Domestic workers

Without a lifeboat: Domestic workers trapped in Lebanon

More than 300,000 women work as domestic servants in Lebanon. Subject to coercive working conditions and employment practices under the kafala foreign worker sponsorship program, this precarious workforce is widely seen as the backbone of their economy and the Lebanese household.

In the two years since the October 17, 2019 revolution in Lebanon, domestic workers have been forced to endure three cataclysmic crises, each more severe than the last. They persisted through a dire political crisis, global pandemic-related travel restrictions and a financial meltdown that pushed the Lebanese economy past breaking point. In a system of ostensibly forced labor, these foreign domestic workers find themselves today in extreme precariousness.

This project aims to shine a light on the resilience of these women, many of whom have given up everything in their home countries to support their families and build a better future for themselves and their children. It will focus on the stories of domestic workers who have had to navigate COVID-19 related travel restrictions and highlight the daily struggles of domestic workers’ lives during the ongoing economic collapse.

Image caption: Kenyan migrant domestic workers queue to enter Rafic Hariri airport on their return to Kenya. Image by Cole McCann-Phillips. Lebanon, 2022.