Haiti – Domestic Service

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Gigi Cohen, Photographer

© Gigi Cohen/The Photo Project

Josiméne looks at a black and white Polaroid of herself. There are no mirrors in the two-room house where she works as live-in maid, or restavec, for a family of four. Josiméne’s family lives in a remote part of Haiti’s interior, hours by car and foot from Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital.


Josiméne, 10, works as a restavec, or live-in maid, in a two-room house outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. Josiméne’s parents are small farmers in Haiti’s remote and mountainous heartland. Two years before these photographs were taken, they asked a local woman to find a family that would take Josiméne as a servant.

Estimated numbers of child domestic workers around the world range into the hundreds of millions. Haiti has an estimated 300,000 restavecs — a term that combines the Creole for “to stay” and “with.”

The line between harmless chores and child labor, according to the International Labor Organization, is crossed when children are sold or trafficked; bonded to repay family debt; work without pay; are exposed to safety or health hazards; work excessive hours; suffer physical violence or sexual harassment; or are “very young.”

The Maurice Sixto Foyer, a non-profit organization, offers free classes for restavecs. On many afternoons, Josiméne’s errands keep her too busy to attend.

Location: A suburb of Port-au-Prince, Haiti

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Servitude Crosses the Line Between Chores and Child Slavery