In Morocco, each year thousands of young girls from poor families are sent to work in houses in the city. They are often ill-treated and exploited. No official numbers exist, but one non-governmental organisation called Dari has counted 23,000 child maids in Casablanca alone. Halima is one of them. When she was 8 years old, her family sent her to Casablanca to work as a maid. Her father had some financial trouble, so he got in touch with an intermediary whose job was to find maids for rich families. The little girl agreed because she thought that she could be of some help to her parents. But being a maid was not what she really dreamed of. She worked all day long, slept in the kitchen, and was often beaten up by her host family. But she managed to escape from the house where she was working.
Later, someone found her in the street all in tears and helpless, and took her to Dari. Thanks to Dari, Halima now lives at a shelter for former child maids where she is learning cooking and hairdressing. “For the first time since I was 8, I have finally found a place to rest,” Halima said.
Dari’s director says: “the majority of child maids come from the countryside where most families have little money and a lot of kids. If they send a girl away to work as a domestic, that means an important source of income and one less mouth to feed. The parents think that they are doing something nice for their daughters, saving them from the harsh conditions in the countryside, and hoping for a better future for them. But child maids often end up suffering twice: as kids and as adults. When they grow up, they are often exploited by crime gangs”.
Dari’s director further explains that their association works to educate poor parents about the reality of child maids and their exploitation. It also runs programmes to sensitise the wealthy families to the rights of their maids: fair treatment, good pay, and basic education.
This issue of child maids is now being addressed by many civil associations. The abuses are being exposed on TV, and more voices are heard against employing child maids, believing that all children should have the right to enjoy their childhood and get a proper education.