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Working with Migrant Domestic Workers in Lebanon (1980 - 2012): A Mapping of NGO Services

[International Labour Organization logo. Image from] [International Labour Organization logo. Image from]

[The following report was issued by the International Labour Organization on 27 November 2012.] 

Working with Migrant Domestic Workers in Lebanon (1980 - 2012): A Mapping of NGO Services


Various institutional sources estimate that the number of women migrant domestic workers (WMDWs) in Lebanon is between150,000 and 220,000 in an overall workforce of 1.45 million. In addition to cooking and cleaning, these women perform a variety of care-related functions; WMDWs look after the children and nurse the elderly and the disabled. Given their exclusion from labour protections and their willingness to work longer hours in return for meager wages, WMDWs constitute an easy and low cost solution to the Lebanese care deficit. Moreover, WMDWs contribute to the employability of  Lebanese women, releasing the latter from their traditional function of  primary caregivers in the household.

In spite of  their vital contribution to the Lebanese care economy and to the employment and financial empowerment of  Lebanese women, WMDWs continue to suffer countless incidents of  physical, sexual, and psychological abuse at the hands of  their employers and the private employment agencies that recruit them. Civil society organizations like Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center (CLMC) and the Pastoral Committee for Afro-Asian Migrants (PCAAM) played a precursory role in pointing to these abuses since the 1990s and helped connect thousands of  WMDWs with their embassies and with pro-bono lawyers.

In November 2005, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Ministry of  Labour (MoL), the Office of  the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), UNIFEM (now UN Women), and CLMC convened a workshop on the situation of WMDWs in Lebanon. In January 2006, the government of  Lebanon established a National Steering Committee (NSC) on WMDWs to follow up on the workshop’s recommendations. 

The workshop and NSC sessions sparked the interest of  non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the problem of  MDWs. NGOs established programs or joined existing assistance networks in response to the, now visible, needs of  WMDWs. The adoption of  the International Labour Organization Convention No. 189 concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers in June of  last year further mobilized donors, and consequently NGO action, around the issue of  domestic work. 

Albeit well-meaning, the mushrooming of  MDW advocacy networks was, on occasion, disadvantageous to the organizations initiating assistance programs to MDWs, to the community of  MDWs, and to the credibility of  the “movement” for MDWs rights. The pace at which these organizations flourished led to a number of  adhoc and low-impact interventions. For instance, NGOs were not always aware of  other actors working in the field and proceeded to duplicate initiatives. Also, NGOs initiated programs well beyond their mandates which led them to operate at less than optimal capacity. 

In the context of  the EU and SDC-funded Action Programme for Promoting the Rights of  Women Migrant Domestic Workers (PROWD), the ILO’s Regional Office for Arab States (ILO-ROAS) conducted a mapping of  NGO services to MDWs in Lebanon. This mapping aims to develop an understanding of  how the NGO dynamics in the MDW subfield have progressed since the deliberations of  the NSC, and to share a summary of  these developments with relevant stakeholders.

More specifically, the report traces the history of  NGO involvement with MDWs since the early 1980s to explore the patterns underlying NGO interventions and partnerships. Further to this analytical component, the report includes a directory of the services currently available to MDWs across Lebanon. This guide is searchable by service type and by the geographical location of  the service. Finally, the appendices provide the contact information for these organizations, and a full listing of  the publications produced by the latter and by other institutions and individuals.

We expect the findings of  this report to guide NGOs in establishing efficient referral systems for MDWs, new entrants in carving out their niche in the MDW subfield, and donors in supporting initiatives for the promotion of  decent working and living conditions for MDWs.

[Click here to download the full report.]

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