More than 300,000 women work as domestic workers in Lebanon. Subject to coercive working conditions and employment practices under the kafala foreign worker sponsorship program, this precarious labor force is widely understood to be the lynchpin 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 navigate three cataclysmic crises, each more severe than the last. They have persisted through a grinding political crisis, global pandemic-related travel restrictions, and a financial collapse that has pushed the Lebanese economy past its breaking point. In a system of ostensibly forced labor, today these foreign domestic workers find themselves in extreme precarity.
This project seeks to shine a much-needed 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 line up to enter Rafic Hariri Airport on their return to Kenya. Image by Cole McCann-Phillips. Lebanon, 2022.