Thursday, May 21, 2020

Lebora - Lebanese housekeepers, racism and stereotypes.

Recently, I have seen photos of Ethiopian house helps being repatriated - by the hundreds upon hundreds. The reason is simple, few households can now afford either to hire someone by the hour (the rate was 5 Dollars) or full in-house on 24/7 basis (the average cost is 450 USD).
Actually, Lebanese being mostly racist in their demeanor, the whole category of house helps was labelled "sirilankiye" (Sri Lankese - due to the nationality of the first wave of women who would help at home). So much that one of my students (the son of an MP no less) told me once in class "Monsieur, Sirilankiyetna jeye min Ethiopia" (Sir, our Sri Lankese comes from Ethiopia). Actually, prior to be called collectively "sirilankiye " such women were called "baalbakiye" (the woman who comes from Baalbeck in what is sociologically called "rationalizing of the position").
Which brings us to Lebora (an incredible name truth be told which mixes Lebanon-Labor-Ora (by the hour) in a lovely mix) which promises to procure Lebanese house helps either per hour, part time or full time live in.
Now, Lebanese are not only racist but they are also snobbish and "menial work" is looked down on, and yes, many people do not abide by the "desperate times call for desperate measures" although in my dictionary I see nothing desperate about honest work - been there, done that. So many women feel degraded to be working as "san3a"  (maid) as men do with regards to filling jobs on fuel stations (the IPT campaign comes to mind).
Well, perhaps the current crisis will make the Lebanese reconsider. Here's hoping.