Be the change you want to see in the world – Gandhi
200.000 foreign maids wake up every morning in a house in Lebanon; they clean balconies, water plants, walk the dog, prepare kids breakfast and lunch, clean bathrooms, kitchens, make beds, hoover, wash floors, clean huge windows, wash clothes, sort clothes, iron clothes, take care of babies, clean them, feed them, put them to bed, cook…and the list goes on.
They get paid a monthly salary of 200-400 USD, sometimes less, rarely more.
They work a minimum of 10 hours a day, many times more. They have a day off, but many people are afraid of letting them leave the house on their own; afraid of bad influence from other foreign workers or even from Lebanese lustful men!
Bottom line: these women have left EVERYTHING behind, they are sometimes married, have children, but in desperate need of money to sustain their families, and arrive to Lebanon believing that their life will get better, richer & safer.
Recently, an agency specialized in training maids has emerged. They deliver a 4 day course at 180 USD, teaching basic words of Arabic, cleaning Lebanese house (many houses are 200sqm and above!), using electrical machines (hoover, washing machine…), and cleaning detergents. The agency also teaches basic human and legal rights; every house helper is entitled a day off, a salary paid every month, an 8-10 working hours per day. For more details read this article in The Daily Star.
The idea is brilliant, considering that most of these women (they mainly come from the Philippines, Sri-Lanka, Nepal & Ethiopia) have rarely seen a washing machine or Ajax liquid. They do not clean balconies and 3 bathrooms in their hometown, and they have no notion, or little, of basic human rights.
The question is: will this agency have client in Beirut? Is the Lebanese community open minded and courageous enough to receive well trained, self respectful house-helpers in their home? In a country where women’s right, children’s rights, animal’s rights and natures rights are sometimes foreign words, an agency for maid training should maybe advocate for basic human training as a start!
We have a live-in house helper since 2005. Chandra came from a village called Biratnagar in Nepal and moved in with us one day after the birth of Sara, our second child. It was an overwhelming experience to have a complete stranger enter the house to live with us, at the same time having a new born and taking care of my elder son, who definitely didn’t like what was going on in HIS house! 6 years later, Chandra is still part of our family. She is now married (found her husband among the Nepalese community in Lebanon), but chose to stay living in our home (go figure!) and wishes to start her own family in Nepal as of next summer.
I feel blessed to have had the luxury of a live-in helper, especially to have received in our house a young women, who left her country desperately after being lucked up in an apartment by an ex-husband who forgot to inform her of his first wife and children.
My wish for people like me, blessed with help, is that we all look and treat those women with respect, with dignity and with generosity. The outcome can only be a win-win situation, for the families, the employers and the employees.