ILO and Swiss Embassy in Jordan Screen Documentary: “Thank you Soma - شكراَ صوما” on International Domestic Workers’ Day

The screening and panel discussion were organised by the ILO and Swiss Embassy to raise awareness around migrant domestic workers’ rights through the relationship between migrant workers and Arab youth.

News | 17 June 2019
Amman (ILO News) – Like millions of others, Soma, now 57, left her home, friends and young children to become a domestic worker and provide for her family. Some 30 years later, she travelled to her home village in Sri Lanka with Nour Sidani, the 24-year-old Lebanese woman she helped raise. Their physical and emotional journey is depicted in a documentary – “Thank you Soma” – developed by the ILO, which is to being screened in Amman on Sunday 16 June to mark International Domestic Workers’ Day.

The women’s trip to a small village near Kandy, Sri Lanka provided the two an opportunity to reflect on their relationship.

“I’ve known Soma my whole life – and I thought I knew her completely. However going on this journey allowed me to see her whole life story and think of her in a different way. I’m forever grateful for everything she has given me and my family,” says Nour Sidani.

“Nour also changed a little bit when we came here [to Sri Lanka]. She learned about me. Maybe she now feels what I feel”, says Soma, whose full name is Sumanalatha Harispattuwale Gedara.

The film aims at encouraging thought and dialogue about domestic work, and has been screened and discussed in universities, community groups across the Arab States region. It was produced with funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) under the ILO’s Regional Fair Migration Project in the Middle East (FAIRWAY), as well as the UK Department of International Development (DFID) under the ILO’s Work in Freedom Programme.

“With this film we hope to show the issue of domestic work from a new perspective to audiences in Jordan,” says Ms Simone Giger, Head of the SDC’s Global Program on Migration and Development, which co-funded the documentary through the FAIRWAY Project. “Despite being typically undervalued and not seen as ‘real work’, domestic work makes an enormous contribution to economies and societies, as is evident from the contribution which Soma makes to the household she works for”.

There are more than 47,000 documented migrant domestic workers in Jordan, and many others who are in a situation of irregularity through the functioning of the sponsorship (kafala) system. More broadly in the region, there are more than 3.16 million, the vast majority of whom are migrant workers.

“We hope that through this film, Jordanian youth will start to question how migrant domestic workers are treated and encourage them to think about the role of domestic workers in their families and society – both now and in the future,” says Patrick Daru, Coordinator of the ILO’s Amman Office.

In spite of efforts to strengthen the legal and regulatory structures in Jordan, social norms contribute to the continuation of abusive and exploitative practices such as withholding workers’ wages and passports, failing to give workers a weekly rest day, or disregarding maximum daily working hours.

The public event in Amman – screened at the Rainbow Theatre - also brings together an interactive panel, featuring Dr Hayel Al Zabn (Director of the Domestic Workers’ Department), Ms Lucia Obejas (domestic worker) and Hadeel Al Mughrabi (member of the My Fair Home Youth Network in Jordan).