July 23, 2011
At a starting cost of $180, The House Keeper Training Academy teaches maids how to clean and use proper etiquette. The four-day course also offers basic language instruction and provides information on migrant worker rights.
While the new center could be seen as a welcome move to improve conditions for maids in Lebanon, it’s also stirring some controversy.
“I think the heart is in the right place in terms of trying to work on the issue, but it has misplaced all effort,” Alex Shams, a coordinator for the Migrant Workers Task Force in Lebanon, said in a phone interview.
“They reference, for example, an attempt to bridge the gap [between employer and worker] because they assume the issues and misunderstandings come from a language barrier and lack of knowledge, when we know that’s just not the case.”
The approach is incorrect because it has a blame-the-victim attitude, according to Shams.
“The person that needs to be reformed is the abuser, not the abused… The most dangerous part is that it suggests that it is somehow the victim’s fault. It confirms many stereotypes about domestic workers as people who are stupid or don’t know what they are doing.”
In some ways, he says, “You’re basically spending $200 so that you won’t beat your maid.”
“If you are going to beat your maid you’re going to beat them whether they use the right cleaning product or not.”
As a response to the new center, the Migrant Workers Task Force has set up an event on Facebook offering courses in their own “Madame/Mister Training Academy,” parodying what they see as the misguided attempt to help domestic migrant workers.
The event aims to inform the employers “how to treat a domestic worker who comes to live in their home with respect and dignity,” thereby placing the blame not on “miscommunication, but widespread human rights abuses in Lebanese society.”
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