As told to Hillary Leung. Words by Hillary Leung.
Yasmin* lives in Hong Kong with her young son. After spending 10 years working as a domestic helper in Hong Kong, she terminated her contract and returned to Philippines to raise her son as a single mother for two years. Circumstances back home forced her to leave and seek refuge in Hong Kong, where she has been for the past two years.
Could you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I’ve been in Hong Kong for more than 10 years. I was a domestic helper in the beginning and I worked for four employers. At my last employer, I gave birth to my son. My son was born here in Hong Kong. When he was six months old we went back to the Philippines. We stayed there for almost two years, and then we came to Hong Kong. I applied for asylum seeker because of some family problems I was having.
I decided to become a domestic helper because my auntie told me I would be able to earn money here. Since I was not studying anymore, and I was also not working, I took the opportunity to come here as a domestic helper.
What was life like as a domestic helper?
It was tough. The first employer was really tough. Food and accommodation – food was just a little, sleeping time only a few hours. The first employer was too tough and I couldn’t manage it, so they fired me. The second employer was very good. Everything was very good, it was an easy job and I stayed about four years. The third employer was also very tough. She was a stay-at-home mom so whatever I did she was watching me. She was very strict. I was there for only four months. The last employer was good too. I stayed with them for five years, and after that I gave birth to my son. My son’s father is a Hong Kong resident from Pakistan. He is separated from me. We have not been in contact for a long time.
What is your status right now?
For now, I am a claimant.
Why did you decide to come to Hong Kong?
Actually there is a story behind it. The son’s father and I were on good terms. When I went back to my country, my parents asked me where the father is. I said he is coming soon, and then he’s going to marry me here. But one month, two months, passed, and he never called. He never sent any money for my son, so they started to think differently about the father.
Also, I became a Muslim. In the beginning they didn’t know this. We Muslims have the month of Ramadan, the time for fasting. They didn’t know that I became Muslim, but when the fasting month came, I really had to do it. I felt guilty not doing it. And that’s the time they found out we are actually are Muslim. The father of my child never showed up, and their minds became different towards Muslim people. They became very angry. Before I went back to the Philippines, I found out that the father has another family. That’s why I decided to go back to my country – I was hoping to start a new life.
But one day when my parents asked me where the father is and why he’s not coming. I couldn’t keep the secret anymore. I told them that actually, the father is not coming anymore. He has another family in Hong Kong and hasn’t had contact with me since then. That’s the time they started to feel very mad at my son and me. They told me I have brought very big shame to the family.
They said, “You never think of us, only yourself. You are a grown-up but still do wrong things like this.” But I think everybody makes mistakes without knowing what the outcome is afterwards, and they try to make their lives better after that. This is my point, that’s why I went home. I knew the father is gone, but still I wanted to slowly make it by myself.
I hoped my family would understand somehow, maybe in the long run, but my expectations were different. They got angry, they pushed me out of the home, they were angry to my son. They said, “It’s better you die than bringing back the boy without the father. You are useless to us. Don’t come to our home if the father isn’t with you. This boy is nothing to do with us. We don’t care about you and him.”
I really felt like no one could help me. I felt like I wanted to kill myself, because I couldn’t manage with my parents treating my son and I like this. I couldn’t manage how to eat and sleep, but because of my son, I was able to do it.
My son doesn’t understand what they’re saying to him, but I understand. I keep myself stronger for him because I can protect him. No one can protect me except myself. But my son cannot protect himself. He is too young. One time I had money, and my family knew I had money. I was going to use the money to buy milk. But my father took it and bought alcohol and drank it. I cried a lot.
I realized I had to find a way to get out from here. Because I had no where to go. I had no friends because I was here in Hong Kong working for ten years. All my friends are already gone, or they have their families in other places. I feel too ashamed to talk to them about my problems, so I kept everything to myself.
One day I contacted my friend in Hong Kong. I told her I wanted to come to Hong Kong because I was having many problems here, and my son and I, we are dying. My father and mother always told me, it’s better you die.
I was so scared because my father is an alcoholic. When he is drunk, I am so scared. Sometimes he’s holding the knife, and there’s no sleeping for me. I just keep watching what he’s going to do. My friend believed me, so she sent me some money for the tickets.
I bought the tickets to Hong Kong. My family didn’t know. When I came here, I felt like I could take a deep breath. That’s why I’m applying as an asylum seeker in Hong Kong. There’s nothing for me in my country. I have no property or investment, and my family asked me to get lost. So I am here because my son needs to have a life.
(To be continued).