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."


Russia airstrikes target ISIS infrastructure facilities in Syria

Israeli fire wounds at least 10 Palestinians in West Bank

Erdogan faces tough talks in meeting with EU leaders

UAE holds election for advisory council

First hajj stampede bodies arrive in Iran from Saudi Arabia

Erdogan urges Putin to reconsider air campaign in Syria

Iran expels Bahrain envoy in apparent retaliation

US urges Libya rivals to move forward with peace deal

Powers condemn targeting of Syrian opposition by Russia

Turkey accuses Russia of hitting Syria rebels to bolster Assad

Palestinians kill Israeli couple in West Bank shooting

Russia again strikes Assad regime's foes

Iran backs Russian military strategy in Syria

S&P: Gulf banks' net earnings set to slide

Russia confirms new air strikes on targets in Syria

12 killed in Ankara bus stop crash

Syrians, Afghans clash in German refugee centre

South Sudan's peace deal means little in Koch swamps

Trump: If I’m elected, Syrians go back home!

Iran says 464 dead in Saudi hajj stampede

Saudi, Iran agree to repatriate dead pilgrims

Abbas: Palestinians no longer feel bound by past agreements with Israel

Russia, US to hold ‘de-confliction’ talks on Syria

Three conditions as France voices concern over Russia involvement in Syria

Iraq Kurdish forces recapture land from ISIS jihadists

Tunisia buries Sousse gunman under strict security cordon

Iran diplomat missing after hajj stampede

Six days after hajj tragedy, Iran-Saudi tensions escalate

For first time in history, Palestinians to raise flag at UN

Finland freezes asylum decisions for Iraq, Somalia refugees

UK Labour Party ready to support Syria airstrikes, with conditions

Iran Foreign Minister under fire over ‘Obama handshake’

Parliamentary and religious support as Russia launches airstrikes in Syria

Assad regime strikes kill 27 civilians in central Syria

Iraq kidnappers free remaining 16 Turkish workers

Iran threatens 'fierce' reaction if Saudi Arabia does not repatriate hajj victims

Damascus confirms Assad request for military aid from Russia

Europe refugee crisis in focus at UN

France launches war crimes inquiry against Syria regime

Coalition seizes Iran boat with arms for Yemen rebels

Putin gets unanimous parliament support for Syria air strikes

Morocco government blocks opening of first Ikea

Israeli air raids hit Gaza in response to rocket fire

Saudi FM insists Assad must go or be ousted

US training program of Syrian rebels ‘under review’