Saumu Juma, 30, left Kenya for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 2014 to work as a tailor. The promise of making Sh46,000 per month proved attractive. Her mother’s friend got her the job and organised for her visa and ticket.
“The family I was working for had two houses adjacent to each other. There were nine women working there. The other ladies were from Indonesia, Philippines and Ethiopia. We worked in the main house and slept in the second one,” said Saumu.
She worked as a tailor for three months but life was soon to take an unbearable turn.
“One day I was locked in one of the rooms for two days. I had no idea why. l was not mistreated. I was well fed and told to rest. On the third day one of the women I had been working with came to the room and gave me some skimpy clothes to wear. She then took me downstairs to a room full of women.”
Saumu was ordered to flaunt herself. She was then auctioned.
“Three women ‘bought me’.”
To add salt to injury Saumu was moved to another room, this time, full of men.
“Like previously, I was asked to flaunt myself and this time round, four men, including my employer ‘bought’ me.”
She was told she would meet with the men three days after the auction and with the women, two days later. Saumu had no idea what lay before her.
“I, however, sensed something was not right. Lucy, an Ethiopian girl I was working with, had once told me that she had been drugged and forced to have sex with three men. She collapsed after the ordeal and was locked up in a room for days on end. At the time, I did not believe her.”
A few days after the auction, Saumu was taken to a room. The four men who “bought” her at the auction were waiting in the room. Her worst nightmare ensued. She tried fighting them off, but they overpowered her.
“I told them I was a virgin but my pleas fell on deaf ears,” she recalls.
Her boss was the first to assault her and stopped mid-way when he discovered she was indeed a virgin.
“He panicked and tried to convince the others to stop, but they refused. He walked out of the room. The three men then took turns in raping me,” she said, anguish written all over her face.
After the ordeal, Saumu dragged herself to the toilet and locked herself in for two days. Her employer, who had allowed his guests to violate her, forced her out of the toilet. He put her in the boot of a car and drove her to the desert. After six hours he came back with her passport and an air ticket and drove her to the airport. She was not allowed to speak to anyone until she boarded the flight back home.
“ I have never relayed my ordeal to my mother. I am a Somali woman and my virginity was my most treasured possession. They took that away from me,” she said with a distant look in her eyes.