Crime

Modern Slavery in the Name of Housemaid or House Help within and Outside Kano and Neighboring States

The issue of modern slavery in the name of housemaid or house help is a serious problem within and outside Kano and neighboring states. This form of slavery is a practice where individuals, particularly young girls, are brought from rural areas to work as domestic helpers in urban households under the guise of employment. In most cases, these girls are subject to exploitation, abuse, and other forms of mistreatment.

Laws have been implemented in Nigeria to safeguard children from various forms of abuse; however, numerous underage domestic helpers continue to experience dehumanization. These young helpers, both boys and girls, are employed in households to undertake tasks such as cleaning, cooking, babysitting, and other domestic chores.

Identifying them is often straightforward, as they tend to exhibit signs of inadequate clothing, malnutrition, and sometimes bear physical injuries. Regrettably, many of these children endure physical, psychological, and even sexual abuse at the hands of their employers or other family members.

Victims of sexual abuse often endure their plight due to an inability to escape or fear of dire consequences if they disclose the abuse. Shockingly, the International Labour Organization (ILO) reports that 15 million Nigerian children under the age of 12 are involved in domestic child labor. The ILO defines child labor as any work that deprives children of their livelihood, potential, and dignity, as well as work that harms their physical and mental development.

The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) Act of 2015 criminalizes the employment, recruitment, or harboring of children under the age of 12 as domestic workers, with imprisonment as the prescribed punishment.

Research indicates that poverty is the primary driving force behind parents resorting to sending their children to work as domestic helpers, perpetuating a cycle of exploitation and vulnerability.

On May 24, 2023, Kano State adopted the Child Rights Act; however, the tangible impact of its enforcement is yet to be experienced. The legislation delineates the framework for safeguarding children, elucidates the rights of children, parents, communities, and the government in fulfilling the rights of the child. According to the provisions of the Child Rights Act, anyone below the age of 18 is recognized as a child.

Contrastingly, in Kano, it has become customary for households to employ one or two underage maids for various domestic tasks. Unfortunately, these young helpers are often subjected to various forms of abuse, including sexual molestation, on top of enduring multiple deprivations. To compound their plight, they are also grossly undercompensated for their labor.

How The  Phenomenon Is?

The situation is particularly prevalent in Kano and neighboring states more especially the rural area due to factors such as poverty, lack of education, and a cultural belief that house help will help the younger girls to get better life.

Families in rural areas often sell or lease their daughters to agents who promise to find them work as housemaids in the cities. However, once the girls arrive at their destination, they are subjected to various forms of works at the same time abuse and exploitation by their employers.

Many of these girls are forced to work long hours without rest, and they are often paid very little or not at all, likewise the food which will serve to them remain very little which will not satisfy them.  They are also subjected to physical and emotional abuse, including sexual harassment and in time rape, by their employers or members of their employers’ families. In some cases, the girls are locked up in their employers’ homes and prevented from leaving, which effectively makes them slaves.

The Narrative  

As mentioned earlier in this report, there are individuals serving as intermediaries who transport children from the villages of Kano city and nearby areas to connect them with individuals seeking domestic help.

In my discussion with a woman named Hari, she elucidated the dynamics of the situation and the methods employed to locate children and identify suitable households for their employment.

Primarily, it’s not common for us to directly take the children to the homes where they will be working. Instead, there is a Hajiya (Bintan Labaran) who functions as our representative, identifying households in need of domestic assistance.

Alternatively, we sometimes leverage our acquaintances within the city to stay informed about new brides or recently developed neighborhoods. This network helps us identify opportunities to find individuals seeking domestic help.

Additionally, through advertising efforts in Kano city, some individuals achieve success in locating women willing to care for their children when they are unable to manage household responsibilities. Hari, for instance, hails from Madobi local-government area of Kano, which is approximately 47km away from the main city of Kano.

I managed to talked to one girl whose was brought and he susscefully working in one of the houses in Tudun-yola a Quarters in Kano city.

Maryam who’s came from Rigar-kuyan area of Madobi local government area of kano state tell Salim Sani shehu in an in close interviewed that

“when I was 8 I have taken to city (Tudun-Yola) to worked as a maid in one of the house of the quarters, she said I was seriously and brutally abused by the member of the family. Maryam said at a times she was been beaten severely by some members of the family.”

Maryam added that

“She’s been paid at the time ₦3,500 in a month, and the money is not given to her, its submitted to her agents to deliver the money to her parents”

Maryam continue telling her story when she reach 16, she has already worked in 6-7 different houses in Kano metropolitan, with different sort of difficulties in life as she spend in this act of house maid.

This is Maryam. There are thousands of girls in the city who are afraid to disclose the conditions or situations they find themselves in.

 Consent

The lingering question in people’s hearts is whether the parents of these girls or the so-called housemaids willingly agree to place their daughters in such conditions.

Muna, the mother of Al’haqqatu, responded, “If we don’t send them to the city to seek money for their marriage dowries, how else do we proceed? We must send them to acquire what will benefit them in their married life.”

Hajara, the mother of one of the girls working in the city, mentioned, “My daughter’s earnings from her job are what we use to cover our food, health expenses, and other matters.” From this, it can be concluded that the girls are sent to the city for work with the consent of their parents.

An observation I’ve made is that the majority of male parents don’t exert significant pressure on their daughters, possibly because they may not assist in the family business or farming. Even the male children are sent to the city for Almajiri education, aiming to alleviate the burden on the family.

The Abuse

They toil around the clock, enduring relentless harassment from their masters. Their meager monthly earnings, just slightly above 3.4 US dollars, are handed over through unscrupulous agents. These children are not victims of war-induced orphan hood; rather, they have parents who, due to extreme poverty and a sense of desperate optimism, entrusted them to the exploitative “sweatshops” in Kano. Their only source of comfort lies in the meager morsels of food they bring to their hungry mouths. These young ones are the ‘child maids’ of Kano.

Apart from the payment, most of the girls are been harassed or abused sexually by the member of the family. This act is measurably happened when the girls reach its adolescent stage. Some will used their power as the bosses of the house, while some will lie or sabotage to them by promising them marriage if the belief to have affairs with them.

While some the used forced to sleep with them and treat them about if the exposed they’re going to kill them.

Way Forward.

Ministry of women affairs in Kano state, said in one of the interviewed recorded by the press men that

“This activity will not be curved without effort of parents from the rural areas who’s served as the catalyst by handling their children to this agents. It also recorded that the ministry of women affairs said that thus who’re sending the children to the city for the house maid is “majority of the male parent have born so many children and they don’t have means of giving them good quality life, so therefore they’re taking male of the children to Islamic way of learning Qur’an (Almajiri) and the females one to this house maid to hunt for their means of life”

This form of slavery is not limited to Kano and neighboring states, as it is a problem in many parts of the world. The United Nations estimates that there are currently over 40 million people living in some form of modern slavery worldwide, including forced labor, forced marriage, and debt bondage.

To combat modern slavery in the name of housemaid or house help, there needs to be a multi-faceted approach that involves both the government and civil society.

The government needs to implement and enforce laws that protect the rights of domestic workers, including minimum wage requirements, maximum working hours, and safety regulations. They should also provide education and training programs for rural communities to help prevent the practice of selling or leasing their daughters.

Civil society organizations can also play a vital role in ending modern slavery in the name of housemaid or house help. They can provide support and services to victims of domestic servitude, including counseling and legal aid. They can also raise awareness about the issue through advocacy campaigns and community education programs.

By providing opportunities for education and economic empowerment, particularly for girls and women, families in rural areas can be empowered to reject the practice of selling or leasing their daughters. The government can also create policies and programs to address these issues, such as investments in education and job creation initiatives.

It is also essential to recognize the intersectional nature of this issue, as it disproportionately affects marginalized communities, including those living in poverty, women and girls, and ethnic and religious minorities. Efforts to combat modern slavery in the name of housemaid or house help must address these structural inequalities to create meaningful and lasting change.

Recommendation

Additionally, international cooperation is necessary to address modern slavery as a global issue. Governments, civil society organizations, and international organizations can collaborate to share best practices, resources, and knowledge to end modern slavery in all its forms.

Through collaborative efforts, we can create a world free from modern slavery, where every person is treated with dignity and respect.

One of the challenges of combating modern slavery in the name of housemaid or house help is the lack of reliable data and research on the extent and nature of the problem. It is essential to gather accurate data and information to understand the scale of the problem and develop effective solutions.

To address this challenge, there is a need for comprehensive research studies on the issue. These studies should include data on the prevalence of modern slavery in the name of housemaid or house help, the demographics of victims, and the nature and extent of the abuse and exploitation they face. Such studies can provide policymakers with the evidence needed to design and implement effective policies and programs to address the issue.

Another critical aspect of combating modern slavery in the name of housemaid or house help is to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. The legal system needs to ensure that employers who engage in this practice are brought to justice and face appropriate penalties for their actions. This can serve as a deterrent to others who may be considering engaging in similar practices.

Furthermore, education and awareness-raising campaigns can play a vital role in preventing the practice of modern slavery in the name of housemaid or house help. These campaigns can target employers and potential victims, highlighting the risks and dangers associated with domestic servitude and promoting alternative employment opportunities. They can also help to break down the cultural beliefs that make it acceptable to engage in this practice.

Modern slavery in the name of housemaid or house help is a serious human rights issue that requires urgent action. The government and civil society must work together to enforce laws, raise awareness, address the root causes of this problem, and provide support to victims.

Finally, it is crucial to provide support and services to victims of modern slavery in the name of housemaid or house help. Victims should have access to legal aid, counseling, and medical care to help them recover from their experiences and rebuild their lives. These services should be tailored to meet the specific needs of each victim, taking into account their age, gender, and cultural background.

 This document received backing from Baobab for Women’s Human Rights through its 2023 Media Fellowship on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, generously funded by the MacArthur Foundation.

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