By Natacha Desir, Child advocate
Most of the time, working with children in restavek exposes us to harsh situations. In the hope of a better future, these children are given to a relative or a stranger by their family, too poor to meet their basic needs. But in this new home, they seldom see their lives improve. They are asked to perform domestic chores from dawn to dusk without any compensation. They become slaves. In Haiti, 1 in 15 children live in restavek. Kept in isolation, treated as worthless by their host family, they are vulnerable in many ways and are often victims of abuse.
Young girls in particular are at high risk of ill-treatment and sometimes of sexual abuse. Being isolated and with no adult to guide them, these adolescents receive no sexual education and do not have strong role models to guide them into adulthood. They don’t live in a healthy and loving environment and have limited capacity to develop social skills.
Restavek Freedom’s program adopts a comprehensive approach to education and include these issues into the curriculum. The goal of the girls’ program is to help them realize how important they are and construct better self-esteem. We want to empower them to become strong and autonomous women, aware that they are worthy and knowing how to behave in every situation.
This year we continued with our girls’ program in its first location and are expanded it to another school! This is the second session and now that we know the girls better, we are able to tailor the course in order to achieve our goals.
Since the beginning of the program, we have seen changes in the way they behave, the way they talk and their relationships with others. By learning to respect oneself, they have built confidence and are able to better interact with their school mates, their host families, and strangers. We believe that this program has and will continue to have a positive impact on their lives and in their communities.
Want to learn more about our work to end child slavery in Haiti? Please visit Restavek Freedom !