At IFORHER, we applaud the courage of every woman who has pushed stepped out of the comfort zone to change her life for better. But, the story of this woman is very special as she did it to bring happiness and peace in the lives of many other people, who didn’t have the avenues to fight.
We are celebrating the story of this courageous woman, Shaheen Sayeed, who has saved the lives of 7,000 workers over 22 years. While sharing her story on HOB, she mentioned how she fought for those who couldn’t fight for themselves.
“I moved to Kuwait with my husband and kids over 30 years ago. I was a housewife there and most of my time would be spent looking after my kids. There were a lot of Indians like me, who had come with their families to settle here…but not all of us were happy.
In Kuwait, a lot of women from rural India would be ‘bought’ by families to come and work at their houses. I remember this one time I had gone to a local cafe to eat, and I saw a housemaid there sitting at a table. When she saw me, she started talking to me about how she had so much work to do, she wasn’t taken care of properly and wasn’t even allowed to go back home.
Her ‘owners’ didn’t like the fact that I was talking to her and immediately took her away.
Luckily, after a few days I bumped into her again at a supermarket. I realised what a horrible condition she was in, and decided to take her to the embassy. I got in touch with her sponsor, spoke to them firmly—telling them to let her go. Things worked out and soon she was sent home.
That one incident changed my life—I made a Facebook group and reached out to any housemaid who looked like she needed help. There were maids who had run away from their home in the middle of the night, maids who were starving or who had met with an accident, just trying to get help.
Once, there was a lady who called me in the middle of the night saying that she needed to be rescued. Her house was extremely far and it wasn’t safe for me to leave, so I told her to just hold tight and that I’d come in the morning.
The next day, I realised that her ‘owners’ had already put her in jail. They had ‘bought’ her to work at a salon, but had been exploiting her to no end. They wouldn’t give her clothes to wear, they’d accuse her of stealing, and even sexually abused her.
All she wanted was to earn for her family, but was being tortured instead. By the time I got to her she was really scared but I vowed to make her reach home safe. The ‘owners’ and other parties involved would always think that these ‘housemaids’ are alone and would use it to their advantage, but when I’d walk in…they’d get scared and relent.
The same happened here too. After much back and forth and knowing that giving up wasn’t an option, I freed her and collected money from local charities to send her back home.
I’ve been doing this for over 22 years now and have helped over 7000 workers, maids and seafarers stranded here. I don’t do it because I have something to prove, or because I have anything to gain. I do it because at the end of the day, when you have the power to help make someone else’s life better… you can’t be spending your days, wasting it.”
As a society, we need to celebrate stories of real heroes who have dedicated their lives to make our society a better place. If you know of any such real hero, do share their story with us.