SURF

Fikreselam Habebo

The Politics of Domestic Labor Amongst Ethiopian Women in Lebanon

In 2009 the country witnessed a spate of suicides among foreign maids, and last year a 33-year-old Ethiopian woman [Dechesa] killed herself shortly after being filmed being beaten by a Lebanese man on a Beirut street. With increasing reports of immigrants and abuse of domestic workers in the Gulf countries, the conditions of these migrant women need to be closely studied. My research question asks: 1) How is domestic work in Beirut, Lebanon racialized and gendered and 2) How do Ethiopian domestic workers in Lebanon experience race? I will approach this in 3 ways: 1) By examining the role of Islam and Christianity in migrant labor discourse; 2) By exploring two types of interpersonal relationships: the personal (among migrant workers) and the romantic; and 3) By investigating what resources of support and assistance are available for Ethiopian immigrant workers. To accomplish this, I will travel to Beirut, Lebanon to examine the role of religious ideology in public and private spheres and observe how they are intertwined with domestic labor, conduct participant observation to document the conditions and interactions of the domestic workers, hold individual and group interviews with the Ethiopian women as well as conduct impact evaluations on human rights organizations available to migrant domestic workers.

Message to Sponsor

Being a SURF recipient has allowed me to come full-circle in my academic journey. As an Ethiopian immigrant to the United States my parents ingrained in me the need to pursue higher education and thereafter pay it forward by reconnecting with the communities that supported me. The SURF scholarship has provided me the pathway to follow and heighten my intellectual instinct and study to immerse myself in issues that are close to home. This access to conduct research has thus far been a process of personal and academic growth and is continuously molding me into the scholar I have always wished to be. SURF has made producing knowledge, securing a future in academia and becoming an activists a reality.
  • Major: ISF: International Development and Gender
  • Sponsor: JSB Fund
  • Mentor: Donald Moore, Anthropology