Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Glimpse into the Lives of Street Cleaners in Kuwait - A Must See Film 'Tokai' (Street Cleaner)

It's on YouTube. Has been banned in Kuwait by the Ministry of Information. Thanks for the heads-up, Ahmed, Frankom blog and Desert Girl

This film is participating at the Kuwait International Film Retreat (Kuwait Young Film contest-Contest Films A) which would be played at Al-Kout mall on April 6th (12pm), 7th (4pm) 8th (6pm).

The film title: TOKAI (Street Cleaner) – Production year: 2007 – Country of origin: Kuwait – Languages: Bengali, Subtitles: English – Film Type: Documentary -Time: 18 min.
TOKAI (street cleaner) is a short documentary that offers a glimpse into the lives of thousands of street cleaners who sweep the streets of Kuwait. In a country of abundance and wealth, these men earn menial salaries, as low as KD 20/$50 a month and eventually regress into the forgotten inhabitants of the Middle East.

Directed, edited and produced by:
Abdulrahman Alaskar
Abeer Tebawi
Vachan sharma

This is a moving film. You know that it is going on right around you, but this nails it. These companies keep cleaners' passports, so they are in servitude.
I can see how the Ministry of Info would ban it. Human trafficking is something that no one wants to talk about, but it exists in many countries (including the US). The thing is: do something about it.

So.... here's how you can help.... give directly to street cleaners or give to charities like Operation Hope or the Salvation Army (they do operate discreetly in Kuwait and you can contact them through their international office for support). Donate used clothing. Drive out to Hasawi (from 6th Ring Road, take the exit after 60. Turn left. Go straight.). Find poor people and hand stuff out. It's simple. They're not so hard to find all over the country: they wear yellow suits.

I know I am going to get mail from people saying to beware of street cleaners "they're criminals" etc. etc. There are also people out there saying that these guys make so much money off charity that they can buy their own Mercedes when they get home - yada yada (but not without their passport, right?) Okay fine. You have an opinion and I have my own opinion: God gave me a brain, a heart, and judgement skills: I use them.

By the way, in case anyone out there is wondering: Minimum wage in Kuwait is supposed to be KD 60 per month. Kuwait has an official 48 hour work week. Kuwait offers a universal healthcare system, but many of the laborers must take time off work to go to a hospital or clinic.

LWDLIK- Shame on the individuals and company owners who exploit these poor people and shame on the powers that be for not enforcing laws to stop this. This is a horrible slur on the reputation of Kuwait.
The above post plagerised straight from my friend and big-hearted blogger Desert Girl. Thanks DG just want to help get the message out. K x 


  1. you have such a beautiful heart. Don't worry about people who don't think like you, because there is as much or even more who think exactly like you and would love to help, they just need a little push!

    In fact, I was thinking to start a little blog and put the life story of one low paid employee in kuwait a day. Not only street cleaners, also cleaners in companies, they get paid as less as 40KD and sometimes I hear some money would be deducted from their salaries :'(.

    It just got too hard for me to manage time between work, kuwait music and a new blog. But I probably will start something in the near future.

    Thank you for sharing this video. And a big clap to our friend Vachan Sharma who created this movie with other 2 friends of his.

  2. Thanks Narine.
    It is a heart-breaking subject that needs much more attention and solutions. This is not the sort of thing that should be happening here. There are many Kuwaitis who are as horrified by this as we are. At least exposing it is a start.
    The MoI should have allowed it but actually the coverage the film will get now by being banned will be enormous, they may have done them a big favour :O)
    My hope and aim - and I'm sure this goes for the makers of the film too- is to make Kuwait a better place for all to live in. Nobody wants to humiliate or embarass the Kuwaitis or government but this is not something that should be ignored any longer.

  3. very true. In my 10 year residence in Kuwait, I have only good things to say about kuwaitis, from the way they treat me at the government offices, to shopping malls, to face-to-face business relationships. I truly believe kuwaitis are very nice and kind people. They could be in their own world not aware of the other worlds around them, just like we are. Sometimes we fail to see things that are so obvious around us. And there is no need to blame anyone. Some of us are more active noticing these little details and have better skills in making it their mission to help others..

    As far as the street cleaners subject is concerned, IMO small steps can be taken. A ticket per year to send them visit their families will dramatically change their lives, restore their hopes, and charge them with motivation to go on... Then a basic improvement in living conditions and transportation and food, so they can totally save their salaries for themselves and their future or families...the salary can also go not to double but at least reach a 60 - 70 KD and nothing to be deducted from them for health insurance or residence fees.... really breaks my heart, but there is only a very little that we can do. And that little could really sometimes change their lives.

  4. Hi Narine
    It's a good start at the moment I believe they are only entitled to travel after two years.
    Sadly they also face horrible exploitation in their own countries before they get here. Borrowing money from loan sharks, paying an agents fee, etc gets them into all sorts of debts which is compounded when they get her by employers who don't pay or are late in paying or pay a half of what was promised.
    Very tragic indeed.

  5. BTW Narine I think you should really get that blog started on the street cleaner and turn it into a book when finished. Good luck sweety. K x

  6. Hello my name is Vachan Sharma, one of the directors on Tokai, I wanted to thank you both, Narine & LWDLIK for your support. It is hugely inspiring.

    Please spread the word and push for awareness. Discuss the issue even with those who disagree with you. Each one of us as the power to change the world, one action at a time.

  7. What a great topic to talk about! I feel so sad to see hard working people having a vision and a big dream ending up in this misery!

    There are many generous people in Kuwait and I’m sure they’ll be hurt and at the same time ashamed watching this.

    I am Kuwaiti studying abroad and I have background in video editing. Would love to work on these topics one day when I return to spread awareness and let people realize how others are living in Kuwait.

    Doesn’t matter what color or nationality, every one has the right to live with dignity; people who are suffering must be heard. Showing glimpse of their daily lives is the best way to reflect reality.

    Keep up the good work! I was so touched watching your video

  8. Hi Vachan, thanks for popping by and for making a difference with your movie. Thank you and your colleagues for having the courage of your convictions.
    Agree awareness is a good start.

  9. Hi Nadia, it's great you want to get involved to improve other people's lives. It's what all religions teach us. And there is nothing more satisfying. WTG girl :OD

  10. Ahmed MotayedApril 11, 2011

    This really nice to see this short film on this topic. Thanks LWDLIK for bring this for us on your blog site, & Thanks to Vachan too. Its make me emotional too, as a Bangladeshi. I am also agree awareness is a good start, we have to race the voice to make sure their human rights. As a i seen Kuwaiti new generation is changing, even that number is very less, which is not enough to change the country. ( I would like to contact with Vachan Sharma for more work on this topic, if its possible)

    Again thanks LWDLIK & Vachan.

  11. Hi Ahmed, thanks for the comment. Understandable the pain you must feel as a Bangladeshi.
    Best to write your email address in a comment here. That way if Vachan passes by again he'll see it. Meanwhile you can start writing stories/scripts down.
    Have a good day.

  12. Ahmed MotayedApril 12, 2011

    Thank you LWDLIK for advice, My email ID is: I will be glad, if can contact with Vachan.

    I will try to write some true stories soon.

    Have a lovely day you too.

  13. Hello Ahmed Motayed, Nadia & LWDLIK,

    I hope this finds you all well.

    You can get in touch with me by sending me a message via my youtube channel:

    or you can email me at:

    Thanks for your support Ahmed and for your passion of film, I will email you.

    Thank you Nadia for your heartfelt message. You can write me if you'd like to discuss story ideas for future films.

    Thanks again LWDLIK.

    If you have any ideas for the next film in Kuwait please let me know. I am also available to shoot/help out on any productions shooting here.

    Your support inspires me to make more films.


  14. My pleasure Vachan. Good luck!


Always great to hear from you :O)