Nairobi Woman Made a Slave, Police Investigator Says
August 4, 2005 2 Comments
By Jim Mbugua
For the Daily Nation
(See end of post for more information)
A Nairobi doctor and her husband are under investigation for making a woman a domestic slave in their household, the police said in court papers.
The victim worked 15-hour days six days a week, was locked in the Golf Course residence performed nearly all the domestic chores and was only allowed limited contact with guests to the home.
No charges have been filed.
Both the police and the prosecutor’s office in Nairobi declined to comment beyond what was in the public affidavit for a search warrant filed earlier this month in Kibera District Court.
The couple could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
According to police constable John Twende, the victim’s story started in Ogembo, Kisii where she supported her three daughters by working as a caregiver for the doctor’s mother.
In early 2003, she was asked if she would consider moving to Nairobi to work for the Osogo family.
The woman agreed, hoping to raise enough money to send her daughters to school and provide better housing for them, according to the court documents.
The Osogos agreed to pay her Kshs 2500 ($33) a month, take care of all basic living expenses and buy uniforms and books for her three daughters who attend a government school in Ogembo town.
They also said they expected her to care for the couple’s young son during daytime hours, the court papers said.
The Osogos arranged for the victim to accompany the doctor’s mother on a trip to Nairobi. The mother stayed for six weeks while receiving medical treatment.
Soon after the victim’s arrival, she told police investigators, she learned that the doctor did not intend to fulfil promises made as terms of employment. The doctor was pregnant, and the victim said she was told she would also have to care for the baby after it was born.
She told investigators she was expected to do all the domestic housework and cooking, and was given explicit directions on how to perform each task.
Her workday began at 6 a.m. and ended about 9 p.m., she said, according to court papers.
Although she had Sundays off, she was still expected to prepare meals ahead of time for the family. The salary was inconsistent, ranging between Kshs 500 and Kshs 1200 a month, she said.
The couple told her that if she refused to comply, she would be forced to leave their residence, arrested by local policemen friendly to the Osogos and returned to Ogembo without a job, documents said. “None of the terms of the employment … (was) honoured.”
She was socially isolated, the papers said, and told not to socialize, and that she could be fired for visiting friends.
On Sundays, she sometimes went to church with the couple, and was introduced to a man at church who agreed to act as a mediator to negotiate for better working conditions.
In September 2004, the negotiator wrote the couple a letter, saying he was concerned about the victim’s employment status.
The couple told the victim “to pack her belongings and directed her to leave their residence immediately,” court papers said. She was given an envelope with $3500 cash and a one-way bus ticket to Ogembo.
The woman called the mediator, worried that the Osogos might try and get her arrested by their friends and not knowing where to turn for the remainder of the money they owed her…
The story above is actually about a Kenyan woman who was cruelly and illegally exploited by her middle class employers in Washington State (United States). The Herald reported on the FBI’s investigations into her ‘enslavement’ and I was struck by how exactly the circumstances matched those of my recent post on the Nairobi housemaid. The post and the story are exactly alike except that I have replaced American references with Kenyan ones. Though housemaids are often treated much worse than this in Kenya, there are no investigations into the problem by the police or the media.