My name is Oro. I am a 28-year-old Ethiopian woman. I have two children. When I lived in Ethiopia I had heard of many Ethiopian women who travelled to Lebanon for work to support their families. Like them, I also wanted to provide for my children, pay for their school fees, and buy them clothes and shoes. My husband spent most of the money on alcohol and I could not rely on him. So I approached an Ethiopian recruitment agency looking for work as a domestic worker in Lebanon. I had to borrow money from my father to pay the recruitment agency in Ethiopia to get the job in Lebanon.
At the airport in Lebanon, I was greeted by the employer (mister) who immediately took my passport from me and drove me home where I met his wife (madam) and their three children. Upon my arrival at the house, I was instructed by madam to shower, do the dishes and go to sleep. Although the recruitment agency in Ethiopia had told me I would have my own room I did not and every night I slept in the living room. The agency had also said that every month I could call my children, but sometimes 3 to 4 months passed before my employers let me call them.
I stayed with them for two years and three months. After one year and two months, their insults increased and they started hitting me. One time madam hit me so hard with a wooden spoon that the spoon broke and cut my hand. They had to take me to the hospital to stitch it up. Mister also used to whisper inappropriate things in my ear. Once, madam wanted to take me with them to the beach but mister refused because he said he did not want to pay for my entrance ticket to the beach. When madam and the kids went to the beach, mister came home and I was alone. I was scared so I ran and locked myself in the bathroom and waited for him to leave… I tolerated their abuse for the sake of my children.
“By the end, I did not care anymore about my unpaid wages, my contract was over, and I just wanted to leave.”
| Oro, Ethiopian domestic worker in Lebanon
At some point, they stopped sending my salary to my family. Whenever I asked them for my missing salary, they would tell me to calm down and that they will pay me eventually. Sometimes they would get mad and yell, other times they would say they would pay me “tomorrow”, but they never did.
By the end, I did not care anymore about my unpaid wages, my contract was over, and I just wanted to leave. I told my employers I wanted to leave and they told me that they were fixing my residency papers and I should stay. But one more month passed by, and I still did not know when I could return home. So I kept insisting I wanted to return to Ethiopia. Some days I refused to work because I wanted to return home but as a punishment, they made me sleep outside on the balcony for four days.
One day, early in the morning I managed to escape and I went straight to a store where they called Kafa who came to see me and took me to their shelter. At the shelter I saw other Ethiopian women, and I was surprised. I used to think that I was the only one that I was unlucky, but then I saw that there were others like me.
Living at Kafa is very different, I am able to eat sufficient portions of food, shower, and wash my clothes without worrying that they will blame me if there was not enough food or water. They listen to me, and I am able call my family to see how they are doing. I am getting help to seek justice, get my wages back and return home to my family.
Note: Oro managed to escape her employer’s house in May 2018 and reached Kafa with the help of an Ethiopian community member. Oro did not want to pursue charges against the employer. Kafa assisted her to retrieve her wages and to safely return home.