way, I avoid any temptation and they can do the same. It’s a matter of respect. They don’t talk to me directly as well,” she said.

“I am afraid of the grownup male members of the family. But if you keep a distance, they can never hurt you. When they talk to me for a few seconds, I don’t look at them in the eye,” she added.

She added she agreed to cover her head with a hijab and wear a black abaya at all times, especially when there are male members around.

Gina Morales, another domestic helper, said she merely followed her employers’ orders, and would answer back only later and when there is something wrong.

But she said her talking back is meant to let them know that she is willing to submit only to work-related issues but not for anything illegal.

“I told them I will work hard and hope to complete my two-year contract without any hassle so I can go home. My bosses told me eventually that my attitude is good, so some members of the family will not take advantage of me,” she said.

She said the hardest part was when they confiscated her mobile, passport and other documents, and said they will keep them and give them to her when she needs them.

“I gave it to them without hesitation, and after two years, I went home. When I returned, they gave me twice off in a month, so I was happy, and they increased my salary too,” Morales said.

Morales has been with the same employer for the past 16 years, starting with a small salary which has since doubled.

With her salary, she said she managed to give a better life and education to her two children. A daughter graduated with a BS in Banking and Finance, and a son is in the second year of college studying criminology.

Meanwhile, a third helper, Kathryn Gonzales, said she is happy to have a good employer, whom she has been serving for nine years.

She said she is lucky to work in the same place where her mother works, adding her mother arrived in Kuwait before Iraq invaded it in 1991.

“They treat us like part of the family,” she said of her employer.

But she said she follows her mother’s advice such as wearing appropriate dress and closing the door of her room.

“She said when talking to men in Kuwait, I should not look at them directly in the eye. I follow her advice religiously and do my work,” she said.

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