News / USA

Immigrant Women Especially Vulnerable to Sexual Harassment in Workplace

Multimedia

Bernard Shusman

Since the earliest days of the Dutch settlers, New York has been the first stop for many immigrants coming into the United States - and in recent years, that has included immigrants from Africa.  More than half a million African migrants have come to the United States since 1980, and many have settled in New York, like other groups before them.   But with them have come serious social issues, especially for young West African women working in the city.

One of the main West African immigrant enclaves is in this Bronx, New York, neighborhood.  They are hard-working, religious people, who are making a life for themselves and their families in this new, different environment.  

Many women work as nannies or domestics, hotel chambermaids or go to school.  And many work in fear, like this woman named Fatou, a home attendant.

"I am scared to talk to people, I do not want to lose my job," said Fatou.

Fatou says the son of a client tried to have sex with her and it was not the first time it happened on a case.  It was similar, in a way, to the case of former International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who is charged with attacking a West African chambermaid, and now awaits trial.  

Dorchen Leidholdt, director of a group called Sanctuary for Families, says her group tries to help immigrant women.    

"Immigrant women, especially young women, immigrant women, are especially vulnerable to sexual harassment in the workplace," said Leidholdt.  "Eighty percent of our clients are immigrants.  Most come from Latin America, Asia, Africa, like the victim in this particular case.  And we hear horrifying stories about what they are subjected to by employers."

The National Domestic Workers Alliance is calling for an international law banning harassment in the workplace.  Ai-Jen Poo says domestics and chambermaids have the same problems.

"The way we like to talk about it in the domestic work industry is, it is almost like our industry is, we call it, 'the wild West,' because almost anything goes," noted Ai-Jen Poo.  "There is no regulation, very little protection, very little standards.  It is often up to the individual workers who are very often isolated to advocate for their rights with very little power to do so."

As a college student at John Jay College in Manhattan, Guinea native Marie Toure was told that she could get a higher grade in exchange for sexual favors.  

"It was a scary situation," said Toure.  "I had to keep my GPA [grade point average] up.  Having a professor do that to you is kind of like scary.  Because if he is in school as a teacher he is supposed to protect you.  But if he is putting you in a situation where you are scared and put in a situation to hurt you.  It is hard to know what to do."

Counselor Miriama Diallo is also from West Africa.  She says the psychological effects and dangers in the workplace or at school are real.

"The women who share their experience, it is a huge effect.  The psychological that it has on them you cannot describe.  Nightmares, flashbacks, lack of sleep, tearful, profound tearful expressions when they come to these sessions," Diallo noted.

New York City's Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs, Fatima Shama, says the city and state of New York are trying to reach out to these women and assure them they can get help, whether documented or undocumented.   

"We understand the fear, we understand unfortunately what is happening in our communities," said Shama.  "This is why, I think, a conversation like this today, allowing us to truly repeat and remind people there are agencies and people interested in protecting them and their well-being, whether it is immigration, unauthorized around immigration, or other areas where individuals or consumers are not being protected or victimized."

According to the Center for Battered Women's Legal Services, the fact that the woman in the Strauss-Kahn case came forward and reported him to the police may be a psychological turning point for immigrant women workers and students.

You May Like

Video Protests Continue in Ferguson, Spread to Other US Cities

Missouri officials say deployment of more than 2,000 National Guard soldiers helps curb second night of rampant arson and looting in Midwestern town More

Video Ebola, Crackdown on Illegals Hit Business in Guangzhou

Chinese city has largest community of Africans in Asia More

Video Legendary Lebanese Actress, Singer Sabah Dies at 87

Music and film diva, affectionately called 'Sabbouha' by millions of her fans, performed at Carnegie Hall in New York, Royal Albert Hall in London, Olympia in Paris, Sydney Opera House in Sydney More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid