SDC and the ILO launch campaign on changing attitudes towards domestic workers in the Arab States

04.2018 / Sophia Kagan, Chief Technical Adviser, FAIRWAY Project, ILO Beirut

The words we use, and the narratives these words form, are crucial to the way that we perceive migrant workers and approach topics around migration. For this reason, in December 2017, the FAIRWAY project (funded by SDC) launched the Media Friendly Glossary on Migration: Middle East Edition, which has been shared with journalists, editors, civil society and other partners around the region, to promote balanced and ethical reporting of issues around migration, including on domestic workers. More than 12 Editors in Chief from major media outlets in Lebanon and Jordan have benefited from newsroom visits by ILO experts to encourage them to institutionalize fair reporting on migrant worker issues, including on domestic workers – by for example – ensuring that they are referred to as 'domestic workers' and properly investigating cases of allegations of abuse and mistreatment (rather than focusing on  immigration status).

Additionally, the FAIRWAY project has been tackling the attitudes of households through an 'employer outreach' strategy that identifies businesses, public institutions and embassies who can host short, interactive training sessions for their employees. The sessions – covering laws and regulations and also behaviour change messaging – have reached over 160 participants across a multitude of organizations in Lebanon, with 92 per cent of participants indicating that they would recommend the session to a friend. Additionally pre- and post- knowledge assessments show a vast improvement in the employers' understanding of the relevant laws on protecting workers.

The FAIRWAY project has identified Arab youth as "change-makers" in attitudes and behaviours towards migrant domestic workers. In order to reach Arab youth, the FAIRWAY project has launched a public awareness campaign driven by a youth volunteer network across multiple countries in the Arab states, in the lead up to the International Domestic Workers Day on 16 June 2018. In connection with the global My Fair Home (MFH) campaign – an initiative of the ILO and International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF) – the youth campaign encourages young people to take positive actions to address discrimination against domestic workers within their families and communities.

As part of the campaign, on 9-10 March 2018, a group of Jordanian youth met to take part in an intensive training workshop on campaigning for attitude and behaviour change towards migrant domestic workers.  The purpose of the training programme was to equip the youth advocates with the necessary knowledge and practical skills to implement a series of social media and community outreach activities. Over a two-day period, the youth group took part in sessions providing a global and national overview of domestic workers' rights, an introduction to the principles and messages of the My Fair Home campaign, and heard experiences on advocacy campaigning from representatives from Ensaniyat Project (Kuwait), and KAFA (Lebanon).

In order to ensure that the voices of migrant domestic workers were represented, the youth participated in an exchange session with domestic worker community leaders from the Solidarity Centre – who shared their stories and experiences of life as a domestic worker in Jordan. Role play "in her shoes" exercises, allowed the youth to see the situation from the perspective of the recruitment agency, government minister, worker and employer/household.

Youth were also supported through sessions on social media techniques and sensitive and rights-based communication on migration – including terminology and imagery.

Along with a team of youth in Lebanon, these young people will be developing a campaign strategy culminating in activities on International Domestic Workers Day on 16 June 2018.


For further information visit the FAIRWAY project page (ilo.org/fairway) and the ILO’s Regional Office for Arab States labour migration page (ilo.org/roasmigration).