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."

 

Trump expects Gulf dispute to be resolved quickly

UN awaits Iran’s defence against Trump nuclear deal threats

Erdogan demands Iraqi Kurds call off referendum

Sisi calls for peace, co-existence in Mideast

The skilled youth escaping Turkey's disillusion

Trump’s mind made up on Iran but refuses to divulge

Scores of Iraqis missing during war against ISIS

Netanyahu rejects calls for mixed gender worship at Western Wall

Russia accuses US of missile treaty breach

Iran TV translator mocked for watering down Trump speech

Saudi Arabia hopes Kurdish referendum will not take place

Saudi invites women to sports stadium for first time

Saudi set to create $2.7 billion investment company

Humanitarian disaster grips Yemen three years since Houthi takeover

What will become of Iraq’s Hawija after ISIS?

Multi-ethnic Kirkuk tense ahead of referendum

US-backed SDF seizes 90% of Syria's Raqa

Man hanged in Iran for rape, murder of child

Saudi to lift ban on internet phone calls

US looking to revisit Iran nuclear deal

Bashir calls on Darfur displaced to return

Saudi Aramco could release accounts in early 2018

Saudi-led coalition says rebels hindering Yemen food imports

Jihadist activity prompts regime, Russian air strikes in Syria safe zone

Two prominent rights activists arrested in Saudi Arabia

Israel shoots down Hezbollah drone over Golan Heights

Iraqi forces launch assault on IS in western Anbar province

Families of the missing, the forgotten victims of war in Lebanon

25 killed in South Sudan clashes

Suicide attack on Iraq restaurant kills three

Yazdi, Iranian foreign minister turned dissident, stood up for his ideals

Rebel shelling kills four children in Yemen's Taez

Turkey forces dig in on southern border ahead of Kurdistan vote

Algeria’s army urged to intervene as concerns about president’s health, country’s future grow

Saudi raises $1.87 bn in third Islamic bond issue

Hamas militant dies in Gaza tunnel incident

Algeria says last stock of land mines destroyed

Bahrain accuses Qatar of seizing three boats

Police deploy in Kirkuk after deadly dispute

Sisi meets Netanyahu at UN

The Metamorphosis of Iraq’s Islamist parties

Outgoing Syria war crime investigator slams UN impunity

Syrian army close to besieging IS in Deir Ezzor

France warns on Iran, N. Korea

Palestinian PM poised to visit Gaza