Kids to learn about migrant workers through Arabic storybook series

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May 7 2009

A series of Arabic-language storybooks has been launched in Lebanon to educate children about migrant workers. The series, called 'Mimi and her Magic Globe', takes readers on a journey to the homelands of migrant workers, including Sri Lanka, Ethiopia and the Philippines.

The books were launched to co-incide with labour day, on May 1st, and were partly funded by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The series targets schools as well as private institutions, and it is hoped that it will help children to think of housemaids as people:

"I wanted through these books to teach children that these women who care for them are not simply maids but also come from countries with a culture and a history," said Leila Zahed, who authored the series. "These maids adapt to our culture here, but no one asks them where they come from.

"And that is not to speak of the mistreatment many are subjected to in some households."

Each book features pictures, charts, facts about each country and a few words in the local language:

In Ethiopia, for example, Mimi learns that coffee beans were discovered there while in the Philippines she visits rice fields and feasts on shrimp.

In Sri Lanka, she rides elephants and learns about the country's history as a major tea producer.

Human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch have welcomed the book, but have said that much more needs to be done to raise public awareness about the mistreatment of maids in Lebanon. There are an estimated 200,000 migrant women currently working as domestics in Lebanon.

'Mimi and her Magic Globe' may only be a baby-step forward in changing attitudes towards migrant women, but it is certainly a start. Public awareness campaigns have a significant role to play in educating people in the Gulf about the human rights of their domestic staff. Another highly innovative campaign was the Rahma Campaign in Saudi Arabia, which our parent site Mideast Youth blogged about last year. You can watch an example of this ground-breaking ad campaign that challenges common attitudes towards domestic workers here.

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East