Lebanon is a destination for Asian and African women trafficked for the purpose of domestic servitude, and for women from Easter Europe for commercial sexual exploitation. There are estimated 200,000 migrant domestic workers in Lebanon and until 2012, Lebanon was the top country of destination for female migrant workers from Nepal. Women who travel to Lebanon legally to work as household servants often find themselves in conditions of forced labour through the withholding of passports, non-payment of wages, restrictions on movement, threat and physical of sexual assault.
Savitra was having family problems in Nepal when she decided to go to an agency who acquired her work in Nepal. Upon arrival she went to work as a domestic worker for two different employers, however found it difficult to learn the tasks required of her and was sent back to the agency in Lebanon. Rather than being allowed to return home, Savitra was told she would have to struggle in Lebanon for one or two years to pay back the debt incurred from her travel. While she was eventually placed with a nicer employer who provided her with food, accommodation and clothes, she was still unable to leave her employer’s house
I have been to Lebanon. I stayed for four years and one month there. I returned to Nepal just 22 days ago. My agents were husband and wife. The wife is a close relative of mine. I had to wait for my visa in Delhi. I waited for two months. We flew from Delhi and went to Dubai. Then we went to Lebanon from there. It was Ramadan so my employer could not come to the airport. A person from the agent’s office came to pick me up and he dropped me off at my employer’s home. I stayed at that house for 6 days and it was not nice. Maybe because I am illiterate, I didn’t know how to work properly. It is very different from how we work in Nepal. I could not operate any equipment. There were different kinds of dishes made of class. The toilet was totally different. Everything was totally different so it became difficult for me.
They told me to go to the agent’s office. I said yes. I had to do whatever they told me. Then I went to work at another house. There I didn’t like it much. IT was very difficult to work there. The employer was not nice. Food and accommodation was also not good. It became difficult and I didn’t like it. Then I called my agent in Nepal from the agent’s office in Lebanon to tell him that I was not happy and wanted to return home. He told me not to do that and said that he would lose his investment. He told me that I also spent money to go to Lebanon and that I should struggle there for one or two years. He said he would discuss it at his office and will look for a new house and a nicer employer. Later it was okay.
I stayed at the agent’s office for about 15 days to learn the work. They treated me well and also taught the work. My new employer came and sent me to check my blood. Then he took me. It was good that I went with him. Salary was also good. They gave me 150 dollars and provided good food as well. They provided with decent clothes. Food, accommodation and clothes were nice. When I was sick they provided with medicine as well. Everything was good. For the work they instructed me well. I didn’t feel it was difficult. I had to clean the house, make things ready and help cook food. I did the work I knew and I got support from them for other work which I didn’t know. I had to wash dishes, wash the clothes and iron them. The difficult part was that I was not allowed to go out. I could not call my parents regularly. They would ask me to wait for three or four days before I could call them. I could not meet my friends and hang around. I could go to a store in the neighbourhood but not far. They used to tell me that I would be in trouble if I went far. They told me they would bring everything I needed. I though that was okay, I didn’t go there for pleasure, I went there because I had family problems. I told them that I would stay in the house. They bought everything and I didn’t bother to go out.
I started learning my work but as I didn’t know their language it made it difficult. I only knew a few English words. I used to ask them what the English translation was and they would tell me. Even the kids spoke in English and I would ask them for the English word for things. Later, I wrote the words in Nepali and checked with them. When I didn’t know, I would show them the things and they would tell me the names. My employer was nice. She would teach me how to do things. She would give clear instructions and that made things easier.
When I was due to go back to Nepal, my employer organised everything. I could eat on the plane. I arrived home safely.
First of all, you need to learn the language. You should learn all skills required for household work. You should not be angry with them but ask them politely. You should ask them if you are confused. If you don’t lose your tempter and learn the work faster it will be easy. Some people escape from their jobs. It will be difficult if you escape. If they catch you then they don’t treat you very well. You will be taken to the police and they will beat you. They will take away your things including your passport. My sisters, you should not do that. Because you are there to solve your problem, you should always think about your problem. You have to be ready to face any situation.
As told to Anti-Slavery International