One of the things I’ve realised from living in Qatar for nine and a half years is that things are never straightforward.
I thought it was enough to apply for a job, get the job and start the job. I thought, all I had to do after than was provide my bank details and stock up on a work wardrobe from COS. I thought a nice water bottle, a decent set of Tupperware for my lunch and smart but comfortable shoes would see me off to a great start in the workplace in Qatar. Needless to say, I was wrong.
The start was fine, I arrived at school, greeting everyone in a polite and friendly manner, plugged in my mini-fridge and got stuck in. First things first, I sent my bank details to the HR department. Turns out the HR department had plans outside of my wardrobe, tupperware and bank details.
I felt on top of the world in my new role and was delighted to be back in the working world, seeing myself outside of being mum or wife, where my contribution was more than sorting laundry, endless snack preparation and tantrum management, the kids are as bad. Until I got a visit from the HR manager wanting to have a word with me in private, over what she pre-warned me was ‘a sensitive issue’. A million things raced through my mind, deodorant, check, mouthwash, check, dress not tucked inside knickers, check, what could it be? What was the sensitive issue? Backing me into a corner, literally, her frame shielding me from any on-lookers, she broached the sensitive subject, my age. If I was 45 years or above there would be difficulty getting labour card. Number one I am not 45, or anywhere near, in fact if you count in month I’m miles away from it. Number two, why would she even think that ? Number three, what is a labour card.
Apparently, all women beginning work in Qatar while under their husband’s sponsorship must apply for their own labour card before starting work. The requirements are as follows:
I need permission from my husband. I need a police clearance certificate from everywhere I’ve lived for the past ten years. Getting police clearance from Indonesia would be fun. Copy of passport and valid RP. Provide all educational certificates and translate to Arabic. Current Sponsor’s ID Card. Provide attested employment contract copy translated in English and Arabic. A corporate identity card photocopy. Two passport size recent photo and five hundred and sixty riyal, thank you very much.
Bad as all this was, I couldn’t get over the initial question of age. How of all sudden has my age become a sensitive issue. No one ever apologised for asking my age when I was 29 but suddenly its considered as a question that might cause offence. If I didn’t feel old before, I felt it now, without realising it are people viewing me as middle aged, as past it a bit, getting on? It seems is the juxtaposition of the life of a woman, when we are young we want to be older, when we’re older we want to be younger and when we’re middle-aged, that when we gain a little respect but at what cost, youth, perceived youth in this case.
From feeling on top of the world to feeling that I had moved social category from a girl brimming with personality and humour to a woman that must be treated somewhat sensitively. Not only that, but I also needed permission from my husband to start a job, negating the very independence I sought to gain. I needed clearance from the state to say that I’m the right side of 45. Life suddenly seemed less carefree and I wonder is this really an improvement outside of laundry, snack prep and tantrums, at least there were no parameters, I didn’t need my husband’s permission and it didn’t have an age restriction, no one ever asked what age you were when turning on the washing machine.
Feeling pigeon holed and classified I started the process of apply for my requisite labour card, fingers crossed I’ll have it before I’m 45 or it will be back to blissfully uncategorised, domesticity.