(Monica Smith is completing her M.A. in geography at the
Twenty-two year old Leela made a promise to her family in : she would earn enough money working abroad as a maid or a nanny to build a new house back home. Living thousands of miles from her husband and young son would be difficult, but Leela thought she would be able to send them money while she was gone. Her absence from , in any case, would be short. She could not have been more wrong.
Upon arriving in
When Leela left her native country, she was assured by the hiring agency that assisted her in finding work and the Sri Lanka Foreign Bureau of Employment that they would protect her. But, after she arrived in , no such assistance was forthcoming. Leela managed to place a secret telephone call to her parents to inform them of her dire circumstances, and she was eventually able to leave.
No aspect of Leela’s story is uncommon. Each year, over 10,000 female Sri Lankans arrive in with the intention of working hard to make better lives for themselves and their families. Most of them go to work cleaning, cooking and caring for children—jobs that Lebanese are generally not willing to take though the services are in high demand. Along with Filipinas, Bangladeshis and other Asian and African women, Sri Lankans have become an integral part of the Lebanese home and the Lebanese economy in the post-war era. In most cases, these women earn more than they could in their home country, but it is estimated by the Migrant Services Center, one of the largest NGOs in Sri Lanka serving domestic migrants, that 40 percent of them return to Sri Lanka no better off than they were when they left. Some are struggling to repay large loans taken out for migration expenses and the families of others mismanaged their remittances, but many simply had their wages withheld. It is estimated that 20 percent of the 80,000 Sri Lankan migrant workers living in experience some form of maltreatment, ranging from non-payment of wages to verbal, physical and sexual abuse.Read the Rest: http://www.merip.org/mer/mer238/smith.html