Good Intentions by Farheen Nahvi

Most of my conversations with adults regarding employing children as domestic workers have been frustrating. There is always a sense of justification when it comes to explaining why one would engage in such a behaviour. “Their parents brought them to work” is the most common. In this particular situation, people tend to think they’re actually helping out the children and their family rather than understanding that they’ve just condemned another generation’s progress, because as another person said, “education is still a luxury for a lot of people.” Another reasoning I heard was from someone who used to know a family employing children, but that “it was a very long time ago, and the wave against child labour hadn’t started yet.”

In a conversation with a friend of mine who’d witnessed his grandparents employ children, he recalled being very young when he first saw a child serving in a house. He did not realise why this was wrong; in the same way that I’ve seen kids playing with their caretaker, often kids themselves, in the innocence that only childhood contains.

One thread common through my conversations, however, has been that the children that are employed should also attend school. A few of the cases of child domestic employment I came across, the employers had taken the child on as employees so that their parents couldn’t send them off to do manual labour or marry them off. My friend recalls how his own parents provided for over half of the tuition fee for a number of children of the people they employed, people who were thinking of taking their children out of school. When I was about 10 years old, I remember an old aunt of my mother’s, a retired teacher, taking in the son of her domestic help, and tutoring him through his board exams.

On the other hand, the reasons for people who dropout of school vary from financial inability of the parents, to earning for the family, and paying off dowries for their sisters. One of my family’s old employed cleaning ladies said that she sent her son off to work when he was 14 to ‘keep him out of trouble.’ She was talked out of it eventually, and he was sent to school.

Per my observation, people tend to think that domestic child labour is a less evil form, and is safer for the children. When asked about factory work and manual labour, everyone has strong negative opinions about such. Perhaps raising awareness about the cost of keeping a child out of school, even if there are good intentions involved, is the honest way forward. Good intentions being the underlying motive, as I also encountered resistance at proposing that domestic employment was child labour.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.