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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 November 2005, 09:48 GMT
Zimbabwe migrant: Rejoice Mkwananzi
Woman hanging up washing behind a garden fence
Professional Zimbabweans find themselves working as maids aborad
The BBC News website has been speaking to Zimbabweans who have left the country in recent years about their reasons and the risks they took.

Last week the International Organisation for Migration launched a "Safe Journey" campaign in Zimbabwe, with help from some of the country's best-known musicians, to make would-be migrants aware of the dangers involved.

Rejoice Mkwananzi (not her real name), 49, gave up her position as deputy head teacher of an infant school in Zimbabwe and moved to Israel to be a maid so that she could support her extended family.

When I left Zimbabwe in 1999 I was the acting head teacher at a very respected junior school.

I was in charge of 45 other teachers and would have soon been promoted to head teacher.

Basically at that time wages were too low - and then it was so much better than it is now.

I wish I could do a proper job - doing this is killing me mentally and I have developed a low self-esteem.

Almost half of my salary would go to the taxman. I then had my mortgage to pay for, my car, my various policies and at the end of it all I was left with almost nothing.

It was so hard to make ends meet. It felt as though the moment I received my salary, it was all gone.

My life was hand-to-mouth.

My sister had recently died tragically and her two children were left all alone. The way our society works is that the family steps in and takes over caring and providing as needed.

And so instead of supporting myself and my poor-in-health mother, I now had to provide for my sister's two little girls too.

If I had stayed at home I wouldn't have managed.

Initial intentions

At that time the situation in Zimbabwe was really desperate.

Now though, when I look back it was not all that bad!

Map showing Tel Aviv, Israel
Rejoice lives in a town near Tel Aviv

I met a cousin of mine who had a job in Israel and she told me that the family that she had been working for were looking for someone to help them.

I was just lucky.

The family paid for all my relocation expenses to where they live near Tel Aviv and sorted out a work permit for me.

My initial intentions were just to stay a year.

But things, back home, went from bad to worse and now I don't see myself going back. Well not soon anyway. I don't see how that would be possible.


The work is so depressing. I never thought I would find myself doing these jobs.

I clean the house, look after the children when they come home from school, sometimes I cook, I do everything.

I leave my apartment at half-seven in the morning and get home at nine in the evening, and between those hours I am constantly on my feet.

I only start work at the family's home in the afternoon but to make more money I spend my mornings going about cleaning in different places.

Some of the people are welcoming and good to me but the woman that I mainly work for, I couldn't call her exactly warm.

When I first arrived I used to share a three-bedroom apartment with a Ghanaian and a Kenyan.

It was really difficult though and I had to be so accommodating.

People are different - our cultures, the food we eat and how it smells, manners and all that.

I couldn't get used to it.

I am an independent woman and had always lived on my own, apart from when I was married.

And so as soon as I could I found myself a one-bedroom apartment to rent.


It is better to have my own space but I am lonely.

One does not have a social life living here. There are several Zimbabweans and South Africans that I am friends with - we all stick together.

An ultra-orthodox Jew rides in an almost empty bus in Israel
Rejoice says the thought of bombs makes her fearful of travelling on buses

They normally visit over our weekends - from Friday afternoons till Saturday.

But few of them have the correct papers and so are too frightened to go out in case the police stop them. Instead we meet in people's houses.

When I go around town I am sometimes nervous of a bomb going off. There was a time two, three years ago when we would have to carry gas masks.

And you feel frightened taking buses, because of the bombing. You can feel tensions amongst crowds of people.

Nothing bad has happened to me. God has really protected me.

Phone home

I miss home, so much.

I applied and was given political asylum and so I cannot go home, not even for a holiday. If I went, I would not be allowed back.

I wish I could do a proper job - doing this is killing me mentally and I have developed a low self-esteem.

I love children and would give anything to be able to teach once more.

My mother is physically very ill but is so strong mentally.

I phone home once a week and she tells me to think of what I have achieved.

I have achieved a lot and it makes me happy that I can support my mother and nieces but I am living for my family. I don't even have a boyfriend!

My family depend on me for everything.

I send them money to pay all their bills, pay for the school fees. I make sure my mother can pay to see a private doctor, and that she has all her medications.

They depend on me left, right and centre.

I hope all the things happening in Zimbabwe end soon. I want to go home and live the kind of life that I used to have.

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