Female migrant workers must be ensured of security

It’s surprising that although the country has been sending women abroad as housemaids for 32 years, this sector still is in absolute jeopardy. The interests of the immigrants are ignored and the focus is on the dollars they earn.

According to a Prothom Alo report titled ‘Female migration decreases despite record labour migration in 2023’, some 3,000 women migrant workers had to return empty-handed in the last year alone.

The destination of most of the female Bangladeshi workers is Saudi Arabia. There, questions have been raised regarding the quality of the training of our women workers. Apart from that, these workers were forced to return due to several other reasons, including health complications, home sickness, low wage, working without any salary, food habits, language barrier and physical, mental and sexual torture.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, adviser to Bangladeshi Ovibashi Mohila Sramik Association (BOMSA) and Supreme Court lawyer Farida Yeasmin said although the Migration Act has been amended, the issue of protecting female migrants has not been mentioned separately. The security of women abroad has not been ensured. They are being subjected to torture every day. Now they are not willing to go abroad anymore out of fear. This is the reason behind the decline in the number of women workers despite the rise in the rate of migrant workers abroad.

The Prothom Alo report says more than 1.3 million workers were sent abroad in 2023. Of them, 77,263 were female.

Does the government really want to stress on women immigrants? The government knows very well about the kind of problems that the women immigrants are facing abroad. However, the government doesn’t seem to have any wish to resolve the problems. Is the interest of the workers being considered in the new agreement to be signed regarding sending women workers abroad?

There are allegations that the training centres are not providing proper training. Has the government taken any initiative to investigate the allegation or to solve the problem?

Are the authorities inquiring adequately about the organisations that have been sending female workers abroad? There is a dearth of examples of action being taken against the manpower recruitment agencies when female workers return home empty-handed, having faced torture abroad.

A number of female workers who returned home from Saudi Arabia said the one-month training imparted to them before sending abroad is not sufficient. They need training for a longer period. Some of them do not know how to read and write. The language of the country they go to work is also unknown. It is very dangerous for the almost unskilled and illiterate women to go abroad for work.

We are not against the migration of women. But the security and dignity have to be ensured first irrespective of male and female. If our objective is to manage jobs abroad for women, it is imperative to work with the highest level of professionalism. Philippines, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and neighbouring India have been sending female migrant workers as housemaids to Saudi Arabia and in the region and Hong Kong and Singapore. But they do not face torture like our womenfolks. This is because the state and the government take their side strongly. Their level of education and training is also greater than the women from our country.

The government could identify the markets analysing the trend of migration. For example the demand for service providers has been on the rise due to the enhanced number of elderly people across the globe. Is the government trying to tap the market? Do they have any thoughts in this regard?

We hope the government will be mindful to ensure the dignity of female migrant workers alongside counting the dollar it gets through remittance.