Are They Protected? Tales of Girl Child Domestic Workers
By Madalitso Kateta
Mumderanji James (15), a domestic worker in Ndirande, one of the lower-middle class locations in Blantyre, wakes up at 4 o’clock every morning.
Despite her tender age, Mumderanji has to take care of all the morning domestic chores, even though her bosses’ children are slightly older than her.
“I wake up at four every morning to do all the domestic chores. I wash the dishes, prepare the baths and make breakfast for my boss and the children before they go to work and school,” she said.
At her age Mumderanji is supposed to be in school, but she is being denied her right to education. When her employers took her from her village in Mwanza, they promised that she would continue with her education. But now they don’t allow her to go to school.
“I can’t go to school because my bosses say that if I go to school no one will be at home to take care of domestic affairs,” she said.
There are many children like Mumderanji in Malawi. Most of them suffer many forms of child rights abuses. However, because of poverty in their homes the children continue to suffer in silence.
Mumderanji’s 33 year-old mother Zeferia Msipu said she didn’t have problems with her daughter’s employment because she felt her daughter was safer at work than in the village where she could starve.
“We did not have a good harvest last year and even this year the crops are not promising, hence I sent Mumderanji and her younger sister Sitivelia(11) to work as this is the only way they can survive,” she said.
But by sending these young girls to work Msipu is denying them their right to proper education, although Sitivelia is lucky as her employers have given her a chance to go ahead with her education while working for them.
George Kayange, Executive Director at the Child Rights Documentation Centre(CRIDOC) says there is an urgent need to address problems that these young children that are employed as domestic workers face.
He said that these children, girls especially, have often reported to have been sexually abused by their male bosses. This situation put them in conflict with their madams.
He said the end results are usually disastrous, as at times the girls end up being harmed.
A landmark case happened in Malawi in 2001 when a young domestic worker, Ntchayi Jackson, died of water burns after her boss, Mrs Alice Gwazantini, suspected her of being intimate with her husband.