The markets cover about six acres. There were more than 15 agents at Al Wadad, but Al Qortaj had about 20. Each has a horde of humans on sale, but I only see Africans and Asians on sale. Africans are from Uganda, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Ethiopia. Asians are from Sri Lanka, India, Philippines, and Indonesia.
Whenever a client stopped at our stall, we all have to stand and smile. If he picks interest in you, you step out, turn around, as he touches you wherever he wants. If he likes you, a mini-interview is carried out immediately.
The common questions are whether you have worked in any country as a maid before; your age; if you have your own children; when you arrived in Dubai and if you have any sickness or allergies. Our agent tells us to say we were either married or divorced because Arabs do not want to use housemaids who are single.
If they agree to take you, they pay Sara. You pick your belongings and follow the buyer.
I, however, noticed that the client never signed anywhere that they have taken you. If they do not pass the interview, you return to the shelves, with a hostile stare from the agent as if it was your fault. Some girls tell us that they have been here for several weeks without being bought.
Some of the clients make fun of us. Most of them come as family and start discussing about us in our presence. Even when it was in Arabic, you can tell who is praising or insulting you. If they want a baby-sitter, they come with their babies and toddlers to test if a baby will like you. They make you carry the baby and if it cries, you have failed the interview.
Three things unnerve me that day. One is the ridicule of humanity. The girls on sale are commodities, who have no say in the transaction. I cry when, at the next stall, some old women on sale from Sri Lanka, who must have been in their 50s, are always made to go through the rituals of standing, smiling and turning around only to be dismissed by every client often before completinging their 360 degrees of rotation. Other clients call each other to collectively laugh at them. I felt like killing somebody.
The second thing is the brutality of some agents. Sara is civil compared to others who are rough, keep shouting at their girls on sale and even slap them. At the stall next door, an agent slaps an Indian woman on sale for failing to smile properly for a buyer. She threatens to throw her out into the street.
Thirdly, and most lethal, is the discovery that agents do not care whether the girls are sold for housemaid work or for sex exploitation. All they want is money.
Read more at Credit: www.newvision.co.ug