Rama, a live-in domestic worker is aware that she is lucky to have an employer who treats her like family. “When I heard my employers talking about not being able to afford basic foodstuff, I asked them whether I should start making plans to go back to Nepal. But my employer assured me that they can afford to keep me,” she said.
Rama describes that supermarket visits are different these days with limits on the quantity of items that can be purchased owing to shortages, such as only one packet of rice or two soaps per visit.
Pramila is undocumented and lives with fellow Nepalis in a rented apartment. “As live-out, part-time workers during a pandemic, employers are reluctant to hire us for fear of the virus,” she says. “The price of rice has tripled, and we have reduced our meals. I don’t have much of an appetite these days anyway.”
Pramila is one of the 30 Nepalis in Lebanon who have registered to return home, and it will be a struggle to pay the $700 air fare. This is a smaller number than other countries because of the lack of jobs and the spreading coronavirus back in Nepal, as well as the high air fare amid the Lebanese currency crisis. Others are stuck with employers who are not in a position to clear their dues.
Many Nepali women have come to Lebanon despite a ban on domestic workers going to West Asia, some had not been able to go home for several years to see their children and families because of the fear that they will not be allowed back out. However, last year the government allowed current workers — many working in Lebanon — to return to their jobs after home visits.
Some names have been changed.