- The Republic of Haiti, the United States of America, and the United Nations
A "restavèk" is a Haitian child who is turned over by his or her parents to a household that exploits the child’s labor and vulnerability to handle house chores. A restavèk is a house slave.
Parents who engage in such barter do so in theory to provide their child schooling, food, shelter, and clothing in exchange for domestic labor. That is the exception however. The rule is that they throw their child into a nightmarish hell, isolated from parental love and care, the restavèk spends his or her formative years, deprived of schooling, and subjected to long days of work with no pay and living conditions inferior to those of the overseer’s family. These children, who are routinely abused sexually, physically and verbally by members of the household, perform whatever services the overseer requires of them. The restavèk system is unique to Haiti in that the trafficking of such children is done within the country, even within communities.
The Committee to Promote the Rights of “Restavèk” Children of Fond des Blancs, or COSEDERF, believes that one cannot disconnect the social ills of restavèk from the dire economic situations found in regions such as Fond des Blancs. In this sense, poverty drives the restavèk system by forcing parents to chose between sending a child away in the hopes of securing a better economic situation for the child or, in many cases, allowing the children to stay hungry at home. COSEDERF thus believes that the socio-economic standards of Fond des Blancs must be improved to guarantee that the rights of every child in the region are respected. Among these rights are the rights to clothing, nutritious diets, potable water, passable roads, and most importantly, free and compulsory primary schooling.
In November 2006, COSEDERF assembled a 91-member petition working force that gathered nearly 13,000 signatures of adults in Fond des Blancs – just over half of the locality’s estimated adult population – who want to completely eliminate the restavèk system in the region. Signers of the petition formally demanded that the Haitian Government, the United Nations, the various non-government organizations active in Haiti, and the international community present in Haiti address the unmet economic needs of the people in Fond des Blancs that ultimately perpetuate a system of bondage that cannot guarantee the protection of the rights of their children. The primary need voiced by the petition: the right to free, primary schooling as guaranteed by Haiti’s Constitution.
The people of Fond des Blancs seek your solidarity and support in telling the Government of Haiti (GOH), the United States, and the United Nations that you want to end child slavery in Haiti. Should you agree with the following, the people of Fond des Blancs hope you will mirror their efforts and sign this COSEDERF-sponsored petition:
** Yes! I want all children in Haiti to live and grow in freedom and dignity.
** Yes! I stand in solidarity with efforts to eliminate the root causes of the restavèk system in Haiti.
** Yes! Haitian parents should be able to care for their children, providing them with food, shelter, clean water, and guidance.
** Yes! I call on Haiti leaders to fulfill Haiti's obligations to provide free compulsory education to all of its children
** Yes! I urge Haiti's allies, in particular the United States, to support community efforts to end child slavery in Haiti.
The End Child Slavery in Haiti petition to The Republic of Haiti, the United States of America, and the United Nations was written by COSEDERF and is in the category Children's Rights at GoPetition.