Carril Desrosiers, Independent Journalist, Haiti
According to a report, which was published by the Institute for Psycho-Social Family Issues (IPSOFA) in collaboration with UNICEF under the title: “Juvenile domestic servitude in Haiti,” nearly 300,000 children are placed as domestic servants (restavèk in Creole).
According to the testimonies of several of them, the girls who live in the streets are sometimes former restavèk, deliberately having adopted the streets as their refuge because they can no longer suffer the ill-treatment of the man or lady of the house.
In Croix-Desprez located in the south-east of Port-au-prince, a restavèk girl of 14 identifies herself and recounts her poignant testimony. After spending 7 years in domestic servitude at the house of a lady who she qualifies as nasty, she is fed up. With a trembling and pathetic voice, she draws up a serious evaluation of the consequences of the domestic servitude on her personal development.
She was born in Gomarin, located in the commune of Cavaillon in the South of Haiti. She attends 4thgrade at the Croix-Desprez Elementary School. Her mother passed away long ago and her father took up residence in Croix-des-Missions in the North of the Capital.
“Here in Croix-Desprez, I was placed as a domestic servant at my aunt’s, the sister of my mother. She is 36 years old and the mother of four girls. Her husband is a taxi driver. I was 3 when my father abandoned me.
“When my mother died, my aunt showed a great interest to take charge of me. I was 8. As I became a restavèk, I rapidly realized that this was not for my well-being.
“My home chores include the house-keeping, going to the local market, cooking and taking the children to school.
“I am up by 4:30 a.m. and usually go to bed at 10:00 p.m. I am not allowed to go to sleep until everybody else is in bed. This lady is wicked. She does not pay any attention to me. Her children count the most for her. On Sundays, she dresses them nicely and does their hair carefully. As for myself, I am disregarded and have to comb my hair by myself. Her children frequently copy her behaviour by unjustly beating and insulting me in her presence. They often call me “restavèk.”
“I am the scapegoat of everybody. When her selling at the market has not been good, and she returns home empty-handed, she does not like anything more than to unleash her anger on me. When she beats me, she metamorphoses into a big cat and hits me on the head without sparing my eyes. Often I come off unscathed thanks to the punchy intervention of people in the neighbourhood.
“I have a single pair of used shoes and a pair of slippers for running errands to the market. Recently after a quarrel with her husband, without being at fault myself, she threw out all my clothes. She refuses to pay the 225 Gourdes (US$10) for my annual school fees.
“I sometimes borrow school books from my generous peers to study my lessons and to do my homework.
“Every day I am insulted. She beats me up at the least sign of tiredness.
“If something disappears in the house, she does not hesitate to hold me responsible and accuse me publicly. She holds her children innocent and let me have it all.
“One time I overslept and was violently woken up with kicks to prepare the lunch box for her children. She hit me in the face and cursed me just for balking.
“Recently, she nearly fractured my right arm by beating me with a big stone.
“When I want to forget my worries, I go to watch television at my neighbour. She hurls insults and utters threats against me.
“At night, when there are black outs, I sit down quietly on the sidewalk to talk to my friends. She slams the door and for a number of times, I had to sleep in the open.
“My only brother died at a very young age due to malnourishment and ill-treatment. My aunt who became his guardian at my mother’s death, is highly responsible for that. She did not provide the care and affection that he needed. Before going to my night classes, I used to take care of him with my own means.
“I am a puber since eight days. I physically have become like all the other misses of the neighbourhood. Thanks to God, I have not been sexually assaulted by my aunt’s husband.
“For Christmas and the New Year, my aunt gives toys to her daughters and does not even think of giving me a little doll. I feel humiliated and unfortunate. I don’t either intend to return to Gomarin or to stay at this nasty woman’s place. In Gomarin, I cannot attend school.
“My other aunts, who live in Carrefour-Feuillles, are aware of my problems and have asked me to come and live with them. The problem is that they will not allow me to go to school.
“Up to now, I have hoped to meet my father, my only rescue. He is also wicked because he has never looked me up. If he does not come, I will be obligated to confront life on the streets.”