Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Behind closed doors: mobilising Lebanon's migrant maids

"Gemma Justo, general secretary of Lebanon’s first domestic workers union, has a big problem. How can she start mobilising and organising the country’s 250,000 migrant domestic workers when so few are able to leave their employers’ homes and show up for a meeting?
In front of her sit a small group of Ethiopian women, speaking among themselves. Another problem: Justo, a Filipina, speaks English, the other women Amharic. There is a flurry of activity as someone tries and fails to find a translator so that the women can discuss an upcoming protest march.
“Tea, Nescafé?” Justo asks, trying to get the meeting started. “Whiskey?” she finally says as the women laugh. The meeting finishes early and the women hurry back to their domestic duties, promising to return to try again. 
Justo is undaunted. She knows this is going to be an uphill struggle. The fledgling union is yet to be recognised by the government and is operating in a difficult and hostile environment. Lebanon is a dangerous place to be a domestic worker. Human rights groups have documented the widespread abuse of domestic workers. This makes Justo determined to succeed." (thanks Fred)