Quotes from the field - Hanne Mogensen, Copenhagen University and Julaina Obika, Gulu University
Stories from Ugandans working in the Middle East.
"First find yourself some money - marriage will always be there."
For many young women, being able to have money to support themselves and their family members, particularly children, is more important than being married and/or dependant on a husband or partner. Prospects of employment as house maids in the Middle East is a basis for ‘freeing’ oneself from hardship, poverty, unemployment and abusive partners back home.
"First get yourself the Arab experience."
People imagine and hope that working in the Middle East will be the first step towards a different kind of life.
According to one young man: “For me the experience was so good. I have no complaints about it. It depends on the company you are working for. Most men come back home and remain quiet. They go back to the village or they keep quiet within the city. They don’t appear in social media. Ladies like being in the towns and have a need to show themselves always. Maybe they are still hustling or looking for chances to go back. They make very little money – whether or not they finish their contracts, they have not made enough money to help them settle quietly back home. The struggle is still on and on and on.”
For those who have worked there, the “Arab experience” is all about endurance, perseverance, hard work and resilience. When you get the experience of working with an Arab family or boss, then you can work almost anywhere and with anyone else. Life is described as being tough and not for the faint-hearted. But what should be considered is people’s imaginations about the future. Some partnerships grow and change over time and with experience of working abroad for several months or even years.
Hanne Mogensen and Julaina Obika's research project focuses on young men and women around Kampala, Jinja, Tororo and Gulu districts of Uganda to understand how their experiences of working in the Middle East has shaped their lives and imaginations of the future. In particular, they look at marriage and partnerships and how these are formed, contested, negotiated and transformed in the pursuit of livelihoods outside Uganda. Through social media, they are also following men and women currently based in different parts of the Middle East, at different stages of their contract employment. Read more about their joint project here