16th October 2014 Beirut, Lebanon
Equality, Dignity, Respect: Trading Places
This year’s Blog Action Day (#BAD2014 #Blogaction14), on 16 October, is on inequality.
To encourage debate about the rights of migrant workers, I spent the day with Kalkidan Nigusie, from Ethiopia. In the morning, we visited the Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk (who has written his response here), gave a press conference, and chaired a meeting in the embassy. In the afternoon, Kalkidan supervised me cooking and cleaning in the house where she works.
Was this a stunt? Yes. We wanted to get your attention. Did I do a proper day as a domestic worker? No. Kalkidan gave me an easy time. Is this interference in Lebanon’s affairs? No, we’re talking about universal rights. As a passionate evangelist for Lebanon, I believe mistreatment of foreign workers is an issue that is corrosive and damaging for any society.
Inequality is an issue worth being undiplomatic about.
You can better understand the terms and conditions of decent work for migrant domestic workers here. You can learn more about the drama therapy that the brilliant @zeinadaccache does with Kalkidan and others, Catharsis – Lebanese Center for Drama Therapy and support the Migrants Workers Task Force. You can also pledge to be part of Walk Free, the global movement to end modern slavery.
This is about a change of mindset. It was an honour for me to spend the day with Kalkidan. Her country should be proud of her. She should make fellow domestic workers more confident in their rights. She should make the rest of us sit up and listen. Most importantly, she should make anyone exploiting foreign workers feel ashamed and afraid.
Over to Kalkidan…
“Today, I represent foreign men and women working in Lebanon.
Today, I am the Ambassador!
No lunch preparing, no house cleaning;
Today, I joined Ambassador Fletcher to his meetings (with Minister Mashnouk) and then he joined me for lunch preparing in the kitchen.
Working in houses is not a shame,
Today I was respected for being a housekeeper!
We prepared Fattouch, Tabouleh and warak enab…Today, I sat for lunch like everyone else.
I wish we will always be equal
We are all humans and children of God
and there should not be any difference.
We all have Rights..
The Right for a free day every week like we agreed in the contract.
The Right to keep our passports.
The Right not to be judged just because we have different skin colour or race.
The Right to be treated equally.
My friends are all now sending me messages to ask me to talk about the Rights we do not have in Lebanon.
When I came to Lebanon, I only wanted to find money for my mother’s medication, but now that my mom passed away I want to stay in Lebanon because I represent the others.
Finally, I want to thank a special person, Zeina Daccache, with whom who nine months ago I started going to her theatre class every Sunday with Catharsis. Zeina helped me and my friends to get our stories out to the public. Also, I really want to thank Ambassador Fletcher because no one would do what he did today.
16 October 2014”