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Labour Exploitation

"I couldn’t stand living like a slave"

Rosa was one of thousands of migrant domestic workers trapped in forced labour. The ILO’s Forced Labour Protocol aims to protect women like Rosa. Read her story.

“Once, she locked me in an empty room for three days with nothing to eat or drink. No water, nothing! I’d never felt thirst like that before, the desperation was driving me mad, I even drank my own urine” says Rosa, a Togolese former domestic worker in Lebanon.

“I thought I was giving my children a chance at a better life.”

“The job in Lebanon promised an extra 40 USD a month, but it was all lies.

“I arrived in Beirut and the agency placed me in a wealthy family that lived in the suburbs. They had many beautiful things. I worked there for ten months, day and night without a break and without a single day off. I was allowed to eat twice a day, for only two minutes. Madam stood there and timed me with her phone. I was only given a piece of bread. Madam would never hand it to me, she would toss it on the ground. If I hadn’t finished my bread when the alarm went off, Madam would snatch it away and throw it in the bin. She never gave me water, so I would hide and drink water from the bathroom.

“Everyday Madam would beat me for no reason with a shoe, a stick or a belt. Today, I still get pains in my ears from where she hit me. I wanted to leave but I was always being monitored and they were always locking me in, plus they hadn’t paid me yet. One day I asked to leave but Madam told me that they had spent lots of money to have me there so I had to stay without any salary for 15 months.

“I thought that it couldn’t get any worse, but it did.”

“One day, after 10 months of working for them, I woke up in the hospital with stitches on my stomach. The stitches were very neat, a straight line directly up the centre of my stomach. I didn’t know what had happened, and nobody would tell me. Finally, Madam told me that I had fallen from the window. But it didn’t make sense. After two days, I was still weak but Madam’s father took me to his house and locked me in a room with no windows. After eight days, Madam opened the door and said: “You’re going home now”.

“They left me at the airport, with a ticket, my suitcase, and two months’ salary, instead of the 10 months’ salary that I was owed. I was 72 kg when I came to Lebanon, I was 32 kg when the nightmare ended. I was so weak that I could hardly stand, so the General Security refused to let me travel.

“I was eventually taken to the hospital, and later sent to the Caritas shelter. Caritas gave me my life back. They gave me a lawyer who fought for me to get compensation. When I’m back in Togo, I want to go on the radio and tell my story. People need to know, they need to know what is happening here.”

Based on a real testimony, name has been changed.

Caritas is a partner of the 50 for Freedom campaign that aims to get at least 50 countries to ratify the ILO’s Forced Labour Protocol by the end of 2018. Find out more on Twitter: @ILO_EndSlavery #50FF

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