One et respe to all;
I wrote the three posts below (#720, #721, #722) on Child domestic labor in Haiti (the Restavek issue) to give a perspective I hadn’t seen outlined and to address this "slave" tag being put on this phenomenon by US officialdom for its own political purposes against Aristide, and by extension, against the Haitian people. And, to clarify that, in extreme poverty circumstances, such as exists in Haiti, a minor going to live and do domestic work for a "better off" family in the Cities is not unique to Haiti and not to the developing world, or, even unheard of in the Western developed world before the industrial revolution and beyond. IN fact, up until very recently, orphan and homeless children in the US where "indentured."
The posts below looks at the legal situation and social, educational problems. But Haitians are pushing to come together to stop the abuse of poor, unprotected children, as well as to raise awareness of the plight of the Restavek. These three post give a historical perspective, some critical observations, and hopefully, will add to the many concerned Haitian voices clamoring to legally amend Chapter 9 of the Haitian Labor Code which sanctions child domestic labor, and, for a nationwide educational campaign on parenting and the rights of Haitian children.
Child labor still goes on in the richest country in the world and children rights were once so neglected in the US that the Society For the Prevention of Animal Cruelty took up the cause and organized what today has become the Child welfare protection agencies. If the US would stop pushing it’s underdevelopment on Haiti, keeping it simply a "service area" for US corporate investors; if the US would stop blocking Haitians helping Haiti then perhaps, with a bit more prosperity, Haitian families would be more able to take care of their children and not be forced to abandoned them, or face other untenable forces/choices.
Obviously wherever there is a vulnerability, (i.e. unprotected innocent children) some depraved mind will take advantage. That is what’s happening in Haiti right now with the abuse of defenseless children working in households (like the "professor’s" house where bare-foot, 8-year-old, Ti Sentaniz goes to live) away from parents, who cannot take care of them. Unlike the "Professor" in the Ti Sentaniz story, "ki pa we Ti Sentaniz lan gwo liv jistis-li a." Concerned Haitians must see all the Ti Sentaniz in Haiti and help them. Do better at protecting Haitian children, especially our little girls, in these destitute situations. Emotional abuse and name calling, like the "Madanm," in Ti Sentaniz’s story where the little girl was constantly called "Led," "sot," "soud," "vomisman chyen," are even worst then sleeping on a little mat, hungry, body red and breathless from constant physical beating, from Madanm, her son Robert and "mareyn." As Maurice Sixto might say, li le, li tan pou Ayisyen "bale fatra lakay pa nou a" nou menm - retire injistis.
When Ti Sentaniz sings, at the end. It’s absolutely the most tragic welling up of pain one can possibly imagine an 8-year old, grown old with suffering and heartache, transmitting to the world. It’s a call to us all. Check it out above at:
I didn’t know that this issue had already been discussed on the Forum under the "Pou nou koute istwa Ti Sentaniz" subject line under General Issues. Maurice Sixto has a recurrent theme about restavek in his works (Madanm Jul and others). But, his Ti Sentaniz story is the QUINTESSENTIAL Haitian restavek story. It’s timeless and encapsulates all the pain and pathos, trial and tribulations, physical, psychological and emotional pain of the countless young, frail, emaciated Haitian girl’s, living this "reste avec" life everyday, in Port-au-Prince and throughout Haiti. Guy has made this tale available on the Forum for everyone to listen to. Other than Maurice Sixto’s Lea Kokoye story – the quintessential destitute Haitian "ti-malerez" woman story, I can’t think of a more fabulously told Haitian slice of life than the Ti Sentaniz story. Have a listen when you can by clicking above. If you have problems with hearing the tape, tell Guy and he will help.
I probably wouldn’t have gone to such trouble to write my views on the Restavek issue if I had first read Polanve’s post which touches some important observations and JAF post above. Guy, Polanve and Jaf had already done the work. JGPalmis had already pointed to the importance of the Ti Sentaniz story in his March 25, 2003 post, entitled "Timoun ann Ayiti, reskonsablite nou ak wòl Leta)
Still, it wouldn’t hurt for me to take this opportunity to encourage Forum readers, once more, to have a listen to the Ti Sentaniz story, made available to us by Guy, and the genius of Haiti’s greatest storyteller, Maurice Sixto.
Peace and blessings,