amazing Story of a Child Domestic Worker turning into human rights leader
Angel benedicto, Mwanza, Tanzania
Angel was born in Mara, Tanzania and brought up by her single mother. Her mother died when she was 16. She went to live with her father but he wasn’t kind to her and wanted to her marry someone as soon as possible, so she ran away to Mwanza city, thinking she could work as a domestic worker.
After living on the streets for two days she got a job, for which she was paid just £6 per month.
“I woke up early in the morning and prepared the two children’s clothes, food and tea before taking them to school. When I returned to the house I cleaned, washed clothes, fetched water, went to the market, returned to the house and prepared lunch. Then I went to the school to collect the children, it was a lot of work which meant I had to get up very early and go to bed very late.
“There was no one to help me. I would wake up for work at 5.30 and work until I went to bed at 11. I did not even get time to rest and was abused, exploited and isolated by my employer.’
Angel, like many child domestic workers was particularly upset by being treated like a second class citizen and not being allowed to eat with the family. “I was asked to wait until they ate and I would get their leftovers.”
However, Angel managed to find another employer and again for some time it all went well. Her employer allowed her to attend classes and training run by the organisation called Kivulini Women’s Rights Organization – Anti-Slavery International’s partners in the project reaching out to child domestic workers and building up their skills, confidence and knowledge of their rights.
Angel soon became very active in the project and got involved in Anti-Slavery’s advocacy for the adoption by the International Labour Organization’s of the Domestic Work Convention. She contributed hugely to the positive changes in the Convention in relation to children: she travelled to Geneva and addressed the plenary, talking about the issues child domestic workers commonly face and protections needed.
Back at work things changed when her employer started sexually harassing her, saying he would make her life better if she had sex with him. She knew her rights and had some confidence built by then, so she stood up to his threats. But he insulted her, kicked her out of her job and house, and told everyone in the community not to employ her.
Fortunately, Kivulini helped her set up her own small business, a mobile stationery shop. She also went on to set up her own organisation called WoteSawa and is now a campaigner for child domestic workers across the globe.
WoteSawa – or All Are Equal – now have over 400 members and work with local community, employers, police and judiciary to protect children from exploitation. They run a shelter for children who escaped from exploitation and particularly bad abuse, and support them in bringing their cases to the court.
They also teach children about their rights and run entrepreneurship training so they can find the skills and confidence to move on to other jobs or set up their own businesses.
More and more responsible employers have come on board to work with WoteSawa, people are starting to be aware that domestic workers should have equal rights as everyone else, and more children come out empowered and confident to make a move into a life with brighter prospects.
“It is my dream that I will see domestic workers respected like other workers. I want them to be identified like other workers and recognised by the government. It’s my dream that exploitation, low salaries and other forms of violence will not take place.
“I am very proud because WoteSawa is a safe house for child domestic workers to come and tell their stories. We are here to empower others to be like me and raise up their voices and advocate for their rights. I want to see other child domestic workers going to the police and reporting their employers if their rights have been violated.”
Angel was recognised by the Queen's Young Leaders Foundation and received the award from the Queen.
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