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12.07.2013 - News

Restavek, a modern-day form of slavery

The Terre des hommes Foundation comes to the aid these exploited and mistreated children in Haiti. Through the Tdh programme for child relief, 50 children working as domestic servants were looked after by Tdh. Amongst these children, 60% are under 14, and the average age of the girls is just ten and a half.

Who are these child victims of slavery?

21% of Haitian children from 5 to 14 years of age are involved in working activities. The children employed as domestics must often stop their schooling due to the situation or to the demands of their employer, which exposes them even more to being exploited.

The physical and social isolation of these youngsters is deliberately maintained by their employers. In this way they lose their bearings and have no further contact with their families. Lodging with the family where they work, confusion about the place of work and home is extremely problematic, isolating the young domestics even more.

The daily tasks demanded by the employer are exhausting for such young children. They are forced to work for up to 17 hours a day, and that day often starts at 4.30 a.m. The physical and mental health of the youngsters is soon affected, and any medical treatment prescribed at the beginning is often ignored.

Remove these youngsters from the spiral

Tdh’s team for protection identified 50 children in a domestic situation on criteria of social, family, psychological and health problems. Individual socio-educational care was assured by a multidisciplinary team from Tdh: social workers, a nurse, a psychologist and a socio-economic worker.

Of the children identified, the majority were victims of maltreatment: physical and mental abuse, sexual violence, neglected medical treatment. In other cases, many of the youngsters suffered from social and psychological problems, and included young mothers or pregnant girls.

For Tdh, the task consists first of all in searching for the families of those children considered to be separated, and to work towards a process of reunification with the birth family or placement within a host family that is checked up on, whilst trying to guarantee at least the minimum of protective conditions for the child during the process of reunification or placement.

Strengthening the legal framework and respect for the laws

While Haiti is a signatory of the International Convention of Child Rights (1989), the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999) and the Palermo Protocol (2009), the national legislation does not fully protect youngsters from the various forms of trafficking or abuse.

So as to face up to the worrying situation of ‘restavek’ and to reduce the number of children in situations as domestic servants, Terre des hommes, in collaboration with IBESR (Institute for Social Wellbeing and Research) continues its efforts towards improving the living conditions of the children and to strengthening the instruments for protection at a State and legal level.

Drawing up and implementing a national system for placement in a host family enables improvement of the care of children in a situation of family breakup and child victims of abuse, violence or exploitation, detrimental to their development.

Read more on Tdh’s child protection work in Haïti