Save the Childhood of Child Domestic Workers!

I planned to meet a girl domestic worker in a public school in Kathmandu. I hoped to ask her some questions to understand the situation of child domestic workers. I prepared to start positively. I had a question in mind: what is the happiest moment a girl domestic workers enjoys while staying in her employer’s house? I asked the question to a 15-year-old girl studying in grade five. She replied with a grin, “While opening the gate and carrying my rucksack with books to go school.” I was excited to know more. But my expectation did not last long when I asked another question about the frequency of the happiest moment – would it be six times in a week? She said, “No, it depends on the mood of the wife of my employer.” It revealed clearly that she could not go school regularly.

Students at school in Kathmandu

This dialogue made me curious to know about the darkest side of the coin, too. I asked her another question, this one about the unhappiest moment. The girl said that it was the ringing of the bell at 4pm in school. Once she heard the bell, her heart started beating fast. All the work and the problems she had to face daily in the employer’s house started storming in her brain. Sometimes, she prayed to god that the four o’clock bell at school should never ring. She stopped speaking at that moment. Her innocent but terrified face was enough for me to guess her difficulties in the employer’s house, as the miseries behind loomed. I felt it better to divert the situation by asking another question.

“Why do you want to work in the employer’s house?” She said that she used to live in a remote area. Their parents were very poor. She lost her mother when she was two years old and after that she lived in a broken family. One day, one of the relatives, her maternal uncle, came to the family and asked her father to send the daughter in Kathmandu to work in a house. Then her father and step-mother forced her to go with the man to the city for the betterment of her future. She said that she did not have any other alternative. Sometimes the employer sent money to her father. She said she also wanted to continue her studies, but at this point she hesitated and said no more. I gazed at her eyes and her poor face expressed much more than her words.

Resilience Champion Krishna speaking to a female child domestic worker.

A child working in an employer’s house for wages either in cash or kind or without wage is called a child domestic worker (CDW). The practice of CDWs in Nepal is culturally accepted and widely prevalent, although the law of the country prohibits it. Having child domestic workers in a house is still matter of prestige in Nepalese societies. In terms of working hours, most of the CDWs spend twenty hours a day seven days a week in the employer’s house. They are being exploited, sexually abused and forced to live enslaved. This is not only the worst form of child labour – it is a form of modern slavery. Let us move to eliminate the sin of modern society. Save the Childhood!

Krishna Prasad Subedi

Krishna is CWISH’s team leader, the coordinator of the senior management team. He has experience in research and practice, and expertise in child protection, particularly in relation to child labour and child sexual abuse. He has worked in child rights and child protection in Nepal for 15 years, for national and international organisations, including UNICEF.

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