Tomorrow morning in Haiti, a child will wake up to cook food she will never eat and wash clothes she will never wear. She will fetch food from the market and water from the well, all for a family that isn’t hers, that will probably never treat her as one of their own.
Her name is Nadine, age 9. Or it’s Fernande, age 7, or Doudane, age 14.
She is, like more than 300,000 other children in Haiti, a restavek.
Restavek is a form of modern-day slavery that persists in Haiti, affecting one in every 15 children. Typically born into poor rural families, restavek children are often given to relatives or strangers. In their new homes, they become domestic slaves, performing menial tasks for no pay.
In the Creole language, “restavek" means "to stay with." Yet for the children who are called restavek, that definition is incomplete. For them, it means:
To stay with… humiliation and abuse.
To stay with… alone, in a family that offers no love.
To stay with… an incessant and knawing hunger.
To stay with… the feeling that no matter what, their voices, their lives, will never count.
The reasons that the restavek practice persists in Haiti are complex - ranging from harsh economic conditions to the cultural attitudes toward children. But every morning another child wakes up to begin his or her life of hardship, it becomes all the more urgent that this practice be stopped.
Ask the children what they need, and many of them will offer a simple reply:
"All I want," they say, "is to be human."
To learn more about the issue of restavek, visit our website.