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THE BREADWINNER: Stories of Women Forced into Modern-day Slavery and Trafficking by sriyani tidball

THE BREADWINNER: Stories of Women Forced into Modern-day Slavery and Trafficking

by sriyani tidball

147 pages
The Breadwinner shares untold stories of 200 poor Sri Lankan women that either spent years working as housemaids in the Middle East or were in the process of preparing to leave their families for employment. If these unskilled, uneducated women returned intact, they often carried memories of abuse, abortion, trafficking, torture, rape and murder.

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Category: Social Science
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About the Book
The Breadwinner shares true untold stories of impoverished Sri Lankan women who have been exploited. This unique book includes the experiences gathered from over 200 struggling women, through focus groups, surveys, and in-depth interviews. Women showcased in this book either spent years working as housemaids in the Middle East or were preparing to leave their families for such employment.

Some housemaids employed in the Middle East have returned home with no complaints. But, for the women who were subjected to abysmal, inhumane working conditions, sexual violence, and human rights abuses, their experience represents an ever-continuing personal nightmare for every one of these women. Their grievances were never heard and they never received any kind of justice. The mistreatment of female migrant workers happens both in the workplace, and in the prisons as the housemaid industry in the Middle East is not regulated, and domestic workers are not protected under labor law, or any other laws.

Most of these migrant mothers are uneducated and unskilled, and have never worked a day in their life as a housemaid. They donít know a word of the language they will be speaking in the new country of employment. They have never saved money, or know anything about managing their finances. They are mostly warm and caring, and knee-deep in financial debt. They have simple but real aspirations for their children, ones that were never theirs; like a good education, a successful future, not having debts, a happy marriage, and a nice roof over their head. However, when the financially-strapped Sri Lankan mother leaves the family for sometimes just two years, there is a huge negative impact on the family as children must live without their mothers. When she returns, things are much worse than when she left. Often, she re-migrates, this time to escape her family issues.

As a voice for these abused migrant women, author Sriyani Tidball is providing a window into the lives of the Sri Lankan women whose elected politicians chose to increase the economy of the country by selling its poverty-stricken mothers to work in the Middle East as housemaids. The stories in this book illustrate why so many migrant workers return to Sri Lanka deeply hurt and traumatized by the unscrupulous behavior of private employers, employment agents, the Middle Eastern authorities, and Sharia court judges. They carry on without respect for basic human rights law or the inherent dignity of women, especially housemaids, irrespective of race or religion. Some women interviewed were still traumatized from the rape and sexual abuse they received at the hands of their male employers. They could not share their stories with the author without breaking down with deep hurt, trauma, anger, and tears. The criminal justice system in the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia, is deeply flawed when it comes to justice for non-residents, especially migrant housemaids. Some were executed following unfair Sharia trials that lacked any form of transparency. Their still-grieving families have had a tough time with closure due to the lack of information provided to them. Secondary trauma infests most of these families. If these unskilled, uneducated women returned intact, they often carried with them painful memories of harassment and abuse, including tales of abortion, forced prostitution, trafficking, torture, rape, arrests, deportation, and murder.


The culmination of five years of Fulbright scholarship, this book digs deep beneath the surface of Sri Lankaís housemaid industry to reveal the anguish of the women who venture out to West Asia to escape poverty, only to find themselves enslaved in a different hell. Importantly, The Breadwinner is an urgent cry for corrective action for their protection. It also suggests solutions.
- Daleena Samara, The Sunday Times



About the Author
sriyani tidball Sriyani Tidball is an advocate for peace, justice and human rights. Her leadership and service as a social activist and abolitionist of slavery has not gone unnoticed. A published researcher, college professor in the USA and founder of two non-profits, she loves family life and helping those in desperate need.



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