Resilience in Child Domestic Workers

Child domestic workers normally predict situations in their employer’s house and prepare accordingly. For instance, when the employer gets drunk in the absence of his wife and enters the kitchen to attempt to touch the child domestic worker while she is preparing the meal, she calls his children as a form of self-defense. The employer refrains from abusing the girl in front of his children. In order to keep the children around her, she keeps toffee/sweets provided by the employer’s friends and relatives to use when necessary.

Child domestic workers participating in group discussion.

Child domestic workers have developed several techniques to cope with the adversities they experience in their employer’s house. Through several interactions with child domestic workers, I have found that they develop their own coping strategies according to the local context, and these strategies differ from family to family and situation to situation. One child domestic worker prefers to clean the dishes on top of the roof (in an open area) rather than in the kitchen when there are no other female family members in the house.

A child domestic worker’s childhood often gets lost in the number of responsibilities placed upon her shoulders. As a child herself, she goes to see off her employer’s children to school, carrying their school bag, lunch box and water bottle. In the evening, she goes to meet them at the bus stop. She carefully checks for the child’s belongings just as a parent would do. She does that not because she is their guardian, but to protect herself from the scolding and beating of the employer if any of their belongings goes missing.

Child domestic workers delivering a presentation.

Generally child domestic workers have a very tactful way of getting things done. When a girl needs stationery items which she cannot afford to buy herself, she knows that it will be difficult to get her employers to buy them for her. She looks for an opportunity to ask. Sadly, for her the opportunity is not something to be hopeful about, as it is those times when she is beaten. She doesn’t shed a tear all the while she is beaten, since she knows she’ll be thrashed further if she cries. She holds the resentment till the time the employer tells her to get something from the shop nearby. That is when she gets to play her card. She agrees to go to the shop only if the employer buys her stationery items.

The coping strategies used by child domestic workers differ from child to child and from house to house. However, in finding ways to cope with adversity and to adapt to their situation, all these children are displaying resilience.

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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