KATHMANDU, July 21: As a provisional ban on housemaids´ entry into Kuwait persists beyond the originally-stated period of three weeks, those preparing to fly to the country to work as domestic help are in a tight spot.
Officials claim the ban is necessary for preparing a guideline to protect Nepali women from malicious trafficking agents.
Although there is no official data available, it is believed that a few hundred Nepali women, who are all set to fly to Kuwait after receiving housemaid trainings, are at the receiving end of the ban.
Girija Sharma, acting executive director of Foreign Employment Promotion Board (FEPB), responsible for regulating training institutes that offer short-term training courses on care-giving, says that more than 500 Nepali women have received training to work as housemaids in the Gulf in the past one month alone.
According to Pushpa Raj Bhattarai, second secretary at the Nepali Embassy in Kuwait, the ban, which came into effect on May 26, was originally announced for three weeks. However, over one-and-a-half months on, the ban is yet to be revoked, which has left Nepali women workers in a tizzy.
The ban was imposed following reports of Nepali women workers in Kuwait being subjected to exploitation.
Till the ban exists, the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) will finalize a guideline, which is expected to prevent individual agents from sending Nepali housemaids to the Gulf. The guideline will also lay out all the prerequisites for authorized manpower agencies to send domestic helps.
"It is what we have been demanding for long,”says Kamal Tamang, spokesperson for Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA). "If individual agents send housemaids to the Gulf, they can easily get away. But, if authorized manpower agencies send housemaids, they will take responsibility for rescuing and compensating the victims.”
However, due to the delay in drafting the guideline, the ban continues to take its toll on Nepali women desperate to go to Kuwait.
“The draft is still with DoFE,"”says labor secretary Som Lal Subedi. Meanwhile, officials at the Nepali Embassy in Kuwait have started exerting pressure on DoFE to finalize the guideline at the earliest, citing the urgency with which Kuwaiti recruiting agencies are seeking Nepali domestic helps.
“With the Ramadan period beginning next week, Kuwaiti agencies need more housemaids,” says an embassy official. “If we fail to supply domestic helps during the Ramadan period, Kuwait will have a negative impression. It´s inimical to Nepal-Kuwait relation, too.”
In 2010, the Ministry of Labor had opened Kuwait, along with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for Nepali housemaids. Earlier, Nepali women were going to the Gulf illegally through India and other third countries.
Currently, around 200 Nepali women subjected to exploitation are staying at a shelter house provided by the embassy in Kuwait.