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Child maid trafficking spreads from Africa to US

28 December, 2008

By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI, Associated Press Writer

Throughout Africa, young girls are given into what is called “maid slavery,” an illegal traffic of children as young as 3 to wealthy families who need someone to help with household “chores.”  For the most part, parents sign a contract to receive a monthly payment for the child’s service; many parents do it because they are in desperate straits due to health problems or job loss.  In some instances, the parents believe that sending the child to live in a new environment will be a way to a better life.

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“Tens of thousands of children in Africa, some as young as 3, are recruited every year to work as domestic servants. They are on call 24 hours a day and are often beaten if they make a mistake. Children are in demand because they earn less than adults and are less likely to complain. In just one city — Casablanca — a 2001 survey by the Moroccan government found more than 15,000 girls under 15 working as maids.”

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According to the AP story, “The custom has led to the spread of trafficking, as well-to-do Africans accustomed to employing children immigrate to the U.S. Around one-third of the estimated 10,000 forced laborers in the United States are servants trapped behind the curtains of suburban homes, according to a study by the National Human Rights Center at the University of California at Berkeley and Free the Slaves, a nonprofit group. No one can say how many are children, especially since their work can so easily be masked as chores.”

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Three to four thousand children in the United States live in a state of total bondage, working long hours, with no time off, doing arduous tasks.  Most receive no education, have no friends or contacts outside the home and do not even enjoy the friendship, gratitude, or kindness of the people they serve.

The child who is the focus of this story slept in a garage, was forbidden to use the family’s dinnerware or wash her clothes with theirs and was required to do all housework for a husband and wife (who did not work) and their two children.

For me, the worst part came when the couple were finally found out:  they tried to fight the charges brought against them arguing that the girl was treated well and that she should not be taken from them because their own children would miss her (their name for her  was “stupid”).  They were eventually convicted and sentenced to time in prison.

Her parents thought she was ungrateful for wanting to leave the couple’s service.   They thought her life was better than it would have been had she stayed home.  Perhaps it was, but I can not even imagine what that life would have looked like.

Her story is heart-wrenching and horrific, but you should read it just the same.


read the story here:

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