My friend’s maid is six years old. “My family said I am six but I don’t know for sure,” she said.
I quarrelled with my friend for having such a young girl clean, mop, and do household chores. What the hell! Why does she not have someone who hugs and kisses her? Where can she say ‘NO!’ and still be loved and not yelled at? “If I was her, I would kill you all out of jealousy!” I said rudely, bluntly and furiously.
Why is she seeing all the other kids and actually living with one (my friend’s son) being so loved by everyone while it is rare if anyone pays attention to her?
The old aunt believes she is nothing; she is here to clean and be treated like a maid and that’s all. She should not be taken to funfairs, clubs or any fun places. Her place is in the kitchen. I do not blame her; that’s the old school way of things, how our parents and relatives think. They believe social hierarchy must exist.
But come to think of it, isn’t this all unfair?
“She has a mother!!” my friend told me the other day in a surprised tone. The mother of the little girl finally called and the whole phone call was a dictation to her daughter to obey her ‘masters’. My friend said, “You know, it was so weird hearing her say the word ‘mama’”.
I know how my friend feels, even if it is the cruel reality that the little girl is unintentionally viewed as a dehumanized robot. Maybe our brains deceive us by justifying the entire situation in order to avoid guilt, but she is a human being who has a mother and feelings, too!
I once asked the girl if she wants to see her family, who actually took a year’s payment in advance and call to ask about her once in a blue moon, quite literally renting out their daughter. She said, “NO!” When I asked why, she said, “I don’t want to leave x (the name of my friend’s little boy). I don’t want to leave them.” Apparently, what I thought was an inhumane environment is a paradise for her!
We saw a rich girl with a doll, then the maid looked at me and said, “I have 5 dolls.”
“Who brought them for you?” I asked.
“The madam,” she replied.
She never says I want anything. She just listens and abides by what has been asked of her. You feel like she is a robot when surrounded by adults and older people. But when she is in the kids’ area with my friend’s little boy, damn, she is herself! She plays and finally smiles like a child!
But she is at times rejected by the other kids. I saw children mocking her and calling her names because she looks odd; the old aunt insists on dressing her shabbily because she doesn’t want people to assume that she is their daughter or something! She still works there and I think her family will continue to rent her out.
She is not the only child that suffers from this. I can imagine horrific scenarios where she works for another family and is subjected to sexual or physical abuse. No one would know or even care! When she grows up, will she have the ability to love others, or even herself, or be a good citizen?
Although this little girl is able to entertain a better life than one where she had to live with her parents, this is still slavery that cannot be accepted, especially when it comes back disguised in new clothes. It should not be an either/or situation; either to live as a slave-like maid or get back to the hell-living life with her parents.
I understand that we cannot go ahead and demand the abolishment of child labor before solving a few issues first. For example, money donation or monthly acts of charity, who knows how many children it can save from working! In Brazil, for example, when the government attempted to apply such a law last year, it caused uproar from children and teenagers, as work was the only opportunity they had to support their underprivileged families. I can easily mention the solution where by caring and providing the families with the main, basic rights of living, they would never have done this to their children.
However, would this day ever come where we get rid of poverty? And entertain our basic rights, nothing more or less, just basic rights, or is it just an idealistic dream?
To sum up, child labor is like the elephant in the room that no one talks about. It is a crime against humanity. Therefore, it would be beneficial if many people reject hiring children; it is a strong stance against child labor. It may lead the parents of those children to understand that letting their children work is a futile option.
Israa Suleiman works as (TA) teaching assistant at Faculty of Languages and Translation, 6 of October University. She is wearing 24/7 the feminist glasses, she is a writer, a social critic, an animal lover and a cappuccino addict. in love with reading, critical theories, literature and others’ cultures. A huge fan of movies, TV shows and series especially Friends & Game of Thrones.