Saron Abebe can still vividly recall the time when a relative of hers traveled to a nearby village with the intention of exchanging the young girl’s labor in their home for the opportunity to provide her with an education and a place to live. The girl was no older than 15 years old at the time.
Naturally, the young girl made the trip in the hopes of providing a brighter future for both her and her family. When Saron went to visit her family, she would always talk to the young girl there. She would ask her about her day at school and how things were going in general. She observed how she helped out around the house and became sympathetic toward her as a result of how much she was accomplishing at such a tender age.
When she went to visit her family on one occasion, she was astounded to learn that the young girl had been struck numerous times by her relatives. She was incensed when she witnessed him slap her on one occasion for what appeared to be no reason at all.
“I can still vividly recall how enraged I was and how certain I was that I had to take action. Hence, I went and filed a report against him with the authorities, since I felt that the child in question did not merit to be treated in such a manner. When the police arrived, they questioned him, but in the end, they let him go with a warning that if he assaulted her again, he would be subject to harsher punishments,” Saron stated.
Another woman, who asked not to be named, told the story of how she first got to the city. She recalled how difficult it was for her to say goodbye to her family while she was still so young, but she was well aware that doing so was a necessary sacrifice on her part.
“The people that brought me here kept their word and ensured that I was enrolled in an evening school where I could continue my education and not fall behind. What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was the severity of the treatment that I would receive,” she said.
She claims that she was subjected to verbal abuse, that she was only provided with one meal per day, and that she was generally placed in an atmosphere that made her feel uncomfortable and miserable.
In addition to that, they did not even come close to providing her with a suitable location to sleep in. For the benefit of her studies, she stayed to live there, though cognizant of her situation.
Incidents such as these are not uncommon, and there are a great number of other women and girls who are following a path very similar to this one. There are a lot of young ladies who live in the city who relate their stories about how they moved there in the hopes of obtaining a better opportunity in their schooling or getting better work possibilities so that they can assist their families.
Regrettably, they had to endure years of abuse and neglect, and in some instances, they have not even been given the opportunity to continue their education as was promised to them.
In many countries, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO), child domestic work is not only accepted socially and culturally, but is also regarded in a positive light as a protected and non-stigmatized type of work and preferred to other forms of employment—especially for girls. The perpetuation of traditional female roles and responsibilities, within and outside the household, as well as the perception of domestic service as part of a woman’s “apprenticeship” for adulthood and marriage, also contribute to the persistence of child domestic work as a form of child labor.
The percentage of child domestic workers in the age range of 12 to 17 ranged from 10.9 percent to 15 percent, according to findings by the Freedom Fund. This is in addition to the workers who are underage and lie about their age in order to get around the laws against child labor or simply because they are unsure of their actual age.
81 percent of the identified child domestic workers began their jobs shortly after moving to Addis Ababa. Depending on their ages, these migrants moved to the city in search of a higher education or a better job opportunity than they believed was available in their home towns.
The research also revealed that 16 percent of domestic workers and 10 percent of those living and working with non-conjugal families were lured to Addis Ababa with false promises such as receiving an education, a high salary, clothing, a pleasant place to live, or a better job.
One in five domestic employees said that their employer did not keep the commitments that were made to them.
Asma Nebil, project manager of Setaweet Movement and a lawyer, explained how the practice of bringing domestic workers from rural parts of Ethiopia has been the norm for years. Since the task of a domestic worker has been given a gender role as being feminine work, most of the workers that are brought to the city are young girls, usually in the age range of 15–18.
There isn’t a specific law or specific consideration put down for domestic workers, according to her. The labor law itself doesn’t state anything specific to domestic workers. The ILO has a special consideration for domestic workers in the law it has set, which they tried to ratify, but it hasn’t been approved yet, so it isn’t being implemented.
Asma says that since the work is within the house of the employer, the domestic workers can’t even inform anyone of what is occurring within. “They usually come here illegally through brokers and don’t have anyone to whom they can go to explain the things they may face.”
Because most domestic workers are young, the payment they receive is sent to their family members, and some of them may also work more than they are capable of. There is also the risk of sexual violence they may face, either from their employers or from the relatives of their employers, Asma explained.