Child domestic servitude: This is Johanne’s story

Johanne is a restavèk, a word in Creole meaning “to stay with”. She was sent away from her family at the age of nine. Two years later, she lost her left hand in the 2010 earthquake, which devastated Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince.

Restavèks are mostly girls, and can be as young as five. Their parents hand them over to other households hoping that in exchange for their labour, they will be fed, housed and educated.

The Haitian based NGO, Restavèk Freedom Foundation says, in recent years, these children have become victims of a contemporary form of slavery. They are now trafficked by recruiters who are paid to find a source of cheap labour for families, themselves quite poor, who live in neighbourhoods where there is no basic infrastructure, including water and electricity.

Francoise, a child advocate from Restavèk Freedom Foundation met Johanne in 2011. Living with a woman she called “Aunty”, Johanne cooked, cleaned and carried 20 litre buckets of water up the road to the house. She was abused and not allowed to attend school.

Francoise persuaded the householder to allow Johanne to go to school but she was often late because of her domestic work and eventually, she was made to leave the house.

With the support of the UN Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, Restavèk Freedom Foundation placed Johanne in the care of her father and supported her return to school. A grant from the Fund covers her tuition fees and assists Restavèk Freedom Foundation maintain its relationship with Johanne — and her family — so that she can rebuild her life.

Johanne is thriving and doing very well at school, so well, her principal has suggested she may skip a grade.
Read Johanne’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.

26 December 2014

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