Springing the trap of child slavery in Haiti
Even in our modern age, millions of minors around the world are in bondage — and startlingly, the numbers are growing. In the Caribbean nation of Haiti, a mere two hour flight from Florida, child slavery is alive and well. The imperative question is: What can we do about it? There are many strategies designed to combat child trafficking, but the first step to tackling a problem of this immensity is to understand its roots.
Haiti has a very unique history. It is the only contemporary nation in which African slaves overthrew their European masters and gained national sovereignty. The barbarism of the trans-Atlantic slave trade left a grim mark on childhood in Haiti. Horrifically, the slavery system viewed human beings in purely economic terms. The reality was that waiting for a baby born in slavery to grow into a producing adult took too much time and resources. It was more cost-effective to ship more adults over from Africa. Therefore, patterns of scarcity, abandonment and abuse have been themes in Haitian childhood for centuries.
Today these problems continue, and the numbers of those affected is staggering: conservative estimates indicate that over 1 in every 10 children in Haiti will live out childhood enslaved. These unprotected minors are referred to as restaveks, a compound of the French rester (to stay) and avec (with). Many of these children come from families in rural areas of the country, where education levels are low and poverty rates are high. Starvation is a real danger in Haiti, where 1 child in 14 will die before reaching the age of five. Sexual activity begins early and birth control is scarce, resulting in teenage motherhood for 13% of Haitian girls. In a desperate attempt to provide for their families, parents will often send their young children to work in the city, sometimes for extended family but often not. These vulnerable youth are thrown into every imaginable situation, and many experience human trafficking.
Heroic efforts are made daily in Haiti to support those who have suffered these abuses. Organizations facilitate the rescue of restavek children and provide aftercare and education to these survivors. However, this strategy only addresses the result of child trafficking. In order to make true headway, any approach must also focus on the root of the problem — and that means finding some way to keep Haitian families together in the first place.
It’s a daunting task. In order to effect change on a massive cultural level, combating centuries of family victimhood, education is imperative. At LETS Empower, we partner with community organizations in rural areas of Haiti, bringing proactive fertility education to women and men alike. We are normalizing the conversation around sex, boundaries, respect and fertility. We teach that when it comes to family size and timing, partners do have a choice. We provide parents with the tools they need to have emotionally and financially healthy homes for raising their children. We are committed to stopping the restavek child slavery epidemic right where it starts.
LETS Empower is an international non-profit committed to promoting intentional fertility awareness and education. We strive to empower women and the men they love. Visit our website at LetsEmpower.org and bring your own passion to the cause.