Need to revise polices to protect domestic help

KATHMANDU: Children-Women in Social Service and Human Right had conducted a survey on child domestic workers (CDWs) on the occasion of World Day against Child Labour where it found progressive changes as compared to previous year.

The survey was conducted in nine wards of Kathmandu Metropolitan City, including core areas, urban areas and newly emerging urban areas. Of the 3,703 domestic workers, 2,324 were interviewed. As many as 1,429 of them were less than 18 years old. Most of them were from ethnic communities — 1,281 of them. As many as 512 were Chhetris, 389 Brahmins, 56 Dalits, while 86 did not know their caste or ethnicity.

Only 240 CDWs of those interviewed belonged to Kathmandu. Most of the others were from Kavre, Dolakha, Dhadhing, Sindupalchowk and Ramechhap.

As many as 10.46 per cent of those interviewed were part time non-residential domestic workers and 89.54 per cent were full time residential workers. Most of the domestic workers (96.85 per cent) claimed that their families knew where they worked; 85.45 per cent said they were in regular contact with their families. They phoned their families, sent them mail or visited them from time to time.

Of 1,429 CDWs, 95.73 per cent said poverty forced them into child labour. As many as 32.89 per cent said they were looking for education opportunities; 5.46 per cent said they left home due to domestic violence, 11.62 did so due to urban attraction, while only 0.82 per cent blamed armed conflict for their fate.

The survey stated that most of the children were forced into child labour by their own parents and families. Among them, 53.33 per cent were taken by parents, 21.41 per cent by some family member, 19.20 per cent by their relatives, 5.57 per cent by villagers and 1.49 per cent by unknown people.

The study showed that 78.14 per cent of domestic workers said some agreement was reached before they were employed. Most claimed that their work commenced early in the morning and ended late in the evening — 42.51 per cent said their day began before 6 am, 45.96 per cent said they started their day between 6 and 8 am; 64.46 per cent said their day ended between 8 and 10 pm.

The survey stated that the domestic workers had to work in the kitchen, carried out sanitation and cleaning jobs, took care of children and elderly people and even helped their employers in  business. Among the respondents, 10.20 per cent said they did not get any kind of salary.

The survey stated that of those interviewed, 1,631 were found to be literate. Of the 1,429 CDWs, 862 went to school, 70 were enrolled in non-formal education and five were enrolled in vocational training. Employers bore the cost of studies of 89 per cent of CDWs; 34 of them were supporting themselves, the parents did their bit to educate 42 of them while NGOs chipped in to educate 18 of them.

“Although some improvement has been seen in the condition of the domestic workers, more needs to be done,” said Milan Dharel, executive director of CWISH. He added that on the basis of survey they had made four major recommendations — banning employing children of small age as domestic help and ensuring that all CDWs went to school.

He said they had also recommended to make the children aware of what’s happening to them so that they could protest and seek support.

Establishing child-friendly and protective system at all levels, including local, national, legal and policy-making levels is the need of hour, argued Dharel.

He has also recommended the government to revise its existing laws and policies so as to address the specific informal sectors, such as domestic work, in practical ways. CWISH has stressed on effective and friendly cops, medico-legal and justice system so that there is no hesitation in lodging complaints and investigation and other processes of law ensure justice for the victims/ survivors of child abuse/exploitation and violence against children.

Dharel demanded that local development programmes should address the causes of poverty, women’s illiteracy, domestic violence, social/armed conflict, and quality education to prevent children from getting involved into worst forms of child labour.