The Story of Joyce , a Domestic Worker in Lebanon “I Will Never Forget That Someone Stole my Hard-earned Money”
Growing up and the Need to Travel
Joyce was born in 1995 and grew up in a poor family in Ghana. She was entrusted with raising her brother’s children after he died, while also caring for her little brother and mother. Her situation worsened with the increasing needs of the children and Joyce’s determination to provide them with education. A friend told her about a broker who can offer her a job as a cook in a restaurant in Lebanon. Joyce approved right away. She packed her luggage and told her family that she will work in Lebanon for two years and come back to Ghana to start her own business and support her family and the children.
Deception, Abuse, and Death Threats As soon as Joyce arrived to Lebanon, the true nature of her job was quickly revealed. She right away learned that she will not work in a restaurant’s kitchen, but will instead be a domestic worker. Someone received her at the airport in Beirut, but did not explain anything until she arrived at the house of her employers; a couple and their three children. “I had no choice; I could not reject this job or ask about the one I was promised, so I started cleaning the house”, Joyce explains. The sleeping conditions were uncomfortable and the work was excessive with no rest. “The male employer asked me to have sex with him once. I refused. Afterwards, he stopped paying my salary and every time I refused, he threatened to kill me”. She continues to say: “One time I placed my phone between my breasts and I recorded him threatening to kill me if I refuse to have sex with him.” The situation became worse every day. Joyce continued working without any pay and was unable to send money back home. “This was a nightmare…I used to cry every night and think how will the children cope without any money, especially when I was the one who promised to provide for them before I left”.
“God placed Kafa in my way. I have recently arrived to the shelter and I was completely devastated and depressed. I used to cry all day and could not sleep when I thought of what could happen to the children”, said Joyce. However, the psychological, medical, and legal follow-up offered at the shelter has helped Joyce regain strength. “I wanted to fight for my rights and receive my money. Kafa helped me report my employer to the police. During the investigation, I showed the police the recording I had”, said Joyce. The audio recording was enough evidence to force the employer to pay Joyce her wages right away. Joyce did not wish to press any sexual harassment charges against the abusive employer. She just wanted to receive her wages and travel back home as soon as possible. However, she did not get the full amount she was owed because the employer paid her salary in Lebanese Pounds according to the de facto exchange rate adopted by the banking sector in Lebanon*. Instead of receiving $2400, Joyce received only $1000. “This amount will not allow me to start a business; it will barely cover my nephew’s education fees” she explains. The young woman, who is expected to travel in few days, recalls her very bad experience in Lebanon and states firmly; “I am strong and I should go back to my country and find another job and means to support my family”. When we asked her: “would you come back to Lebanon in case you don’t find a job in Ghana?” she replied with a loud “Nooo”. Joyce concluded, “I thank Kafa from the bottom of my heart for the help they provided…but I will never forget that someone stole my hard-earned money!”
NB: Joyce is a pseudonym
*The official exchange rate is 1500 LBP to USD however, the exchange rate adopted by banking sector is 3,900 LBP to USD and the black market exchange rate was at the time approximately 10,000 LBP to USD. In this context, if Joyce is supposed to earn 100$, the employer gave her the equivalent in LBP according to the “Bank exchange rate” or LBP 390,000. She then had to exchange this amount in the black market to get USD banknote at the 10,000 black market rate. Under this case, LBP 390,000 would get Joyce $39 in Banknotes.