The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) is a local non-profit, non-partisan Lebanese human rights organization in Beirut that was established by the Franco-Lebanese Movement SOLIDA (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily) in 2006. SOLIDA has been active since 1996 in the struggle against arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and the impunity of those perpetrating gross human violations.

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December 5, 2016

The Daily Star- Building bridges in domestic work, December 05 , 2016

BEIRUT: In an attempt to improve relations between domestic workers and employers and help cut the widespread abuse of live-in help in Lebanon, a new social organization opened last month to bring both parties to the table. “We’re not here to say the whole idea of domestic work is wrong. Fine, we need it and we value the help, but let’s make ... it comfortable,” Leena Ksaifi, founder of social enterprise Equip, explained. The initiative seeks to “professionalize” and ensure “positive employment relationships” between domestic workers and employers. “We know that abuse [of domestic workers] is widespread, we know it is common for domestic workers to terminate contracts, but [at Equip] we never dichotomize domestic workers and employers into good or bad,” Ksaifi said.
Domestic workers in Lebanon face widespread abuse and many die while in employment. The Ethiopian Embassy Sunday received the remains of two of their nationals who died from carbon monoxide poisoning, state media reported. A third worker was found alive, but in a critical condition and was admitted to the Notre Dame Maritime Hospital in Jbeil for treatment.
Domestic workers are often employed in slave-like conditions, and many have their passports confiscated, work with few breaks or days off, and have pay withheld. Those who leave abusive employers face an uphill battle for justice, pay owed, or the cost to return to their country of origin. Several countries have barred their citizens seeking employment in Lebanon.
To help improve relations between domestic workers and employers, Equip offers services such as document management, worker orientation, dispute mediation and organized outings. The latter, Ksaifi said, is essential as it allows workers to enjoy their freedom while easing fears many employers have that their live-in worker may run away.
Ksaifi, a former consultant for the International Labor Organization, wrote her master’s thesis on migrant worker abuse in Lebanon. While doing research, Ksaifi noticed “a gap in work by organizations to reach out and involve two [major] stakeholders [recruitment agencies and employers].” While many organizations offer support for workers who have suffered abuse, Ksaifi found that few entities work to pre-emptively prevent abuse taking place.
“This is the gap Equip is trying to fill,” she explained. With a team of “community leaders” consisting of veteran migrant workers and Lebanese nationals, Equip aims to tackle the widespread problem, attempting to implement new social norms without pointing blame.
Since its launch, Equip’s clientele has mostly been “young and open-minded,” eager to find a solution to their problems. “People are paying thousands of dollars to recruitment agencies to find a live-in worker, but at the end of the day they only have luck and chance to ensure a good relationship,” Ksaifi explained.
While she did admit some initial limitations to the project, she expressed hope that it can facilitate a cultural shift in worker-employer relationships. “People who are coming to us aren’t going to be the ones who [repeatedly] abuse their live-in helper. They’re the ones who want [sustainable] solutions.” But Ksaifi hopes Equip will be the “go-to” center for recruitment agencies when their clients begin to face problems.
Although new, she said they have had good feedback from several agencies they have approached, though not all have been interested in the services offered. “I don’t think this organization would be useful for us,” a representative from recruitment agency Hasnaa Services told The Daily Star. The representative said that they have their own policy for conflict resolution, a high-retention rate of placed domestic workers, and added that it provides temporary housing for domestic workers who have been “rejected” by employers.
Ksaifi explained that this is not the case for many recruitment agencies in the country. “Many agencies just lock domestic workers in their offices while they find them a new home,” she said. In a recent crackdown on substandard recruiters, Lebanon’s Labor Ministry canceled the licenses of 171 domestic-worker agencies and suspended 23 others.
Equip’s attempts to improve the relationships between employers and domestic workers reflects Ksaifi’s broader goals of introducing new norms into Lebanese society. “We keep talking about how Lebanon needs to change ... let us be the change, and let the change start in our homes.”

Source & Link : The Daily Star

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