Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Ben Jelloun Asks Meryl Streep to Help "Little Maids"

According to the Arabic news site, Hespress, Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun has published an open letter to American actress Meryl Streep, calling for her to recognise the plight of female child workers in Morocco

Tahar Ben Jelloun

Ben Jelloun published his letter just one week before Meyrl Streep’s arrival in Morocco, accompanying the USA's First Lady, Michelle Obama, and Indian actress Freida Pinto when they are expected to discuss how to increase the number of girls in school in the developing world.

Ben Jelloun’s letter expressed his admiration for Streep's hard work promoting girls’ rights and implored her to learn about the troubling number of young Moroccan girls in the domestic labour market.

Michelle Obama will be in Morocco with Meryl Streep

According to Hespress, between 30 thousand and 60 thousand underage Moroccan girls work as domestic labourers. These children, often rural girls working in towns or cities, give their salaries to their parents and rarely receive days off, formal contracts, or other basic employment rights.

Ben Jelloun implored Ms. Streep to intervene on the behalf of these “little maids".  “Listen to women working in the field, those who fight every day so that the innocence of young girls is not taken by brutes, so that the hope that these girls carry can succeed in overcoming taboos, burdens, the social hypocrisies, misplaced modesty and shame that veils the reality,” Jelloun said.

Michelle Obama, Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto are expected to stay in Marrakech on the 28th and 29th of June.

On June 1, the Moroccan government passed a law criminalising labor for all children under the age of 16. This was followed by an outcry from the public who demanded the age should be raised to 18. This public reaction has led to a "transitional period" before the age is raised.

However, an unintended negative outcome of the new labour law may be that it is a further disincentive for young people to take up apprenticeships with traditional artisans. In addition it could impact on family owned enterprises where the entire family works together,


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