They work on average 18 hours a day, seven days a week, and 52 weeks a year. They have no exposure to the outside world besides communicating via social media. Many have not been paid since September 2019. And the agents who sent them there have turned their backs threatening them if they gave out their contacts to anyone. Meet the Ghanaian house help in Lebanon.
What about spending time with friends, DNT asked. “Since I arrived here I haven’t seen anyone besides the family I live with,” ‘Ama’ responded. What if you fall sick? “You still have to work.” Don’t they take you to the hospital? “ever since my arrival here when they took me to a hospital to check my health status, I have not seen a hospital in three years,” ‘Ama’ responded.
And now the almost 300 Ghanaian house helps who have been able to organize themselves mostly through social media have had it, and need the help of the Ghanaian government to return home. What about the money owed to you? “We prefer arriving back in Ghana with our lives even if we would have no money on us,” ‘Ama’ said, insisting that she speaks for all 300 or so women.
In one instance, one lady recounted a story where her madam and the family traveled out of their city for three days and she was locked inside the house for the entire duration with no way of exiting the house. Although there was food to eat, she would have been burned to death if the house had caught fire.
Most of these women resort to running away from their houses to live with friends whose hosts are reasonable. When you make the mistake of complaining about your pay, you are beaten to a pulp and still asked to continue working.
‘Ama’ herself was slapped so hard that one of her eyes swelled so largely that she could see from only one eye. Another one was given a watermelon to eat after which she began complaining about her health until she eventually died. No one knows what happened to her body although her family in Ghana was informed of her death.
And then there are the stories of sexual assaults. In some cases, the father would rape these house helps. Then the older sons would also do same. Ironically when the madam finds out, the house help is to blame and the punishment is usually very swift and severe.
Although some Ghanaian community leaders have stepped up to help with returning these women to Ghana, none was interested in speaking with DNT for fear of reprisals from the Lebanese people whose brothers and sisters live the good life here in Ghana.
As things stand, those who have managed to flee their homes are without their passports because their madams have seized them. ‘Ama’ for example has only an image of the information page of her passport in her mobile phone.
This may mean that any repatriation process would have to include near instant issuance of Travel Certificates because after having registered online, these women would literally have a few hours to leave their homes and dash to the Ghanaian Consulate and be issued their TCs before boarding. No room for errors.
Protests across Lebanon erupted on Oct. 17 after the government suggested it could raise revenue by taxing calls made through internet services like WhatsApp. For many Lebanese, it was insulting that the country’s leaders would try to use their calls to subsidize the state after decades of mismanagement and looting.
Demonstrations have continued since in a movement that has remained largely leaderless, with demands ranging from economic reforms to trials for corrupt politicians to the complete ouster of the political elite.
One month in, the protesters’ main victory was the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Oct. 29. On Friday, there was talk that the country’s leading political parties had agreed to nominate Mohammad Safadi, a former finance minister, as his successor.
THIS JUST IN:
All those willing to participate in a planned evacuation of Ghanaians from Lebanon kindly provide the following information:
Current Location in Lebanon
Your full name
Copy of passport
Telephone & WhatsApp number
Date of Travel from Ghana:
Do you have return ticket?
Good afternoon, please these are the information we need from you in the registration exercise and if you don’t have your passport copy you should provide the other details. 00201028763622
Michael Amponsah Reporting for DNT News