One day, as I was casually enjoying a cold drink, I noticed something odd across the street. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I scratched my eyes just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. I see a dark-skinned women cleaning a window: I don’t know her nationality, but most Lebanese people call domestic workers “Filipino”, even if she’s from an African country. Sure, cleaning a window sounds like a simple task, but when you are standing on the edge of the balcony, a low extension of the wall of the house (this is a weird building, so just check out the picture to understand).
Last summer, we got new neighbors on the second in the building across the street from us. Summers in Beirut are abnormally hot and humid, and I tend to spend most of my days on the my balcony (I don’t like to use the air conditioner a lot because it consumes so much energy and is harmful to the environment). When I sit outside, I start going Rear Window on my neighbors. Sadly (for the owners), the 8-floor building from across the street is almost empty, there are only 3 apartments taken.
Rear Window, 1954, directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
Picture taken on June 27, 2013
This isn’t the first time I see her doing this. But what can I do? Sadly, these women have no little to no rights in this country. The minute their employers pays the agency to get these women here, they believe they own them, and treat them like rubbish. They give them very little food, make them work over 16hours a day, take care of the children (some children call their housekeepers “Mama”), they are abused, physically and sexually… Of course I am not saying EVERYONE does that, don’t put words in my mouth. Last year, an Ethiopian women was beaten in the street, in front of the Ethiopian embassy and people just stood there. She was driven to an asylum, where she committed suicide a couple of days later.
You hear a lot of similar stories to this one in Lebanon: many of them commit suicide, but most of the employers tell their families that she was sick.
I am really ashamed to know that some of us treat still treat their domestic workers as punching bags. Just the thought of it makes me sick to my stomach.
If you are interested in the topic, you can read a report by KAFA (enough) Violence and Exploitation: http://www.kafa.org.lb/StudiesPublicationPDF/PRpdf37.pdf
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