Diana Chepkemoi: How a simple tweet saved a Kenyan girl suffering in Saudi Arabia
Diana Chepkemoi was just one of many Kenyan girls stranded in Saudi Arabia where they went to seek greener pastures, but now she’s back home and in the comfort of her mother’s embrace and on the road to recovery.
Her only mistake was leaving Kenya to go look for a better life for herself and her family. She fell into the hands of a dubious travel agent who handed her over to a cruel employer she says relished mistreating her because “your government can’t help you!”
However, while she’s safe and sound and back where she belongs now, her counterparts still remain trapped and miserable in Saudi Arabia.
The difference between her plight and theirs? The internet – and it all started with a simple tweet.
A Kenyan Twitter user, identified only by the handle @MeBeTed, took to the social networking platform on September 6, 2022 to post photos of a seemingly thin-looking Chepkemoi – whom she referred to as his relative - alongside the following message:
“Her name is Diana Chepkemoi, a relative of mine. She went to Saudi to work as a house manager I think 1½ years ago. This is her condition now. I have reached out to the agent who took her there and she promised to do all it takes to bring her home.
It's been a month now since the agent promised to bring her back but nothing has happen. Please if anyone is a position to help kindly do because this is beyond our power.”
That one tweet set of a whirlwind of events that contributed heavily to Chepkemoi’s rescue and eventual shipping back home, all within four days later.
The tweet, as at the time of going to press, had garnered over 350 comments, 2500 Retweets, and 4100 likes. It had also attracted the attention of prominent personalities and perceived Twitter bigwigs who helped echo the ‘#LetsBringDianaHome’ message, among them; Chief Justice Emeritus Willy Mutunga, rapper King Kaka, Konoin MP Brighton Yegon, Abraham Mutai, Onorpik, among others.
By the next day, even former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko had joined in on the fray, tweeting that he will “rescue her situation by the end of the day.”
The Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Kenya, in a statement issued on September 4 however sought to dismiss claims that Chepkemoi had been mistreated, claiming she suffers what it termed as “a normal health condition.”
Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau, on the same day, said the matter had been taken up by the Kenyan Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and that Chepkemoi was in safe hands, awaiting repatriation back home.
Amb. Kamau then drew the ire of Kenyans online when, in response to a tweet questioning the government’s long-term plan on resolving the persistent Middle East issue, he said: “Please. We have told Kenyans repeatedly to stop sending this category of workers to Saudi. You’ve chosen not to listen.”
The Kenyan embassy in Saudi Arabia, in a subsequent statement on September 5, notified that Chepkemoi was being flown back home after being picked from her employer’s house in an ambulance and undergoing medical checkup.
The 24-year-old Meru University student may be back to the country, but more questions remain on the minds of Kenyans than answers.
For instance, just how many Kenyan girls are out there undergoing the same mental, physical and emotional turmoil that Chepkemoi went through, but their stories have not found their ways out due to lack of access to the internet or, more specifically, Twitter?
Because, in her own words: “If I can just be honest, my case was just the tip of the iceberg people are suffering there. I plead with the government to do something, people there are being mentally tortured and it’s a shame being told that your government can do.”
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