"From dreams in Africa to nightmares in the Middle East : young women from Sierra Leone report abuses in Lebanon" O'Globo - Brazil
« - Here in Lebanon many households have domestic workers. We see them everywhere. On the streets, working on the porches, walking dogs. It is something common in the country - says French-Thai photographer Aline Deschamps, who lives in Beirut and was the first journalist to report Lucy's story and, subsequently, set up a support network for her and other women in the same situation. (...) The coronavirus made everything more difficult. Before, we could go to church or go out to get food. We can't do it now, ”says Lucy. - We are afraid of this pandemic, but we are also afraid of starving. It was precisely during the pandemic that Lucy met Aline. The photographer worked along with the NGO Médicos do Mundo when she learned about the existence of shelters for ex-domestic workers. One of them was the Sierra Leonean apartment.
"They were in a very disadvantaged context. At the time, there were still 15 women in a very poor apartment in Beirut. They only had water and sugar to eat - says Aline, who reported on what she saw. - They told me their testimony, how they had been deceived by the system, how they had never been paid and how they managed to escape from that situation.
Aline's article and the posts she made on social networks about Sierra Leoneans gained repercussions across the country, drawing the attention of other organizations, which started to send food to them. The photographer says that the impact of the story generated a mobilization by the Sierra Leone Committee, together with the Lebanese consulate in the African country, for the young women to return home - which, for them, is a dream. To accomplish this, many still face yet another challenge: they need to repay loans made for the trip before returning to their country. Without any money, they fear being arrested on their return.
Art that tells history
While waiting to try to return, Lucy started an artistic project with Aline and the other women in the shelter. They are writing a play to denounce the abuses of the bosses and the Kafala system. The Sierra Leonean also made a song to tell her story. “Bye-bye” (goodbye, in English), is a sad farewell for her children, which she fears she will never see again.
- Music and art are our way of making our history - says Lucy. - I think I may never see my children again. I have hopes, but I don't know if I will be able to return home after the abuse I suffered."