It was four years ago that I travelled to Saudi Arabia with an illegal broker to become a domestic worker, but I do not know in which city I stayed. I know that my airplane landed in Riyad, but we drove for hours by car to unknown place to me. I arrived to a house with eighteen bedrooms and five bathrooms where twelve family members lived. I thought that I would become their cleaning lady. When I arrived, however, it became clear that I was expected to cook, take care of the children and keep the enormous house clean inside and outside by myself. I had to stay up all night to finish all the work and I was over exhausted. It was a tough job, because I did not have time to clean wash myself or have any contact with my family back in Ethiopia.
Instead of being paid the agreed on 700 Riyal per month, which is the average income for a domestic worker, my broker got 400 Riyal a month and I would get 300 Riyal, but it was not until I left the family that I saw any of my promised money.
One day the family left for a day trip and asked me to clean the whole outside of the house. It was an impossible and dangerous job to do so by hand, so I asked them for a cleaning machine, which they did not give to me. After they got home they were angry with me for not having cleaned the house, which was the last straw for me. I asked them to call the broker and told them that I wanted to go home, but they refused. As a result, I went on a hunger strike. After eight days of not eating and drinking they called the broker. Instead of going home, the broker advised me to stay with another family in Saudi-Arabia to make some money, since I had invested money for the plane ticket and would have to save money to be able to go back. I did. The second family was much better, they lived with only two people, had a smaller home and allowed me to call to home to my husband and family. However, the broker still confiscated 400 of the 700 Riyal that I earned. After two years and 4 months I had saved up enough money to be able to take a plane back home with a bit of profit.
Now I own a cafeteria in Libanos, Tehuledere Wereda in South Wollo and I am part of the self-help saving group that this project established. Together with other women from the village, we put in money every month and save together. I borrowed 2000 birr from the saving group and bought a goat for 1100 birr. I fattened the goat for three months and sold it for 2100 birr, making a profit of 1000 birr. With the profit and borrowing additional 2000 birr, I bought two goats, one for 1600 and one for 1100 birr. So now I have two goats, a cafeteria, saved 5000 birr in cash and can live together with my family under good circumstances.
My advice is “Never choose illegal migration, because I suffered a lot.” I am now educating young girls and women about choosing legal and safe migration to increase their economic stability and income. Had my travel been legal, I would have earned more income and run a business with a better capital.