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

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid