Restavèk (n.): A modern form of slavery affecting 250,000 Haitian children.
Haitian parents are no different from parents elsewhere. They love their children and want them to grow up at home. Still, each year tens of thousands of rural Haitian parents send their children away to live with families in distant cities. They do so in the hope that their children will be sent to school. In reality, many end up in homes where they are subjected to exploitation, abuse, neglect and denial of basic rights like going to school.
Since 1993, Beyond Borders has been working to end restavèk.
How we help:
We address the problem from both sides.
Because opportunities for education are much more limited in rural Haiti than in urban area, most often the flow of children entering slavery moves from rural to urban. Therefore, to create the kind of social change needed to end child slavery permanently in Haiti, we’ve recognized the need to develop both rural and urban strategies that engage those directly impacted by restavèk and help them address the root causes of child slavery. We address the conditions that perpetuate this system – extreme poverty, social acceptance of child slavery – and help participants, first, to change their attitudes and beliefs about restavèk, and, second, to act to stop it.
We work exclusively in partnerships.
In both rural and urban settings, our work is shaped by deep partnerships with Haitian grassroots leaders, government officials, community based organizations, parents and adult survivors of child slavery. Through these relationships we are able to be in solidarity with those affected and also ensure that our work has the most direct impact possible.
In September 2015, Beyond Borders and Free the Slaves launched a new alliance to end child slavery in Haiti.
Evelyn Benèch was only 10-years-old when her parents sent her from their remote rural community to live with a family in Port-au-Prince. Although an urban family promised to care for her and send her to school, they instead forced her to work nonstop and regularly abused her. Evelyn became trapped in restavèk slavery.
Fortunately for Evelyn, her mother participated in a child rights training sponsored by Beyond Borders. As she learned about the great risks facing children who live apart from their families, Evelyn’s mother decided to do all she could to find and retrieve her daughter. It wasn’t easy, but eventually Evelyn’s mother found her and brought her back home where Evelyn, now 16, goes to school.