Domestic Workers in the Gulf Open Up About Labor Conditions on Tiktok

Female domestic workers, who are often isolated, are particularly vulnerable to abuse, according to rights groups.

With their already minimal freedoms further diminished by the pandemic and their isolation growing, the domestic workers are unflinchingly using TikTok to tell the world how they are being treated even though it could be dangerous to do so.

Some women use the posts simply to blow off steam. Others are seeking to spread the word of their often dire working conditions, frequently with a fatalistic sense of humor. Their audience, many of them also foreign workers, say that scrolling through funny videos is a way to ease loneliness and can provide a brief respite from stress, anxiety or depression.

“Many here are suffering,” said Merygene Cajoto, 35, a Filipino worker in Saudi Arabia who posts to more than 18,000 followers. “The way they express their depression, their stress from their work, is through TikTok. Friends send me videos and advice. It’s a kind of help line.”

Ms. Dama started posting on TikTok about a year ago, documenting the travails of workers like her in the Middle East. Before the “Don’t Got It” video went viral, she had fewer than 20,000 followers. After it came out, that number jumped by about 5,000 within days, and she now has more than 32,000.

Her videos, often tinged with sarcasm, dissect some of the weighty problems facing domestic laborers in the Gulf.

In another video, Ms. Dama dons a head scarf to mimic her Saudi employer. Her boss accused her of stealing money because she “comes from poverty back home,” according to Ms. Dama.

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