Student campaign against migrant abuse honored
BEIRUT: A group of students from Haigazian University has received an honorary mention from Facebook for their social media campaign aimed at countering discrimination against Lebanon’s estimated 250,000 migrant workers.
The group launched its “Hope for Helpers” campaign as part of Facebook’s P2P international competition, which challenges university students to create anti-extremism and hate speech social media campaigns.
Nael Chhaytli, who heads the fivemember Hope for Helpers team, told The Daily Star that the campaign’s primary target is Lebanon’s youth, chosen because they are often “the element of change.”
The campaign is equally for Lebanon’s migrant population, a significant number of which are 18 to 24 years old, Chhaytli added.
The team’s initial research found that although many of Lebanon’s youth were raised by or with the help of migrant domestic workers, a significant number of them knew little of the kafala sponsorship system, which ties workers to their employers and has been criticized by human rights groups for facilitating exploitation and abuse.
Through their campaign, they invited young people “to break the kafala system” by smashing plates with the word “kafala” written on them, Chhaytli said. The team then posted a video of the destructive act on Hope for Helpers’ social media platforms, accompanied by an image of a broken plate with the words “the only way to deal with these kinds of stains.”
Additionally, many people that were interviewed for Hope the Helpers’ research, which began in September, said they frequently heard the word “abed” (slave in Arabic) used in their neighborhood or place of residence to refer to migrant workers.
The group launched their campaign in October with slogans such as “no excuse for abuse” and “how do we differ?” and have since reached over 1,200 followers on Instagram and 2,500 on Facebook.
On their social media pages, Hope for Helpers shares videos and photographs documenting the experiences of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon and providing information on topics such as the kafala system.
A number of Lebanese celebrities and public figures, among them TV host Hicham Haddad and actor and singer Ziad Bourji, have lent their voices to the campaign, sharing photos of themselves holding the Hope for Helpers logo.
Aside from online campaigning, the Hope for Helpers team held a number of awareness-raising events, including an informational lecture by the Migrant Community Center and an art exhibition called “Draw for Hope” that sought to represent “the oppression that the workers are subject to.”
Hope for Helpers also coordinated with the Labor Ministry in order to create a hotline, 1741, through which people can report discrimination against migrant domestic workers.
Though the Facebook competition has ended, Chhaytli said her team will not stop campaigning. Their next goal, he said, is to recruit more team members and branch out to other schools and universities across the country.
Once the team grows in size, Chhaytli said he hopes to take “more significant action … and lobby ministries directly.”
In this year’s contest, the Haigazian students received an honorary mention from Facebook for the Hope for Helpers social media campaign, placing the team among the top five globally.
Chhaytli added that in the wake of the campaign’s success, they have received an “overwhelming amount of encouraging and emotional messages from migrant workers.”
This marks the second year running that students from Haigazian University have gained recognition in the contest: Last year, a team placed third with RISE, a campaign against online religious hate speech.
Volunteers from the Hope for Helpers campaign hand out flyers and bracelets in Hamra during the Beirut Marathon.