EVENT Feb 15
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Migrant domestic workers in the Middle East and North Africa

Amman, Jordan
Categories: Interdisciplinary, Popular Culture, Gender & Sexuality, Women's Studies, Aesthetics, Anthropology/Sociology, Classical Studies, Cultural Studies, Environmental Studies, Film, TV, & Media, Food Studies, History, Philosophy
Event Date: 2022-02-15 to 2022-02-15 Abstract Due: 2021-12-10

Across the Middle East and North Africa region, migrant domestic workers (MDWs) perform critical caregiving and low-waged work in precarious conditions with limited legal rights and access to health and social services. The status of MDWs is often governed by the Kafala system requiring them to be sponsored by their employers. The Kafala system has been criticised for facilitating the exploitation of MDWs by institutionalising restrictions on their mobility and rights. Despite these challenges, there is growing momentum and activism across the region to change laws and improve the rights of MDWs. Social networks, informal and formal entities and faith-based collaborations are providing increased opportunities for MDWs to exercise their agency and autonomy. While research and advocacy on MDW rights are increasing, there is a need to ground these efforts in the lived experiences of MDWs to enable greater learning across the region.

This conference, which is funded by the British Academy and Centre for British Research in the Levant, will offer a space for critical reflection and exploration on MDW experiences in the region, as well as exploration for how academic work can inform activism and policy change. We invite migrant domestic workers, NGO representatives, academics, practitioners, policymakers, journalists and other stakeholders who engage with these issues to contribute their reflections. The conference is underpinned by a multi-disciplinary approach, foregrounding the multiplicity of power hierarchies, social entanglements, cultural expectations, historical experiences, geopolitics, racialised narratives, legal and rights-based responses and gender roles that shape the lives of migrant domestic workers. This includes how they navigate the cartographies of power that shape their encounters with physical and social spaces.

We invite papers that reflect multi-disciplinary contributions to this field of enquiry. This includes academic papers as well as creative presentations including drawings, comics, films and poetry. English and Arabic contributions are welcome.

Contributions may reflect on a range of issues, including:
• Gendered division of labour in caregiving
• Exploitation and violence experienced by MDWs
• Access to health, education and legal services
• The impact of COVID-19 on MDWs
• Lessons from activist organisations
• The role of informal and formal structures in supporting MDWs
• Agency and voice of MDWs
• Power hierarchies and decision-making processes
• Gendered place-making
• Intersections between gender, race and class
• Advocacy and legal changes

The one-day conference will be held at the University of Petra (Amman, Jordan) on Tuesday 15th February 2022. Abstracts of 300 words describing the academic/creative contribution along with a 100-word bio should be submitted to mdwconference2022@gmail.com  by 10th December 2021. We will cover flights and accommodation for two migrant domestic workers in the region to attend the conference. Applications for funding should be submitted by 10th December 2021 and should include an overview of the organisation/entity represented by the individual as well as the abstract and bio.

To register for the conference, please complete the registration form at: https://forms.gle/ g4jnXtb9TxCyfusC8. Conference attendance is free and lunch will be provided for all participants.

Conference organisers:
Michelle Lokot, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Aya Musmar, University of Petra
Zainab Naqvi, De Montfort University



Michelle Lokot