My name is Rahel Zegeye and i am the founder of Mesewat.
I want to share the story of my life as a domestic migrant worker in Lebanon
It has been more than 3 days since I’ve had any food. I found a piece of chocolate in the fridge, with trembling hands I took it. Before I swallowed the first bite, I could feel a hard slap on my cheek with my employer shouting at me. I was petrified; before she could hit me again I ran to another room and locked myself up. She had killed the previous domestic worker by pushing her off the balcony just 2 months back. So abusing domestic workers is not new for her. My employer’s husband tried to rape me several times, every time I ran around the house to escape from him. I don’t have a space in the house and I am sleeping in a corner next to the toilet. They cut my hair when I was sleeping and children in the house beat me up for no reason. There’s nothing I can do about that however.
I worked for the family day and night and I was treated like a toy by them. I couldn’t take the torture anymore so when I went to take out the garbage one morning, I ran away from the home after 3 months.
After this I began working in another house for 3 years without having any legal documents. My life didn’t change. I was not treated like a human being. To help a young migrant worker who had no support and family at home, I collected money from the church community and after more than 5 years I had gathered 4.000$. One day, my madam stole the bag in which I kept this money.
When I confronted her, she just ignored me. I begged and pleaded, yet she remained indifferent to me. Finally, my employer’s son helped me to get the money back from his mother. I wanted to go back to my home country but she didn’t allow me and as she had all my legal papers, I was forced to stay. This was the beginning of Mesewat, my organization that fights for the rights of migrant workers in Lebanon, who have to go through what I had gone through.
I am just one of the 250,000 domestic migrant workers in Lebanon. I came to this country 17 years ago, when I was 19 years old. My name is Rahel Zegeye, I come from Ethiopia. Just like me, thousands of domestic workers in Lebanon are physically, mentally and sexually abused every single day. No one takes this issue serious. Neither the Lebanese government nor the Ethiopian government cares. Not even the NGOs working in this field are making a significant change.
In the past 13 years I have created awareness about the injustice migrant workers face every day. I have advocated for stable and human working conditions and empowered many migrant workers to stand up for their needs. I have built a community in which migrant workers come together and support each other when they are in need of medical, financial or psychological aid; whether they need clothes, food, and a place of stay or help with the process of getting back to their home country. Alongside I have been active in the media and public and am promoting a change of the sponsorship system on a legal level.
As a person who had suffered injustice because of working in another country, my goal is to see that people who provide services outside their country are treated with respect and that they are secured by law and can claim their rights.