Mahi: "Why Do You Feel Entitled to Beating Us"

Labor Day 2019/Salwa Homsi

Mahi: "Why Do You Feel Entitled to Beating Us"

My name is Mahi; I am 22 years old, and I am from Ethiopia. I came to Lebanon in 2017 to work as a domestic worker because I wanted to save some money to continue my education.

In Lebanon, I first worked for two months in a house with six children. I found it hard to continue working in that household because I could not manage to do both jobs; take care of the children and clean the house. I told my employer that I cannot cope with all this workload and asked her to hire an additional worker or release me of my duties. My employer could not afford to hire a second worker and instead we agreed that I would return to the recruitment agency that will transfer me to another family.

At the second employer’s house, there was another Ethiopian domestic worker. I was glad to see another Ethiopian -whom I could communicate with- because living in Lebanon without my family or a support system is very difficult. Also, because I did not speak Arabic, I could not talk to anyone so I found comfort in being able to at least speak to one person. 

My new employer informed me that I should be able to perform any task requested of me. I agreed to these conditions since we were two workers, but after nine months, the other worker left and I was alone. The madam still expected me to complete the same amount of work on my own.

I had to cook, look after the children and clean the very big house. There were six bedrooms and bathrooms, two kitchens and one large hall and veranda. In it lived a total of seven people. Sometimes even late at night, they would wake me up to prepare food for them. I could not keep working at such an exhaustive pace.  I had agreed to work there thinking that we will always be two workers. I could not keep working at such an exhaustive pace and told my employer to hire an additional worker. Unfortunately, she also said that she cannot hire a second worker.

If I knew that I would be left alone to do all this work, I would have asked to work for another employer. I however did not want to change houses again because it also meant that I would have to start a new two-year employment contract and so much time had already passed that it would further prolong my stay in Lebanon.

What was very disturbing was that in the house above us, lived other family members including three men, mister’s sons who called me stupid and used to hit their domestic worker. Additionally, whenever I told my employer that I cannot keep doing all the work expected of me, I would receive a threatening response that they will inform mister’s three sons who will also hit me if I do not work. I could not understand how they thought they have the right to use such threats.  If they are not pleased with my work then I can return to Ethiopia, why threaten?

Even on days when I would fall ill, my employer would either tell me to take Panadol or she would take me to the pharmacist who would prescribe some medication but they never took me to see a doctor. One day, I was very sick, so I stayed in bed and did not work. My employer told me to get up and start working. I explained that I could not because I was not feeling well. I was then accused of lying and again threatened that they would tell the three sons. I still refused to work and they called them. 

When three sons arrived, one of them slapped me. I was shook to the core. Also, I had not done anything wrong to deserve such extreme reaction! I looked at madam and yelled why are they hitting me?! Then they pushed me on the floor and started kicking me. I was in so much pain. I kept trying to yell hoping that someone will hear me and help. They closed all the doors and windows so that no one would hear my screams. Then they took me to my room, I ran and opened my window to search for the police and scream for help but they closed the window and kept hitting me. At one time one of them stood behind me and held my hands to make it easier for the other two to beat me. At some point I even turned into a game for them, they would laugh and tape my mouth shut to keep me quiet.

Afterwards, they called the recruitment agency to pick me up. The agent came and took me to a house where I stayed for three days. I had bruises on my stomach and I was bleeding from their scratches. I asked the agent to take me to the hospital but instead I was also given Panadol. There was no one to help me.

I would tell any woman who wants to work as a domestic worker in Lebanon that it is very difficult and I advise her to choose anything else instead! Coming to a foreign country and not speaking the language is very hard.

If someone hires a domestic worker, they should not treat her with violence. Yes, domestic workers might make mistakes but you do not have the right to hit us. Why do you feel entitled to beating us?  We are in the 21st century, and it shocks me that people still hit other people. It is difficult for me to understand their violent reaction.