Malawi: Domestic workers denied a childhood and exposed to violence

Malawi: Domestic workers denied a childhood and exposed to violence


Date: December 17, 2015
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Blantyre, 8 December: Mercy wakes up at 03.00 every morning to start her domestic chores. Despite only being 14-years-old, Mercy* is at the centre of the domestic duties at the home where she works.

Her “madam” or boss gets up three hours later at 06.00 to demand a progress report of the morning preparations before her children go to school. At her age, Mercy should also be in school, but this AIDS orphan from Neno has to work in the commercial capital of Blantyre to support her two siblings and 89-year-old grandmother back home.

Mercy dropped out of primary school in grade seven and should be in her second year of secondary school. In an interview she said she wished she still had the opportunity to continue with her education. Now she has to work to survive and is trapped in a modern-day form of child slavery.

“My day begins with setting the charcoal burner where I have to boil the family’s bath water before cleaning the entire house,” Mercy said. “Things are tough when there is no running water in the taps. On such days I have to wake up even earlier,” she added, referring to the water shortages that are a common occurrence in Malawi.

As we close the Sixteen Days of Activism on Violence Against Women and Girls it is important to look at Article 4 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which eliminates child labour. The article, and other human rights conventions, state that no one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

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