H2H Blog

Restaveks in Haiti

The Practice of ‘Restavèk’
Haiti Restavek Slavery familyRestavèk is a traditional system in which Haitian children from impoverished homes are sent by parents to live with other families and work for them as domestic servants.
Ideally the child is enrolled in school by the host household and treated like one of the family. But often this does not happen.

For many children, the day is filled with chores. Even the youngest are expected to fetch heavy buckets of water, hand-wash clothes, carry loads to and from the marketplace, and work in the fields—often laboring for 14 hours a day for no pay.


Children in Haiti’s restavèk system often suffer a kind of apartheid, reduced to a subjugated status in their household and in society—sleeping on the floor, dressed in rags, eating leftovers, and often beaten. Two-thirds are girls, and many are viewed by men in the family as convenient objects for sexual exploitation. Girls are often abruptly expelled from the household if they become pregnant.
Successive generations have grown to adolescence in this atmosphere of shame, neglect, and abuse. Estimates of the number of children living in restavèk range from 200,000 to 300,000.

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