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Children in Servitude, the Poorest of Haiti’s Poor – NYTimes.com

On this site, I have called attention to Haiti’s dirty little secret, the fact that tens of thousands of minds are literally being wasted, because they are cast-offs as slaves, nothing but slaves. Several reports describe the utter despair that Haitians are experiencing as the result of the wreck that is now Haiti after being battered by tropical storms. But as the following story illustrates, even among the downtrodden there is a hierarchy, and the restavèk is unfortunately found way at the bottom. You can take many steps towards the elimination of the restavèk system in Haiti. One of the first is to lend your name to the petition on the sidebar to the left. — JM

September 14, 2008

Children in Servitude, the Poorest of Haiti’s Poor

By MARC LACEY

GONAÏVES, Haiti — Thousands of desperate women pushed and shoved to get at the relief food being handed out on the outskirts of this flooded city last week. Off to the side were the restaveks, the really desperate ones.

As woman after woman hauled off a sack of rice, a bag of beans and a can of cooking oil, the restaveks, a Creole term used to describe Haiti’s child laborers, dropped to their knees to pick up the bits that were inadvertently dropped in the dirt.

Follow this link to read the rest of the story: Children in Servitude, the Poorest of Haiti’s Poor – NYTimes.com

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5 Responses

  1. You would not believe how long ive been searching for something like this. Through 7 pages of Yahoo results without finding anything. Very first page on Bing. There you are!… Gotta start using this more often

  2. Thanks for the compliments about the blog. I have forwarded the links to your blog to a few folks. Good luckand keep on blogging!

  3. Hi Jocelyn,

    Thanks for stopping by my site.  The petition is apparently closed, that’s how fast people reacted to the petition!

    Best, (and great blog)

    Rose-Anne

  4. I hope that all who read your comment will use their fingers wisely, insert their name into the petition box, check the anonymous box if they want to, and click on the sign now button. This petition is addressed not only to the government of Haiti, but to its bilateral and multilateral allies. It is particularly important that we advocate for the elimination of child slavery at this time in Haiti, for this one of the key solutions to moving forward.This is not by all means the only solution. All of Haiti’s children must enjoy the fruits of a good education, not a substandard one as this is the case today. They must be given the opportunity to broaden their minds, think out of the box so that they can innovate and develop winning solutions to problems that appear unsurmountable right now.

  5. Talk of “slavery” in the Haitian context, and extreme images of chattel slavery immediately come to mind — the type of dehumanizing labor first imposed by the Spanish “discoverers” (???) of “Haïti Qisqueya Bohio” that was chiefly responsible for wiping out an estimated 1 million Native Americans (Indians) from the Island of Haiti. Later, the practice was refined (it achieved levels of savagery so far unequaled in the history of mankind) to exact the maximum production that could be squeezed out of a legally classified class of sub-human beings (the Africans) strictly for the material enrichment of European-Christian High Society.

    Hence the unease experienced by many intelligent and well-meaning individuals. As the words “slavery” and “holocaust” and “genocide” are, often loosely, used for emphasis today in characterizing the grave social injustices and crimes of our times, there is a legitimate concern that they may end up blurring all realities (contemporary and historical, alike), through the broad assimilation of divergent characteristics and the use of “same words” to describe “different historical and social contexts”. Worse yet, this often leads to an unwinnable war of semantics that lead to inaction — the opposite of the effect desired by all people of good will.

    We can all agree that the informal institution of juvenile domestic labor (“restavek”) is a brutal social reality that needs to be brought to an end as soon as possible (like yesterday).

    I urge you to get involved and to inform yourselves about the situation of the youths of Haiti, who are literally the future of our nation.

    If you are particularly concerned about forms of historical and contemporary slavery, I encourage you to explore well-documented sites on the subject, such as these links from the American Anti-Slavery Group: http://www.iabolish.org/index.html (home) and http://www.iabolish.org/slavery_today/slave_experience/index.html (The Slave Experience) from which I excerpt the following two “snapshots of the human experience” in Haiti:

    Quote: When Judith Marcena was 10, her father began to pack a bag and told her she was going to school in the city. She and her father traveled by bus to Port-au-Prince, where they slept at the house of one of her father’s ex-girlfriends. After her father left early in the morning, Judith’s new ‘stepmother’ turned to her and said, “He doesn’t want you. He gave you to me, and you’ll do as I say.”
    Instead of going to school, Judith has to walk the other children to class each morning – only after dumping the chamber pot. She then fetches water, cleans the house, cooks meals, and washes dishes from 5 am to 11 pm. She sleeps on the floor and eats very little. When she is near the other children, they hold their noses and call her ‘restavek’ (a slur for the Haiti’s class of domestic slaves). A neighbor, taking pity on her, once gave her 50 centimes (12 cents). Her stepmother accused her of stealing and threw a rock at her head. Judith is now 12, still “a little person who lives with big people.”
    End of Quote

    Quote: Marcelineis, a 7 year-old restavek:
    “I get up at 5 in the morning, and start by collecting the urine from the previous night, because the washrooms are outside the house. Then when children go to school, I sweep and wash the floor. Then I go and get some water, I go to the market and fix dinner. I work alone and never get any money; my clothes are the children’s old discarded clothes, and I eat once a day. I would like to be bigger so the children would stop beating me.”
    End of Quote

    The children of Haiti are the only reason that I signed the petition, with the hope that it will bring some pressure on the Government of Haiti to take some significant steps to abolish the ignominious practice of restaveks in Haiti.

    I hope that you will join me and assist in gathering the 1,000 signatures targeted by this petition.

    Putting our differences aside, let’s take action to re-symbolize Haiti as the spiritual source for freedom of all people in the word.

    Guy S. Antoine
    Editor-Manager
    Windows on Haiti
    http://windowsonhaiti.com (main web)
    http://annpale.com (multilingual forum)
    http://annpale.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t=21791 (this topic)
    http://annpale.com/phpbb/index.php?f=1571 (other views on Children’s Rights)

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