Regional rights groups are urging employers of domestic workers in Qatar to lighten their employees’ workload during Ramadan by appealing to their religious sensibilities.
As part of the Shelter Me project, an awareness campaign for domestic workers run by a group of human rights organizations including Migrant-Rights.org and Hivos, leaflets are being distributed to employers across the country.
Alongside a calendar that lists Ramadan prayer times, the document also includes excerpts from the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, and invites employers to consider the welfare of their staff during the long days of fasting.
“This Ramadan, we wanted to look from an Islamic ethical viewpoint on the rights and responsibilities of employers and domestic workers,” Migrant-Rights.org advisor Vani Saraswathi told Doha News.
“The calendar has been distributed amongst the network of employers we are engaging with, and their family and friends.”
Under the title “Ramadan reminders,” the leaflet asks employers to make time for their domestic helpers to take a nap; to give her a prayer mat and time to pray if she is Muslim (or time to reflect alone if she is not); to shorten her working hours; and to help her out with the cooking and cleaning.
The leaflet also poses a series of questions for employers to ask themselves, including:
- Did she have a break today?
- Did she stop working earlier than usual?
- Have you considered easing her workload this Ramadan?
- Are you collecting the spiritual benefits of Ramadan while a worker under your roof leaves no footprint on a prayer rug nor has a moment for reflection?
While many of Qatar’s workers enjoy a much shorter working day during Ramadan, the country’s domestic workers often do not.
Such employees are not covered by Qatar’s labor law, so their sponsors are not legally obliged to reduce their working hours.
Meanwhile, large meals served after sunset and regular social events at home often make the Ramadan month particularly tiring for domestic workers.
In an op-ed published in the Huffington Post last year, Human Rights Watch researcher Rothna Begum described the daily schedule of some housekeepers in the Gulf during the holy month:
“Many domestic workers in the Middle East are expected to help host large iftar meals to break fasts. They work during the night when families can eat, and during the day to clean and take care of children …
One 42-year-old Filipina domestic worker in the United Arab Emirates told me, ‘During Ramadan I would go to sleep at 3am and would wake up (to work) at 5:30am.’ ”
Shelter Me campaign
The calendar campaign follows a similar Migrant-Rights.org initiative last Ramadan, which encouraged Qatar residents to give domestic workers adequate time off during the month.
And earlier this year, Shelter Me also launched a guide for employers of domestic workers, emphasizing the rights and responsibilities of both parties.
Here is the calendar, in both Arabic and English:
More Ramadan coverage