A recent article in the BBC focuses on the plight of Haiti’s Restavek children, forced by their parents poverty to work for more affluent families in a conditions comparable to slavery. Here are some excerpts from the article. You can access the complete article and a gallert of photos through the link below.
As soon as dawn breaks in Port-au-Prince the first children appear, staggering under the weight of five-gallon buckets of water.
The water carriers, many as young as 6-years-old, are some of the thousands of children living as virtual child slaves in the country.
Given away to other families by parents too poor to feed and clothe them, they cook, clean and fetch water without any payment. Under what is known as the restavek system, the children are supposed to get food, shelter and a place at school in return. But for many, the reality is very different.
“Sometimes they beat me with lengths of electrical cable and sometimes they punch me,” says 14-year-old restavek Jenette.
“I was grinding a coconut and I wasn’t doing it very well so they took a knife and cut me with it,” she says.
“My mother is dead and my father doesn’t care for me. I would like to run away but I have nowhere to go.”
Unicef estimates that there could be as many as 300,000 restavek children in Haiti, thousands living with the constant threat of violence.
“There is physical abuse, psychological abuse and there are cases of rape, and there are children who actually die from the abuses,” says Julie Bergeron, Unicef head of child protection in Haiti.
She says that parents are often unaware of how their children are being treated.
“Someone approaching the family will often say to parents that their child will have a better life,” she says. “And often the parents do not have any feedback, they don’t know what is happening.
“If they do have, it is through he intermediate, and they will say ‘your child is doing fine’. So the parents have no clue.”
Jean Robert Cadet, founder of the Restavek Foundation, knows the life of what he describes as “child slavery” only too well.
At the age of four he was given to another family soon after his mother died. For the next 16 years he slept under a kitchen table, was forbidden to smile, laugh or speak unless spoken to, and endured sexual abuse and savage beatings.
Thirty years later, he says, the abuse of restavek children in Haiti continues.
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