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Child Slaves of Haiti

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[♪ Jazzy music playing ♪] Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria The nation of Haiti became the first country to legally outlaw slavery when former slaves over threw their French masters in 1804. However, many children continue to work as indentured servants, known as restavèks, even today. Dane Liu and Carmen Russell report on Haiti’s child slaves. Restavèks: Haiti’s Child Slaves Reported by Dane Liu and Carmen Russell Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting [In Creole, translated] My name is Mathieu Maignon. I'm 13 years old. I'm from Fond des Blancs. I came here in August of 2006, because my mom can't afford to raise me. Mathieu's mother Marie-Thérèse sent him to Port-au-Prince. He is one of 300,000 restavèks, indentured servants who make up 10 percent of the child population in Haiti. I have four children. I'm not working. I can't do anything for the children. I sent one to Port-au-Prince, because I can't care for all of them. In Haiti a restavèk is a child who leaves his own family to live with another. Child rights activist Guerda Lexima has worked on behalf of restavèks for 19 years. In general, it's a child from an extremely poor family from rural areas in particular. It's a child whose parents don't have the means to feed or send him to school. The child starts to work as soon as he arrives at the new home. >>I wash dishes. I clean the house. And after that, I sweep the yard. >>It's a child who works throughout the day. And who doesn't get to rest. [sounds of running water] The most recent law, issued on June 5th of 2003, is a law on family solidarity. According to it, there are no restavèks in Haiti. But, in practice, parents continue to send their children to the city. People continue to treat child domestics as if they're less than human. The reality and what's on paper are two different things. Briel Leveillé is a local leader in Fond des Blancs, one of many rural communities devastated by the restavèk system. There are parents who have eight, 10, 12, even 14, 16 kids. A lot of them have to send their children away as restavèks because they lack the means to take care of them. Rodette Clermanceau recently faced the same dilemma as many other Fond des Blancs parents. >>Do you know which ones you're sending away? >>Yes, this one and that one. She's eight. She's 15. >>Do you know where they're going to stay? >>No. I'm scared for the ones I'm giving away. But I'm giving them away because I can't take care of them. The parents pray that someone will take the kids and care for them. They hope the child can become somebody who changes the family's fate. But the host family doesn't make the child's life any better, only worse. Rodette Clermanceau's neighbor Amelus Calix refuses to send any of his children away. I have 13 children. Although they don't eat or sleep well they stay with me anyway because I see the way restavèks suffer. They're hit. They're left hungry. They don't get to bathe. For these children to get anything to eat, they must work. Even though there are tasks kids can't do, they are forced to do it. These are things I've witnessed myself. My parents couldn't take care of me, so I became a restavèk. I can tell you about the misery I went through. [Sounds of wind as the car is moving] When I was younger, they'd tie me up, put a bag over my head and beat me. Evans Antoine, 15, is an orphan in Port-au-Prince. He "lives with others," a euphemism for being a restavèk. When I wake up, I sweep, wash dishes and do what they tell me to do. They don't buy me clothing or shoes. A few days ago, the school asked me for the tuition. I asked my host family for it. They said I was lying and beat me. That's why this system is so problematic. We had a petition, signed by more than 12,500 people in Fond des Blancs, which says we do not agree with the restavèk system. We're working on sending every child in Fond des Blancs to school, so parents won't give their kids to those who mistreat them or refuse to pay for schooling. I thought by coming here, I'd get the chance to go to school. You go to school to learn and become someone in the future. <<If you don't go to school what will happen? <<You'll never live well. And you'll always have to beg. Ideally, I'd like to see all children in good health playing in a secure environment living with their own families, being protected, and going to school. That's what I'd like to see. [Children singing and clapping] In life, We must struggle in life. We may have to suffer for now, but that's how we can have a good start in life. [♪Jazz music playing ♪] With Fareed Zakaria STOLEN CHILDHOOD Approximately 300,000 children are estimated to be Restavèks in Haiti Source: Earthworks / Oxfam America Only 55 percent of primary-school age children attend school in Haiti One-third of Haiti's youth aged 15-24 are illiterate With Fareed Zakaria A film by Dane Liu and Carment Russell "Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria" is produced by Azimuth Media Produced in association with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Video Details

Duration: 6 minutes and 56 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
Director: Dane Liu and Carmen Russell
Views: 319
Posted by: pulitzercenter on Apr 25, 2008

As featured on Foreign Exchange. The nation of Haiti became the first country to legally outlaw slavery when former slaves overthrew their French masters in 1804. However, many children continue to work as indentured servents, known as restaveks, even today. Dane Liu and Carmen Russell report on Haiti's child slaves.

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