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"It is not the Corona which will kill us, it is the lack of food"
As a photographer currently in Lebanon, I was warned about the disastrous consequences that both the economic crisis and the Covid-19 outbreak had on domestic workers.
Beginning of April, I followed a group of Sierra Leonean domestic workers in Beirut and co-wrote an article describing their struggle in their daily survival (feel free to read it to have a broader perspective on these girls' stories). Throughout the lockdown, one sentence resonated in me : "It is not the Corona which will kill us, it is the lack of food".
The situation of domestic workers in Lebanon is critical : the sanitary restrictions left many jobless, while others saw their incomes cut off, or suffered from an increased number of abuses. There is no specific organisation able to respond to their basic needs in Beirut. While most NGOs in Lebanon provide alimentary relief for refugees, they usually support domestic workers for legal and administrative processes. However what they need the most right now is basic relief such as shelter or food.
How do you stay at home if you have no home to go to ?
During the first weeks of the lockdown, the women managed to find a shelter through a grassroots Sierra Leonean committee. Then, they gathered money sent by their families from Sierra Leone to share the costs of a roof. Unfortunately, both these financial supports have come to an end and have left the girls feel trapped in between the walls of their small appartement. As bills keep pilling up, the girls wait in fear, powerless. Now, their rent has been postponed, the electricity is not working and the running-water is cut.
These women entered Lebanon through the Kafala system, a sponsorship structure which legally binds foreign workers to their local employers.
It is worth mentioning that EVERY woman from this specific group is a victim of human trafficking. They were tricked to come work in Lebanon, and were promised salaries which none ever received. (Of course it is not the case of all domestic workers in Lebanon, but it is the reality regarding this specific group).
These women are heroes who left their country and sacrificed their lives hoping to offer a better future to their children. Instead, they were imprisoned in a modern slavery network and deprived from their passports. These are real tragedies impacting their lives, but also the ones of their children, parents, family, and their whole social circles back in Sierra Leone. The mental, social, and economic consequences run deep for the home country.
Enough words, have a listen to their testimonies :
How can we help ?
Our financial support will have a direct impact on these women's lives : each dollar you give counts and will go directly into responsing the basic needs of this specific group.
It is a short- term but necessary solution. The targeted amount (2000 USD) has been calculated according to their cost of living :
- Food, water and basic hygiene product for fifteen girls for 1 month
- Rent of this shared-appartment in Kola, Beirut for 3 months
- Bills (electricity, running water, and internet) for 3 months
If the goal is exceeded, the extra support will cover the same expenses but for an extended period of time.
For a more long-term solution, we are working on seeing how these women can be repatriated back to Sierra Leone. This is right now their biggest dream. (If you have contacts to help out, please send us a message).
Thank you for listening to their stories, reading about their experiences, and in some ways, caring about their future. Most of these girls do not think anyone care about them, especially after the racism and abuses they went trough in Lebanon. Let's prove them otherwise !
If you meet these women, you would know they are exceptional beings. Despite all the suffering they went through, they are still the ones caring, creating, and trying to find alternative solutions to their problems. For instance, they are currently writing a song and a theater play to tell their stories of modern slavery.
Their stories of resilience and of sisterhood is a lesson for all of us.
If you can not support them financially, please take care of yourself and spread the campaign if these testimonies touched you.
Stay safe and healthy !
We will keep you updated of the upcoming actions with photos and videos.
- - - - - -
UPDATE : 15/07/20
Thanks to your support, these 30 women from Sierra Leone have their bills, rent, and food costs covered until September included. Because of the Lebanase economic collapse, there is no point for them to stay in the country. They are trapped without any prospect of earning money (in dollars) to send remittances or even to buy a flight ticket back home. From now, all the donations will go towards supporting the repatriation and the reintegration of these girls in Sierra Leone. We are working closely with MSF and the IOM for the process.
The flight tickets to Freetown are about 600$, and we need to give them at 100$ for their own transport and so they don't come with empty pockets in Sierra Leone.
There are 30 women in one house, but Lucy has created a Whatsapp group gathering all Sierra Leonean domestic workers who want to leave Lebanon and they are in total 70.
$700 x 70 = $49 000.
But because of the Paypal fees (it takes about 4%) the target goal is $50 000.
Thank you all so much again
All images and videos © Aline Deschamps
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