Skip to main content


Domestic servitude: Jonalyn’s story

30 December 2014


An estimated 21 million people globally are employed as forced labour. Many of those workers end up in domestic servitude. Working in various roles, including as housekeepers, nannies and cooks, they are often housed with their employers, unable to leave because of debts incurred for their travel and because their identity papers are withheld by their employers.

Jonalyn left her home in the Philippines and travelled to the Middle East to work as a housekeeper for a family in Lebanon. For nearly a year, she suffered severe forms of psychological and physical torture, as well as sexual abuse, at the hands of her employers.

Recounting her experiences, Jonalyn described having chlorine-based detergent poured over her body and of being subjected to electric shocks with a stun gun. On another occasion, she said she was imprisoned on her own for ten days. She was threatened constantly with death.

Jonalyn eventually made contact with the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center (CLMC), an NGO supported by the UN Slavery Fund that manages a safe house for migrant workers who have suffered abuse by their employers. CLMC provided her with medical care, basic needs assistance, trauma counselling and legal aid. She was also counselled on the possibility of returning to the Philippines or seeking a safer job in Lebanon, and she began a lawsuit against her employers.

After a slow physical and emotional recovery, Jonalyn decided to accept her employers’ plea bargain of 20,000 USD and an airline ticket back home.

Today, Jonalyn is living a quiet life in the Philippines, far from the horrors she endured.

Read Jonalyn’s story and others in “The Human Faces of Modern Slavery”.

The UN Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery is financed by State and other contributions. Established in 1991, the Fund is managed by the UN Human Rights Office, and has awarded several million US dollars in grants to more than 500 organizations worldwide to support projects delivering humanitarian, legal, psychological and social assistance to victims of slavery. A drop in contributions, since the financial crisis is now limiting the number of organizations the Fund is able to support.

In addition to traditional slavery, modern forms of slavery include serfdom, forced labour, debt bondage, the worst forms of child labour, the sale of children, forced and early marriage, the sale of wives and inherited widows, and trafficking in persons for exploitation and sexual slavery.

 30 December 2014