Children of Shadows
Many parents in Haiti are so desperate that they give away their young children to more affluent families, where they are forced to work as unpaid servants. A modern form of slavery, director Karen Kramer calls the fate of these children, who are called restaveks – a contraction of the French rester and avec (‘stay with’). Kramer, who has previously made five documentaries about Haiti, follows one day in their lives: they scrub, cook and run to and fro with water jugs, while they should really be attending school. They wear rags, sleep on the stone floor and have to be content with leftovers. Not surprisingly, most of the children are much too small for their age. Kramer also listens to their employers, who surprisingly enough boast of their minor domestics, and to the parents, mostly from the country, who were forced to barter away their offspring in the hope that the latter would get a better life than they have had. Next, social workers and economists explain what the causes and solutions may be. According to UNICEF, there are probably 250,000 restaveks in Haiti, out of a population of seven million. The Haitian government has legalised the keeping of restaveks, ignoring all international laws with respect to slavery, forced labour and the exploitation of children.