Young and invisible: African domestic workers in Yemen

Dec 07, 2007

Filmmaker Arda Nederveen and anthropologist Marina de Regt have made a short documentary about Ethiopian and Somalian women who work as domestic workers in Yemen. Many families in economically developed countries make use of migrant women as domestic workers and cleaners.

But even in a relatively poor country such as Yemen, migrants and refugee women do paid domestic work. The majority of these come from the Horn of Africa. Why do these young women come to Yemen and what are their living and working conditions? Instead of portraying the women as victims, the film gives them a face and lets them show their resilience.

Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East, yet despite this attracts large numbers of refugees and migrants, mainly from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Dutch researcher Marina de Regt studied the backgrounds and motives of Yemeni employers and migrant domestic workers, the interactions between both parties, and the influence of outsourcing domestic household work on the families and society.

The research yielded various results. The domestic workers come from countries that are even poorer than Yemen and migrate to improve their own position and that of their families. Yemeni women do not want to do paid housework as it has a very low status. Yemeni employers emphasise that the treatment of domestic workers in Yemen is better than in other Arabic countries, but discrimination and racism are clearly prevalent.

De Regt's research is particularly relevant for the developmental problems in Yemen, the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. There are scarcely any national and international organisations that defend the rights of domestic workers. They often work in isolated circumstances, have poor conditions of employment, make long working hours and are sometimes the victims of abuse and exploitation and have no possibilities to defend their rights.

One of the indirect outcomes of the research was the start of a UNIFEM-funded project to improve the working conditions of domestic workers. The documentary will be used to promote awareness about the living and working conditions of domestic workers in Yemen, but also further afield.

Source: Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research

Explore further: Education Dept awards $75M in innovation grants

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Shark finning hitting Gulf sharks hard

Oct 19, 2012

Armed with a clip board and wearing bright yellow waders, Rima Jabado looked the part of a government inspector at the Dubai fish market as workers sawed the fins off hundreds of dead sharks from Oman and ...

Recommended for you

Research band at Karolinska tuck Dylan gems into papers

Sep 29, 2014

(Phys.org) —A 17-year old bet among scientists at the Karolinska Institute has been a wager that whoever wrote the most articles with Dylan quotes before they retired would get a free lunch. Results included ...

A simulation game to help people prep for court

Sep 25, 2014

Preparing for court and appearing before a judge can be a daunting experience, particularly for people who are representing themselves because they can't afford a lawyer or simply don't know all the ropes ...

When finding 'nothing' means something

Sep 25, 2014

Scientists usually communicate their latest findings by publishing results as scientific papers in journals that are almost always accessible online (albeit often at a price), ensuring fast sharing of latest ...

User comments : 0