Eliana’s story – access to work in Lebanon

Eliana, a Lebanese woman with MS, sits at her desk with her telephone in hand
Eliana at work

Eliana lives in Lebanon and works in the Mimosa paper factory in Zahle to support her family.

“I worked for two years arranging and moving rolls and boxes of paper. Even though my work was exhausting I was happy on account of the things I was able to provide for my family through this job. However, my happiness did not last long. About two years ago, I began to have episodes of fainting and loss of balance, even during the course of work. On the one hand I was afraid for my health, and on the other hand of losing my job!

“The shift work became more intense, and my fears greater, but the people in charge at the factory were very caring and this eased my suffering. They accompanied me to the hospital several times, and after a short time I was told I had multiple sclerosis. The news struck my family and I like lightning. What was going to happen? What consequences would this disease have for my life? Would I be able to persist? How would my family cope?”

Eliana was summoned to see the HR officer. As she stepped into the office Eliana thought she would be asked to resign and she was already worrying.

“How fast my heart was beating, and how my joints were trembling when the human resources officer, Mr. Nahban, summoned me on the morning of a rainy day. But, instead of asking me to submit my resignation, I found him passing on to me the nicest two pieces of news ever to grace my heart, which made me feel greater confidence and determination toward the future.

“First, the company had decided not to fire me but to do the opposite, and to take care of my ongoing health situation. My job had been transferred from the paper manufacturing department to the offices section, where work is easier and the circumstances better.”

Eliana was moved to an office work station and kept on the same pay level.

“Second, some of the board members at the Mimosa factory had previous knowledge of MS, and knew about the Society of Lebanese Friends of Patients with Multiple Sclerosis (ALSEP). They were sympathetic to its goals and involved in its activities. They gave me a brochure from ALSEP and advised me to get in touch with them.”

ALSEP successfully lobbied the Lebanese government to reduce patient contributions to their treatment from 20% to 5%, which has made a huge difference to MS patients across Lebanon, including Eliana.

The Mimosa Paper Company continues to support Eliana, helping her to stay in work, but also letting her know that they understand and want to help. She says, “A new phase in my life has opened up. The negatives have not all gone, but now I know I don’t have to face them alone”.

Mimosa has been recognised by ALSEP for setting an example of how employers can make reasonable adjustments to help people with MS stay in work.

Two women and a man wearing T-shirts and hats saying 'I am in the fight against MS'
Eliana raising funds for MS