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Put Yourself in Her Shoes

On May 1, 2008, Human Rights Watch launched a campaign in Lebanon to promote the rights of women migrant domestic workers, challenging employers to "Put Yourself in Her Shoes." This awareness campaign encourages employers to improve their treatment of domestic workers by ensuring fair working conditions, from timely payments of wages to weekly rest days.

An estimated 200,000 women domestic workers, primarily from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Ethiopia, play an essential role in many Lebanese households. While some domestic workers enjoy good working conditions, others are subject to exploitation and mistreatment by employers and recruitment agents. Such abuses include non-payment or delayed payment of wages, forced confinement to the workplace, inadequate food, no time off, and verbal, physical, or sexual abuse. In some cases, workers have died while attempting to escape these conditions, some by jumping from balconies.

Lebanese labor laws specifically exclude domestic workers from rights guaranteed to other workers, such as a weekly day of rest, limits on work hours, and workers’ compensation. A Ministry of Labor-led steering committee to improve the working conditions for domestic workers has yet to deliver any concrete reforms.

The "Put Yourself in Her Shoes” campaign reminds employers it should not be laws alone that compel them to treat domestic workers with dignity and respect.

The campaign includes newspaper advertisements showing Lebanese women dressed in the typical uniform of domestic workers (left). The visual is accompanied by taglines such as "Have you ever been locked up in your workplace?" and provides information such as: "One out of three domestic workers is never allowed to leave the house alone during her time in Lebanon."

The campaign also features leaflets distributed in malls and supermarkets that tackle commonly held "myths" about migrant domestic workers in the form of a True - False quiz.