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."

 

At least 235 killed in Egypt mosque attack

Saudi Crown Prince calls Iran supreme leader 'new Hitler'

Syrian opposition agrees to send united delegation to Geneva talks

Saudi-led coalition clears passenger flights to Sanaa

Baghdad's Shabandar cafe marks century since opening

Turkey says Trump pledged to stop arming Kurds

Turkey president sues main opposition party leader

Lebanon's Hariri brings status quo back with him

Activists say 'everybody knew' about Libya slave trade

Erdogan says no contact 'at the moment' with Assad

Lebanon's Jumblatt criticises Saudi Arabia, Iran

China says it will make efforts on Syria reconstruction

Turkey to detain 79 former teachers in post-coup probe

Hezbollah hails PM's suspension of resignation

Syrian opposition aims for unity at talks in Riyadh

Egypt police kill 3 Islamists in shootout

Turkey unsure if Assad to be part of Syria political transition

Migrant arrivals from Libya down since EU deal

Palestinian factions leave Cairo talks with little progress

Sudan’s Bashir looks to Putin for ‘protection’ from US aggression

China, Djibouti forge 'strategic' ties

IS propaganda channels fall quiet in 'unprecedented' hiatus

Kremlin to create Syria congress despite Turkey ‘reservations’

Netanyahu berates deputy minister for 'offensive' remarks on US Jews

Egypt PM heads to Germany for medical treatment

Egypt destroys 10 SUVs carrying arms on Libya border

Outrage in Iraq over 'child marriage' bill

Iraq launches operation to clear last IS holdouts from desert

Saudi-led coalition to reopen Yemen airport, port to aid

Turkey court rules to keep Amnesty chief in jail

France calls for UN meeting on Libya slave-trading

Egypt detains 29 for allegedly spying for Turkey

WTO panel to hear Qatar’s complaint against UAE blockade

Three dead as diphtheria spreads in Yemen

Lebanon’s Hariri suspends resignation

Israel seizes explosive material at Gaza border

Activists call for release of UK journalist held by IS

Bahrain upholds jail sentence for activist

Iraq attacks at lowest since 2014

Turkey continues crackdown in post-coup probe

Hariri back in Lebanon

Putin to hold Syria peace talks with Erdogan, Rouhani

US carries out air strikes against IS in Libya

Divided Syria opposition meets in Riyadh

Lebanon's Hariri in Egypt ahead of return home