Salma is a thirty-year-old Muslim woman living in a small village south of Dhaka. She was an orphan and never attended school. She got married but was divorced fourteen years ago and has been raising three boys since then. Because she has no family or relatives, there was no one to help her ?nancially. "I have no husband," she said. "I had no money or property to inherit. I had no savings. And I had to keep paying the rent for a small room. The life was hard."
At ?rst, Salma did household work for a wealthy family in her village, but this did not bring in enough money to feed her children. She quit that job and began selling vegetables. She made 2,000 –2,500 taka (US$40 –50) a month, but it was still not enough. One day, she went to sell vegetables to a wealthy family in the village. The "madam" suggested that she consider working abroad and offered to introduce her to an agent. Salma immedi- ately agreed and met the agent. He told her that the fee to secure a job as a domestic worker in Bahrain was 50,000 taka (US$1,000)—a lot of money. She borrowed it from a local moneylender at high interest, left her children with her ex-husband"s mother, and left for Bahrain in 1996.
Having had no knowledge in Arabic, Salma had a difficult time commu- nicating with her employer at the beginning. Her "madam" used to get an- gry and beat her whenever she was unhappy. The food was another prob- lem: she could not eat the Arabic food because it was so different. She was only eating some bread every day. But after three months, she had learned some Arabic words and had grown accustomed to the local diet. She worked very hard, rising at four every morning and working until one the next morning. She was being paid only 3,000 taka (US$60) a month even though she had been promised 4,000 taka (US$80). However, her salary was raised to 4,000 taka the following year. She sent 3,000 to 4,000 taka home every three or four months and saved the rest for herself. She stayed in Bahrain for two years and seven months, until she fell ill. Because she had no health in- surance and the employer would not pay her medical costs, Salma ended up paying 40,000 taka (US$800) for medical treatment. After paying the recruit- ment fee of 50,000 taka with interest, she had little money left. Although she wanted to continue working in Bahrain, her illness forced her to return home. She has since recovered from her illness and is planning to work over- seas again.