People were both shocked and confused by the ban on Filipinos working in Kuwait. Some found it justifiable, while others found it unfortunate. People in Kuwait took it upon themselves to express their thoughts and feelings freely and without hesitation. However, Filipinos felt their voices are heard only on the Internet and only among themselves. This is not because there is government suppression or that the Kuwaiti people want them to remain silent – it is due to a lack of media efforts to listen to them.
Kuwait is tiny in size, but has a vast demographic diversity. Even certain tribal members and religious minorities such as Christian Kuwaitis do not have that much of a platform to express themselves, so how can a certain nationality be expected to be listened to, when they are a minority within a majority of foreigners from all around the world, who have their own different ideologies and cultures. Therefore, I found it necessary in this time of adversity to collect their voices in a special article.
I had a great opportunity to conduct face-to-face interviews with multiple overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in their host country Kuwait, which secures the right for everyone to speak their mind. Being a democratic Kuwaiti, I asked three questions to everyone I met:
- Are you happy in Kuwait?
- What are your thoughts on the ban?
- What do want changed in Kuwait?
The first speaker is a housemaid named Christy. She had a very diplomatic answer with a lot of love and wisdom for all.
- “Yes, I am happy in Kuwait working in my employer’s house.”
- “I think it’s not a problem for me – not all employers are difficult or manipulative. But I am not against the ban.”
- “We have to apologize to each other.”
Marichu is a housemaid who works in a house occupied only by an old woman who is in need of constant medical care. Marichu gave what all of us want – a straightforward and clear-cut response:
- “Yes of course, I am happy working here for the past seven years.”
- “Yes, I think I agree with my president, but only for housemaids. Because it is not good for them in some houses.”
- “I hope all employers are open-minded.”
Jammy, a young worker, had this to say about the matter:
- “Yeah, for now I am happy because of my work, and for experiencing a different culture here in Kuwait.”
- “Yes, we know our president is doing good for us OFWs.”
- “To better the general treatment of OFWs, Egyptians and the rest of the foreigners.”
During the brief interview with Jammy, her friend and colleague Samtha fully supported Jammy’s comments:
- “Yeah, I’m happy in Kuwait.”
- “It’s good what the president is doing for us.”
- “Same as what my friend said.”
Other workers chimed in, including Samantha Reyes:
- ” Yes sir, I am happy.”
- “I’m scared, because we need to work here. We do have jobs in the Philippines, but not at the same salaries.”
For the last question, her answer was similar:
- “I am scared, because I need the money for my father.”
Lastly, Virginia, who is a housemaid, said:
- “Yes, I am happy, and in this house my work is good and my employer is good.”
Unfortunately, her lack of knowledge of English did not make her feel very comfortable in sharing her responses, because she felt that her ideas won’t be fully understood as she desired them to be. Language barriers are very common in Kuwait.
Note: The answers were edited for clarity to ensure what the respondents meant was not misunderstood. (The raw and unedited versions are available on Kuwait Times’ website.)
After listing to their voices, and after researching this matter in Arabic, I can say as a Kuwaiti that my personal conclusion is it seems the actual reason for this problem is a misunderstanding and lack of proper communication. This is expected to happen all over the world, as the humorous saying goes: “In every farm there is a spoilt potato.”
Kuwait does not deserve a total ban of Filipino workers. Kuwait is hospitable, and the law does protect foreigners from acts of violence and extortion. Kuwaitis did not turn antagonistic towards the Philippines after a number of murders and kidnappings of their fellow citizens. There was an understanding to not generalize acts of criminality with the entire populace.
The Filipino people obviously have the same level of awareness, as seen by their responses. We all hope that the issue of the lack of rewarding jobs in their homeland is taken care of. There is also room for improvement in Kuwaitis’ treatment of others. All in all, what we need is more understanding towards one another, and fewer barriers.
By Jeri Al-Jeri