BEIRUT: “There’s a lot of birds flying and one ladybug. And a house with me and my friend. And my friend has a dog and me, I have a dog. And I made birds everywhere,” said a 7-year-old girl called Caroline. With wide eyes she continued to describe a drawing she had just completed depicting her vision of Lebanon. “There’s grass on the floor and stones too,” she said.
Caroline’s mother, a migrant worker from Sri Lanka, adjusted a flower in her daughter’s hair. “She likes Lebanon,” she said of her daughter. “She’s happy ... She doesn’t want to go to Sri Lanka.”
Caroline was one of a dozen children of migrant workers participating in an art competition Sunday at the headquarters of FENASOL, the National Federation of the Workers and Employees Unions. The children, who ranged from toddlers to teenagers, were asked to draw their perceptions of Lebanon.
One drew a picture of Baalbek. Another drew dancers in traditional Lebanese costumes. Others, like Caroline, simply drew houses.
For these children, Lebanon is home.
While much attention has been paid to the plight of migrant and domestic workers, their children, many born in Lebanon, are often forgotten. Some, like Caroline, feel welcome and accepted in Lebanon.
Others, however, face social exclusion. “The children often feel like they are not wanted in the society, like there’s no place for them,” explained Frank Hagemann, deputy regional director of the International Labor Organization.
Sri Lanka Ambassador Ranjith Gunaratna, however, said, despite some issues, Sri Lankan children enjoyed living in Lebanon.
“Some children have problems with documents,” he said at the event, “others are not certain about their future.” Still, he continued, “what we found is that they are happy in Lebanon.”
Aside from the drawing competition, several different groups performed traditional dances and songs from their countries of origin.
A group of Ethiopian women sang in a choir, young Sri Lankan girls danced with customary gold earrings dangling from their ears and a Lebanese band played a classic Fairuz number.
Children and workers of all backgrounds snapped photos of each other’s cultural displays. This conflux of nationalities was intentional, said Zeina Mezher, the national project coordinator for a new ILO campaign to protect the rights of female migrant and domestic workers, PROWD.
“The problems facing domestic workers are cross-cultural,” she said.
The jury ultimately declared 10-year-old Sri Lankan Susana the winner of the drawing competition, awarding her an easel and a canvas.
After detailing the mountains, snow and animals in her winning piece, she gave a final analysis.
“My drawing is about Lebanon culture. How it is wonderful,” she said