When MH*, 38, travelled to Lebanon from Ethiopia in 2012 to work as a domestic worker, she did not foresee that she would be forced to live in captivity for almost eight years.

Like other foreign domestic workers in Lebanon, MH found herself deprived of basic rights and locked in a spiral of violence that put her life in danger.

She is one of the many foreign domestic workers who entered the kafala system, a migrant employment sponsorship system used in Lebanon and in other Middle Eastern countries that legally ties migrants to their employers.

The kafala system is structured to fall into exploitation, as the relationship between a foreign domestic worker and their employer is extremely unbalanced. Human rights groups have long denounced the system, which allows employers to exploit and abuse workers, whose rights are unprotected.

But for the first time, a Lebanese court is handling a lawsuit against kafala exploitation. The case of MH is seen as representative of the working conditions of many foreign domestic workers in the country.

MH worked in a household in Lebanon for around 15 hours a day, daily, for almost eight years. Her employer never allowed her to take days off or holidays. Her employer also failed to pay her most of her earnings. When MH asked for her salary, her employer verbally and physically abused her.