On Nov. 17, 2006, thousands of Haitian children–many former slaves–took to the streets to march against restavèk slavery.
Ms. Kathya Pierre. Mr. Michele Dessous. Pastor Christmas Barjon. These are just 3 of the thousands of Haitian leaders building the movement to end child slavery.
Ten days from now, leaders like these – many trained by Beyond Borders – will gather for the seventh year in a row to mark the National Day for the Elimination of Restavèk, a form of child slavery.
The day – held every Nov. 17th since 2006 – is a Haitian-conceived, Haitian-led, Haitian-organized event to strengthen the national movement to end child slavery. And, thanks to the support of our followers, Beyond Borders is standing with these leaders to create a Haiti where every child is loved, safe, at home and in school.
“This isn’t just about one day, it’s about changing how people think about restavèk every day.”
— Jean Prosper Elie, Beyond Borders’ Country Co-Director
Thousands of Haitians from all walks of life–including our Child Rights Activists (CRAs)–will begin the day with a mass at the Episcopal Cathedral of Port-au-Prince. Previous year’s events have included a march through the city, however political tensions this year may prevent the march. Despite that, a series of child protection-themed events will continue through Nov. 20 – the International Day of the Child. The Teachers Union in Port-au-Prince, a representative from the Prime Minister’s office, leaders from the Catholic Church and radio and TV journalists are just some of the many who have taken part in activities each year.
The events are the product of a growing network of Haitians leaders and grassroots organizations combating child slavery that meets monthly.
“Beyond Borders has been and continues to support this network,” said Elie, who played a key role in the initial development and launch of the day. “These organizations feel empowered to make their voice heard and to say, ‘we must end child slavery.'”
In addition to supporting these groups, Beyond Borders works with CRAs to help Haitians change the way they think about the restavèk practice.
To date, more than 3,000 CRAs have been trained.
By July 2016, Beyond Borders aims to ensure that the 12 rural communities where we work – also known as Model Communities – are no longer sending a single child into restavèk.
“People don’t want to send their children away,” Elie said. “But they often feel – and social norms support this – that doing so is in the best interest of their child. The National Day for the Elimination of Restavèk is about changing the social norm that says sending children away is what’s best for the them.”