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The Oman omen

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Right now, there are Malawians, mostly women, who, having been enticed with the scent of hard cash, freely left Malawi for Oman, where, like a hunted animal run to the ground, they are made to work all day and for the most part of the night.

In the past four months, some of the women have managed to send messages back home, pleading for mercy as if they did anything wrong. Their will for hard cash has been replaced by a painful longing for home, which has known peace since 1964, and where each one knows everyone else.

It is the land of the warm-hearted people who are hunted, left, right and centre, by poverty.

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It is this poverty that drives people, most of them productive, away.

And the women who are stuck in Oman did go away, probably unaware that Malawi had no diplomatic relations with that country.

Today, though full of energy and enthusiasm, the women have been trapped, literally, as their ‘abusers’ keep the women’s travel documents away from sunlight.

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And, no matter how the innocent Malawian women plead for mercy, perhaps to the extent of slumping in the dust, maybe even whimpering with scars of the day’s and night’s hard work, the new hard-hardened masters seem to have no soft spot.

They must be the type that ill-treats animals.

I feel for the Malawian women. I feel for their families back home. Imagine having a female relative ‘stuck’ in Oman and knowing that the government can do nothing about it.

This is, exactly, what is happening, more so because, months after the women asked the Malawi Government to repatriate them as they are trapped in inhumane conditions, nothing has really panned out.

According to Malawi’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there are a number of challenges standing in repatriation efforts’ way, one of which being that the women cannot be traced. They are not in formal systems in Malawi, a development the ministry blames on the use of unregistered recruitment agencies.

The second hurdle is that Malawi has no bilateral ties with the middle-eastern country, hence processing of travelling documents is proving to be a problem.

This means Malawians stuck there will have to wait a little longer as the government formalises ties to facilitate their repatriation.

Reports indicate that the closest people that can assist the women are based at the Malawi Embassy in Kuwait, but approval for their entry into Oman has not been easy. We are talking of a country that is 1,211 kilometres (km) from Kuwait and 4,514km from Malawi.

It is not a distance one would reach by bicycle from Chinsapo in Lilongwe or Kwa Hema in Chilomoni Township, Blantyre, or Mpondabwino location in Zomba, let alone Chibanja in Mzuzu. The work is cut out for whoever sets on that arduous journey.

According to Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson John Kabaghe, tracing the women is proving difficult because many of them used unregistered recruitment agencies and landed themselves in bad working conditions.

He indicated, this week, that this has prompted the government to deploy a delegation of officers that will go to Oman to request that they sign a formal bilateral agreement and then ask the Oman officials to help Malawi rescue the affected Malawians.

Kabaghe then urged Malawians to furnish the ministry with information of relatives who are stranded in Oman so that they can easily be traced.

All this points to the fact that poverty forces people to take desperate measures.

It is a reminder, to all of us, that we have to work hard to make Malawi a better place for all of us.

All of us, individuals, State actors and non-State actors have to come up with mechanisms that will ensure that, in 2063, when the Malawi 2063 vision will have been realised, no one should go through the pain the women have endured.

For this to happen, those who are trapped in unemployment in Malawi must be fished out. This can be done by throwing the spirit of nepotism under the bus. This can be done by nipping corruption in the bud. This can be done by constructing more vocational training institutions.

You see what, where the majority of people, including youths, are skilled, they will go about their business without looking to government officials for assistance.

But, somehow, the Malawian seems to have been programmed to think that only white-collar jobs have true value.

Far from it. Vocational skills are the real deal. That way, Malawi will bear witness to the mushrooming of buildings, thanks to the able hands of those trained in vocational skills training centres.

But, then, we have a problem right now; that of Malawian women stuck in Oman.

For all intents and purposes, Oman is not on another planet; it is on the earth. Nobody should give up on issues that pertain to the earth. Those women have to be brought back home, and trained, and loved and everything shall be well with all of us.

It pains to know that somewhere, in some corner of the world, there are Malawian women suffering; being made to feel helpless. Oh, Dear Pain, you have taken things too far.

But, then, perhaps the Oman events are foreshadowing the pain that will be there in 2063 should nobody take on corruption and nepotism head-on. Time to right things is now, or never— not even in 2063.

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