My name is Banchyi and I am from Ethiopia.
I came to Lebanon in my early twenties to support my family by working as a domestic worker. I have been here for seven years; working in different houses where I was abused verbally and physically and not paid for months.
I worked for employers who never treated me like a human being. They called me names but never my name. I was starved for three days in the last house I worked at. The family left me in a remote village house with little food. I drank only tap water to survive. I fainted and when they came back I asked them to take me to the hospital but they refused. I left the house.
For six months, I worked for free. The owner of the recruitment agency was giving me as a gift; once to his son’s fiancé’s family; another to his daughter and her husband’s family.
For me, Kafala* is slavery. It takes away people’s lives.
Domestic work is work and domestic workers have workers’ rights too. We should be treated as any other worker, as any human being.Banchyi, domestic worker in Lebanon
It is like living in a prison. I didn’t have access to a phone and I was not allowed to communicate with my family.
People treat you like their property; they tell you what to wear, how to sleep, when to sleep, what to eat, when to eat, if you can send money for your family or not, if you can talk to them or not.
They decide everything for us. They treat us like objects.
This Sunday there is a protest to demand our human rights. I am calling everyone to be a voice for the voiceless; to be there for the ones who cannot leave the house of their employers. Every migrant worker who has the chance to go out and take to the street has a responsibility to fight for the right of other workers who cannot.
Lebanese people should join the protest too. We are not against the Lebanese people, we are against the Kafala system. We do not hate Lebanese people, we hate the Kafala system.
Kafala system should be abolished. Domestic work is work and domestic workers have workers’ rights too. We should be treated as any other worker, as any human being.
Join us to demand our freedom from Kafala; to demand accountability for all the abuses and violations faced by migrant domestic workers in Lebanon.
If employers and agencies continue to act with impunity, migrant domestic workers will continue to throw themselves out of the balconies. This must stop.
We do not want a system to control us but a system to protect us!
Join us this Sunday against violence, against discrimination, and against injustice.
DISCLAIMER: This blog is based on the words and opinion of the author
* Migrant domestic workers who come to Lebanon for employment do so under the Kafala sponsorship system that enables their employers to exercise significant control over their lives. To enter the country, every migrant domestic worker in Lebanon must have a “sponsor”, who must also be his or her employer. Migrant workers need their sponsor’s permission to change or leave jobs and are at risk of deportation without any process to challenge such decision if their sponsors decide to withdraw their sponsorship.
By giving employers significant power over migrant workers they employ, the Kafala system currently in place is at the heart of much of the most egregious labour exploitation and abuses suffered by migrant domestic workers in Lebanon.