Activists Networking against the Exploitation of Child Domestic Workers

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The following is a selection of case studies of children coerced into child labour.

Case Study 1

Denise Mwili is a 15 year old girl from Kuruman, Kimberley in the North West Province.

Her mother is an unemployed widow with three children to care for; the family daily survival is dependent on the grandmother’s old age pension. Denise left school because the family could not afford the school fees, uniform and stationery. She decided to come and work in Cape Town to help support the family.

When the domestic recruitment agent came to their town looking for girls to come and work in Cape Town, Denise thought that this is a wonderful opportunity given the fact that the taxi was “free”. The agent promised her that she would be earning R900 per month. Her mother consented to her coming to Cape Town based on the reassurance from the agent.

When she arrived in Cape Town she was dropped off at the agent’s house and learned that the trip to Cape Town was in fact R350. The taxi’s money would be paid for by the employer and the employer would claim this money back from her first salary. The living conditions at the agent were terrible and the agent used abusive language. When prospective employers came to the agency they would stand in a parade for selection.

Denise was selected by a bakery owner. She remembers signing a piece of paper but didn’t know what it was. A copy was kept by the agent and the employer was given the other.

The employer explained to Denise that she would receive R500 a month.  For this money she was required to clean the employer’s house and that of his mother. After that she was fetched to work in the bakery. She worked a 15 hour day, seven days a week. Meals were eaten while she continued working and she was not given any time off. Denise slept in the back room of the bakery, which was very dirty and infested with rats. The employer and his family were very abusive towards her and she was not allowed to go out on her own.

After three weeks she ran away from the employer and sought help from the police. Her family was contacted and they scraped some money together for her trip home. Denise is currently back home facing the same circumstances as before but has decided to stay at home.