First Published: 2009-04-30

 
Lebanese get lesson on domestic workers from 'Mimi'
 

Series of books launched in Lebanon to sensitise population to foreign domestic workers.

 

Middle East Online

A drop in the bucket but will make a difference

BEIRUT - A series of children's books launched in Lebanon to coincide with Labour Day aims to sensitise the population to the estimated 200,000 foreign domestic workers often ignored and even abused in the country.

The Arabic-language series, "Mimi and her Magic Globe," takes young readers on a journey to the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia, home to most of the foreign labourers employed in Lebanon.

"This is part of a national campaign to raise awareness," said Nada Nashef, regional director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which partly funded the book project.

The series will target schools as well as public and private institutions to encourage more tolerance and respect of foreign workers who are an essential component of the labour force in Lebanon but are given few basic rights.

"I wanted through these books to teach children that these women who care for them are not simply maids but also come from countries with a culture and a history," said Leila Zahed, who authored the series. "These maids adapt to our culture here, but no one asks them where they come from.

"And that is not to speak of the mistreatment many are subjected to in some households."

Each book is illustrated with drawings, maps, charts as well as cultural tidbits about the country concerned and basic words in the local dialect.

In Ethiopia, for example, Mimi learns that coffee beans were discovered there while in the Philippines she visits rice fields and feasts on shrimp.

In Sri Lanka, she rides elephants and learns about the country's history as a major tea producer.

Nadim Houry, of Human Rights Watch in Beirut, welcomed the initiative but stressed that much more needed to be done to raise public awareness on the issue.

But there are signs, albeit small, that the Lebanese state and society are waking up to the problem.

The government this year issued a decree that requires employers to abide by a set of rules including paying workers their salary in full at the end of each month and giving them one day off a week.

Several events are also planned this weekend for Labour Day including a food tasting festival, concerts and a photo exhibit.

Zahed said she realises that her initiative is but a drop in the bucket but hoped that nonetheless it will make a difference.

"If the children who read 'Mimi' learn to at least say 'thank you' to their maids who care for them on a daily basis, we are making headway," she said.

"A small word like 'thank you' in Tagalog, spoken in the Philippines, can make a big difference."

 

Yemen warring parties 'closer' to agreement

Major assaults target IS jihadists in Iraq, Syria

Netanyahu forms ultra-nationalist Israel government

New Afghan Taliban leader named

Female Emirati pilot issues rallying cry to young women

Sudan accuses UN official of 'false' reports on displaced

Egypt quashes prison sentences for 47 protesters

At least 5 drown off Libya coast

Coalition airstrike kills six Yemen civilians 'by mistake'

Erdogan chairs first meeting of new Turkey cabinet

Pope prays to 'convert hearts' of ISIS extremists

Egypt expels French journalist amid crackdown on media

Israeli rights group gives up on army complaints system

Hamas-led council backs executions without Abbas approval

Syrian base used by Russia damaged in IS attack

Kurdish, Arab forces announce anti-IS offensive north of Syria's Raqa

Palestinian PM dismisses Netanyahu proposal

Israel PM's travel expenses under scrutiny

EgyptAir victims' relatives give samples for DNA tests

Iran sends new delegation to Saudi for hajj talks

Hardline cleric elected head of Iran's Assembly of Experts

Civilians trapped as Fallujah siege tightens

Iraq's Fallujah offensive draws attention from embattled PM

Turkey incoming PM unveils cabinet

US, Russia scramble to save Syria truce

Libyan coastguards intercept 550 bound for Europe

Campus bomb kills two in Yemen's Sanaa

Saudi soldier killed in landmine blast on Yemen border

Over 148 killed in IS bombings in Syria regime heartland

Iraq forces battle IS jihadists to retake Fallujah

Erdogan advisor says Turkey could suspend EU deals

Iraq launches military operation to retake Fallujah

Oil prices dip as Iran says no to output freeze

Skepticism ahead of Istanbul humanitarian summit

Sudan steps up pressure for exit of Darfur peacekeepers

UN Palestinian agency says half its schools hit by conflict

Bombs kill more than 120 in Syria regime strongholds

Netanyahu rejects French peace initiative

Gunmen kill 8 worshipers in Darfur

India in deal to turn Iran port into trade hub

Turkey's incoming PM working on new cabinet

Israel lifts ban on Gaza cement deliveries

Yemen warring parties meet after long pause

Egypt enlists submersible to search for EgyptAir crash clues

Tunisia's Ennahda reelects Ghannouchi as party chief