Manini: Why didn’t they simply send me back to the agency?

Photograph by Salwa Homsi

Manini: Why didn’t they simply send me back to the agency?

I am Manini.

When first asked about my age here in Lebanon, I said that I do not know because I feared deportation if someone found out I was young.

Between my sisters, I was the oldest girl of 15 years old and everyone in my family wanted me to work in Lebanon. Before coming to Lebanon, I used to go to school but had to stop and sell salt in the market because my family did not have enough money. However, things were still hard at home, so I came to Lebanon in 2018 at the request of my father and oldest brother who told me that I would make good money by cleaning houses here. I was excited to help my family.

The plan was that I would come for four years, send my first two years’ salary to my family and keep the remaining two years’ salary for myself. Yet, my brother told me that if the employers treated me badly he does not want the money and he wants me to return to Ethiopia, and if they were good then I should stay to finish my employment period.

When I arrived to Lebanon, the mister met me at the airport and took my passport right away. At home, I ate, rested, and cleaned the hall. Once I finished my work, I settled in my room; I was happy to have my own private room, it was a nice room.

I was mostly responsible for looking after an elderly woman at the house, but after a few months, she died and they did not need my services anymore so mister took me to the recruitment agency.

The recruitment agency transferred me to a new house. At this house, I did not have my own room. Instead, I slept in a shed where they stored the firewood. The door of this shed was broken and it had no windows. It did not have a bathroom so they told me to go to the bushes behind the house whenever I needed to use the toilet and to use a bucket to shower there as well.

I never had enough food in that house; I was not allowed to have the dinner meal. In addition to cleaning the house, I helped madam in the kitchen, and cared for their daughter who was in her 50ies and had a physical disability. I had to attend to all her needs including assisting in the shower, toilet, getting dressed, and so on.

Whenever they felt that I was slow at work or that I did not clean the house properly they would beat me. This was ongoing, throughout my employment period and once mister beat me brutally with a metal stick that they use to stir the burning wood inside the fireplace. Another time they also hit me because I had told their other daughter who was visiting that I was unhappy and she confronted them about it. But after she left they hit me for speaking to her.

Once, they grabbed me by my hair and cut it short. They threatened to hurt me if I did not comply and said that my hair was dirty but it was not, I kept it clean!

A lot of time passed by in that house. I thought it was only three months because I counted each time they paid me as one month, but the police said I stayed for longer.  

If I did such a bad job, why didn’t they simply send me back to the agency?