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World Methodist Council’s Family Life Committee Releases Winter Newsletter
There are over 15 million children in domestic work in the world today who feel they are invisible. They work behind the closed doors of their employers, most are girls and many of them suffer abuse and exploitation at the hands of their employers, working long hours, for little or no pay and denied the opportunity to go to school.
A small charity named ‘Children Unite’ has been working with NGOs in various countries of the world to provide advocacy and support for these vulnerable children. Methodist Women in Britain engaged in a two year partnership with ‘Children Unite’ campaigning for national governments to ratify the International Labour Organisation’s Domestic Workers Convention, 2011. We believe this convention will help end the abuse and exploitation of child domestic workers.
Interview with a child domestic worker
The following is an extract from an interview between Helen Veitch (Children Unite) and Anali Baltazar Sanchez (from Casa de Panchita, Peru).
Helen: Why did you start working as a child domestic worker?
Anali: I started working when I was 9 years old as a domestic worker but I wasn’t paid for this work. I have 5 brothers and sisters and my mum is a single mother so we all had to work to bring in enough money for the whole family.
Helen: how did your employers treat you and how did that make you feel?
Anali: My mum told me not to trust my employer, particularly the male employers because many domestic workers are sexually abused by the male employers so I didn’t trust any of my employers. They treated me like a nobody. One time when I was looking after two children one of the boys hit me, his mother was watching but she didn’t say anything. I was hurt and humiliated by this ─ if it had been anyone else that her son had hit she would have said something. But she didn’t reprimand him at all and it made me feel like I wasn’t even human ─ no-one deserves to feel like that.
Helen: what are the most important issues facing child domestic workers in Peru?
Anali: Child domestic workers need to focus on their education, many children drop out of school because they can’t manage to do their homework and they are too tired at school from all the domestic work they have had to do. So, we need to find a way to get child domestic workers to school.
Also many children work away from their families ─ they work in a house in the city and their families live in the country. You are not protected if you do not live with your family.
Finally, being a child domestic worker you miss out on your childhood, you don’t have friends, you don’t play… you just work. Children need a childhood.
- Methodist Women in Britain resource pack on Child Domestic Workers http://www.mwib.org.uk/about-us/partnerships/item/171-child-domestic-workers.html
- Children Unite, 33 Skipworth Road, London E9 7JR www.childrenunite.org.uk
The website offers resources including a short video, a policy briefing, Primary and Secondary schools packs and links to the following publications:
Suggestions for action
Find out if your government has signed up to the International Labour Organisation’s Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189). If they have not, write to encourage them to do so.
Talk about this issue in your church to raise awareness of the rights of children to educational opportunities and protection from abuse and exploitation.
Hymn 527 (Singing the Faith 2011) ‘Pray for a world where every child’ (Ruth C Duck (b. 1947) is a song which is also a prayer for children.
Prayer: Loving Lord, who spoke tenderly to children, healing and blessing them, hear our prayer today for those children who are forced to do hard domestic work and feel vulnerable and unprotected. We ask your protection of all child domestic workers that they will have the chance to gain an education and experience the basic rights of childhood while they are young. We pray that more governments will abide by the ILO convention so that many more children will be safeguarded. Amen.
Bible study /reflection
Read Acts 16: 9 – 19
When Paul and Silas responded to the call of God to ‘come over to Macedonia’ they met, among others, two very different women: Lydia and the slave girl.
Lydia was a business woman, probably wealthy for she was a dealer in purple cloth. She was very likely an influential employer and leader of men and women. The gospel message was welcomed by her and she responded by offering hospitality and sharing her new-found faith with others. I wonder how her new faith and understanding of ‘The Way’ might have affected the way she treated her employees. How it might have affected the decisions she made as a leader in the community.
- How does your faith affect the decisions you make?
- How does it affect the way you treat those who serve you in hotels, shops or hospitals?
The slave girl was suffering from abusive owners who were only interested in how much money they could make out of her. She was crying out that Paul and Silas were slaves of the Most High God. Was she comparing herself to them and wishing she could be a slave of God instead of these ruthless men? She certainly drew the attention of Paul, who challenged the spirit that was making her shout and we are told it came out of her.
I wonder what happened to the girl after this. Did the slave owners lose interest in the girl as they dragged the two apostles into the market place? Did she watch and listen and follow as Paul and Silas were thrown into jail? She was now free to go anywhere she pleased. I wonder if she found her way to Lydia’s home and whether she was welcomed and supported by the other new followers of Christ. She would have needed help to get on her feet, to build up her self esteem and find a new way of making a living. She would need somewhere safe to live, away from more unscrupulous men and women who might abuse her.
- How does the church today help to support young women as they seek a fresh start and a quality life?
Paul and Silas: their mission was to proclaim the good news. (verse 10)
- What would be ‘good news’ for child domestic workers who are exploited, denied a fair wage and basic rights including education and freedom of movement?
Paul and Silas were not popular with the authorities. Like many Christians down the ages, they were vilified for the way they put their faith into action (verse 20) persecuted and even imprisoned for their faith (verse 23). And yet they bore the consequences with amazing courage and witnessed to the power of God in their lives as they praised God even in adversity.
Pray for more governments to adopt the International Labour Organisation’s Convention on Domestic Work which will help protect 15 million vulnerable child domestic workers around the world.
I was a child domestic worker, I experienced much violence in my life,
I usually cried every day as I saw the coming dark in my life.
My family lived in poverty but when I lost both my parents
I had to take on the role of mother as I am the first-born,
So I worked in domestic service.
But although I faced many challenges I didn’t ignore the message from God.
I used a passage from Joshua 1:9.
‘Be strong and of courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed,
For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go’
I prayed: ‘Lord your word has such healing power,
Thank you for the promise that no matter how dark our days can be,
You will never let us be lost or separated from your love and care.
You will never allow us to suffer more than we can bear.
Even more, you comfort us through your Holy Spirit
And save us from having despairing hearts.’
I continued with this prayer without stop, nothing happened immediately
But my prayers have now been answered.
God blessed me and now I am leading an organisation advocating for
The rights of child domestic workers.
So, despite the challenges that child domestic workers face, we value the power of prayer,
The confidence, the strength and the hope that prayer gives us.
And we value your prayers for us
Image taken from resource pack downloadable from www.mwib.org.uk
You can read more about the Family Life Committee by visiting their website.