For some child domestic workers, the work day begins early in the morning and does not end until late at night. Some interviewees had free afternoons or evenings, but others began working at 6 a. Even if I was finished with my tasks … if she saw me sitting, she would shout at me. The others said they worked seven days a week, sometimes for up to two years.
Eleven of the twenty girls interviewed said their employers beat them, and fourteen of the twenty described verbal abuse. This happened several times a week. The privacy of the home makes child domestic workers uniquely vulnerable to sexual harassment or rape by male household members. Aziza S. Amal K. I was afraid he would hurt me if I told. Of the twenty former child domestic workers interviewed, only two said they had completed the third grade before beginning work.
None were allowed to attend school while employed: Souad B. A study by INSAF found that 21 percent of child domestic workers were still in school and worked during school holidays, but that 49 percent had dropped out of school to work and 30 percent had never attended at all. Child domestic workers we interviewed said they experienced extreme isolation. Most worked in an unfamiliar city, far from family and friends. Some girls speak Tamazight, the Berber language spoken by many people in central Morocco, and cannot easily communicate in Arabic, the language spoken by the majority of Moroccans.
Some said they were allowed to call their families but that their employers monitored their phone conversations so that they could not speak freely. Few of the 20 former child domestic workers interviewed had any idea where they could turn for help if they experienced violence, ill-treatment, or exploitation. None said they had approached police directly or knew of a government entity that could offer them assistance.
Without money and unfamiliar with their surroundings, they could not return home alone. Many described pressure to continue working even under abusive conditions to provide income for their families. Some eventually appealed to their families for permission to return home. Only two of the girls whom Human Rights Watch interviewed actively sought help outside their own family.
One was Aziza S. She asked a bus driver for help, and he took her to a local police station. In another case, a girl who had been beaten by her employer with a belt confided in a local hairdresser, who referred her to a local NGO for help. According to government statistics, Morocco has made significant progress in recent years in reducing overall rates of child labor and increasing the number of children who attend school. The number of children engaged in all forms of child labor dropped from , in to , in , according to government surveys.
The number of children working as domestic workers also appears to have declined, although no recent data is available to establish exact numbers. At the same time, the number of children completing primary school increased—from 62 to 85 percent between and Government efforts to increase school enrollment and provide financial support for poor families that may feel pressure to send their children to work have boosted efforts to reduce child labor.
According to the Ministry of Education, the program benefited , students in poor rural areas from to , and an independent assessment found that it cut drop-out rates among recipients by 68 percent over three years. The government has also provided book bags and other supplies to more than 4 million primary age students and expanded cafeteria meals by 32 percent from to In five cities, the government has set up Child Protection Units to assist children who are victims of violence or mistreatment, which may include child domestic workers who have fled abusive employers.
In , a government decree expanded the types of labor that are considered hazardous and thus prohibited for children under The decree prohibits some tasks relevant to child domestic workers, but does not specifically prohibit children from performing domestic work.
Since , the government has also been developing a draft law on domestic work that would for the first time, formalize the sector and establish key rights such as a weekly day of rest and annual leave for domestic workers. The draft law would reinforce the existing legal prohibition on domestic work by children under 15 and require the authorization of a parent or guardian for the employment of children between the ages of 15 and The proposed law requires written contracts for all domestic workers to be filed with the labor inspection office.
At the time of writing, however, the law had not yet been presented to parliament. Moroccan NGOs have also conducted public education campaigns to discourage child domestic labor, including outreach to families in sending communities, and have created programs to assist girls who are employed below the legal age or victim to abuse or exploitation. NGOs also credit national media with helping to decrease child domestic labor by paying greater attention to the issue in recent years. Despite these positive steps, existing mechanisms to assist vulnerable children or address child labor are not sufficient to address the unique characteristics of child domestic labor.
Labor inspectors, for example, may not access private households to identify child domestic workers. Furthermore, according to government-supplied information inspectors have imposed no fines against employers of child domestic workers. Child Protection Units, intended to assist children who are victim to violence or mistreatment, only operate in five cities. Child domestic workers we interviewed said they were unaware of services that the units might provide, and even the most active unit, in Casablanca, has only assisted a small number of child domestic workers.
Criminal prosecutions against employers responsible for physical abuse of child domestic workers are still rare, although in a woman was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the death of a year-old domestic worker after severe beatings. The government should establish more effective mechanisms to identify and remove girls who are employed below the minimum age or who are above the minimum age but victim to violence or exploitation. Continued public education is needed to inform both sending families and potential employers about the law and the risks of child domestic labor.
National legislation to regulate domestic work is needed to ensure that domestic workers of all ages—including girls above the minimum age of employment—enjoy basic labor rights and decent working conditions. The government should amend proposed domestic worker law to comply with the ILO Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers and adopt it quickly. These should include special mechanisms to identify girls subject to illegal, abusive, and exploitative child domestic labor, investigate these cases, and provide appropriate assistance, including shelter, family reunification, re-entry into school, and when appropriate, sanctions or criminal prosecution of employers.
Without such action, young girls will continue to be lured into exploitation and physical abuse in private homes, foregoing their right to an education, family contact, and the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential. This report is based on research conducted between April and August , including two field visits to Morocco in April and May and in July of We interviewed 20 former child domestic workers who ranged in age from 12 to 25 at the time of interview, and who began working as domestic workers between the ages of 8 and All but 4 of the 20 were still under the age of 18 at the time of the interview.
They had worked in a total of 35 households for periods ranging from 1 week to 2. All but four had been employed as a domestic worker during some period between and , the period of our inquiry. Those whose employment was prior to with a few exceptions, as noted are not quoted in this report. Interviewees were identified with the assistance of NGOs that provide programs and services for former child domestic workers.
Interviews were conducted in private in Arabic or Tamazight Berber , with interpretation provided by a Human Rights Watch research assistant. Interviews were given on a voluntary basis, and no incentives were offered or provided to persons interviewed. We have changed the names of all former child domestic workers quoted in this report in order to protect their privacy. Former child domestic workers who have left domestic work and are in NGO programs may be more likely to have suffered abuse or exploitation and therefore may not be considered representative of the general population of child domestic workers.
Thus, the interviews in this report are not necessarily typical of all child domestic workers in Morocco, but their experiences are illustrative of the challenges and abuses that many child domestic workers may face. During our field mission, Human Rights Watch met with the minister of employment and professional training; the minister of solidarity, women, family, and social development; and representatives of the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Higher Education, and the General Council of the government.
Following our field mission, we requested additional information through the Interministerial Delegation for Human Rights a governmental body set up in to elaborate and implement government policy on human rights regarding existing government initiatives to address child domestic labor and enforcement of relevant existing laws. Information received from the Interministerial Delegation as of June 15, , is reflected in the body of the report and reprinted in the appendix.
We also reviewed available secondary sources, including available surveys, government reports, NGO reports, news stories in the media, and other relevant materials. Despite the cooperation noted above, authorities impeded our work by informing us at the beginning of that they would not allow our Morocco-based research assistant, Brahim Elansari, to attend any meeting between Human Rights Watch and government officials. This is also our 43rd report on child labor. Globally, the International Labour Organization ILO estimates that between 50 and million people —at least 83 percent women and girls—work as domestic workers.
Currently, there are no accurate statistics regarding the numbers of children working as domestic workers in Morocco. No specific surveys on child domestic work have been conducted since , when a government survey found that 23, girls under the age of 18 including 13, girls under age 15 worked as child domestic workers in the greater Casablanca area alone.
A study by the Norwegian-based Fafo Institute for Applied Social Science estimated that nationally between 66, and 86, girls under 15 were working as domestic workers. Despite the lack of credible data, the number of child domestic workers in Morocco appears to be on the decline.
NGOs and other organizations point to several reasons for the decline, including efforts by NGOs, UN agencies and the government to raise public awareness about the dangers of child domestic work; increased attention to the phenomenon by the Moroccan media including coverage of high-profile criminal cases against employers for abuses against child domestic workers such as the death of a year-old child domestic worker named Khadija in ; and government and NGO efforts to expand educational opportunities and keep children in school, particularly targeting poor rural areas that are common sending areas for child domestic workers.
The Moroccan High Commission for Planning, a ministerial entity with primary responsibility for producing economic, social, and demographic statistics, reported a substantial decline in child labor generally between and The survey estimated that 10, children under age 15 were working in the cities compared to 65, in , and of these, While the High Commission for Planning annual survey suggests a much lower number of child domestic workers than found by the surveys, both NGOs and UN agencies expressed skepticism about the relevance of the findings for child domestic work.
The survey does not cover all children involved in child labor, such as children in invisible work like domestic work. Continuing efforts are needed to eliminate it. The vast majority of child domestic workers in Morocco come from poor rural areas to work in larger cities such as Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakech, Tangiers, Agadir, or Fes.
Some of these girls begin working at ages as young as eight or nine. The government survey of child domestic workers in greater Casablanca found that A study by INSAF surveying child domestic workers under the age of 15 from sending families found that 62 percent were between the ages of 13 and 15, and 38 percent between the ages of 8 and Due to the small number of those interviewed and how interviewees were identified, however, this group should not be considered a representative sample. Although Moroccan law requires compulsory education until age 15, child domestic workers typically have little schooling.
Of the twenty former child domestic workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch, only two had completed the third grade before beginning to work. Most told us they only attended one or two years of school before going to work, and six 30 percent of those interviewed had never attended school at all. Similarly, the INSAF survey of child domestic workers found that 30 percent of those surveyed had never attended school. Forty-nine percent of the child domestic workers INSAF surveyed had dropped out of school, while 21 percent were still in school but worked during school holidays.
While 43 percent of the girls left school for financial reasons, 25 percent cited the distance between the school and their home as a reason for not continuing their education. Virtually all of the child domestic workers in Morocco are girls. The ILO estimates that domestic workers are overwhelmingly female—83 percent worldwide. The majority of girls interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they entered domestic work because they believed their family needed the income they could provide.
Karima R. I needed to help my family. Nadia R. Although some of the girls interviewed said they were reluctant to leave school, many nonetheless expressed a strong sense of obligation to help their family. Najat S. I wanted to continue my studies, but when I saw my father was sick, I wanted to work. She said when an intermediary came to their house proposing that Zohra go to work as a domestic worker, her mother initially refused, but Zohra convinced her that she wanted to work in order to help the family.
In other cases, the girls had no desire to work, but felt they had no choice. Amina K. The girls often agreed to work without any understanding of the conditions or treatment they would endure. In many cases, intermediaries approach families with job opportunities, typically promising good working conditions.
Intermediaries work as brokers, arranging for girls from poor rural areas to work in the cities as domestic workers, and receiving fees from the employers for finding domestic workers to work in their homes.
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Of the 20 former child domestic workers Human Rights Watch interviewed, 10 reported that an intermediary arranged for at least 1 of their jobs. If the family does not have the money in advance, the girl is expected to work without salary for one to three months in order to cover the fee. Malika S. He was a man from another place, not from my village. He said the family would take me and treat me well. Although most girls knew that they were to be employed as domestic workers, some intermediaries deceived the girls and their families about the nature of their employment.
Fatima K. When she arrived, she realized she was expected to do domestic work instead. Because intermediaries only receive fees upon the placement of a domestic worker, it is also to their advantage to convince the domestic worker and her family to change employers so that they can collect more fees. Aicha E. I liked working there. The next employer, like the first, was abusive and forced her to work from 7 a. Girls may also be recruited for domestic employment through casual or family networks. For example, Najat S. In other cases, former child domestic workers said they did not know how their employment was arranged and that the negotiations were typically handled by their parents.
She was expected to wake before dawn to make breakfast for the children and work non-stop until 11 p. She beat me when I broke something or when I got in a dispute with her son. She slapped me on my face and on my shoulder. Fatima worked for the employer for two years with no holidays. Girls employed as domestic workers are responsible for a range of household tasks, depending on their age. They may cook and prepare meals, wash dishes, do laundry, wash floors and carpets, do shopping for the family, care for young children, walk older children to and from school, help them prepare their lunches, and serve guests.
Younger girls are often not expected to cook but may be expected to take on such responsibilities as they get older. Fatima said that initially, she did little cooking, only preparing simple dishes such as eggs, but within six months, was asked to prepare more complicated dishes and to cook couscous.
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Girls who begin work at young ages often find themselves unprepared for such responsibilities. At age 11, Hanan E. Most of the girls interviewed were the only domestic worker employed by the household, and in some cases, were expected to carry out most of the household tasks for families of up to eight members. In a few cases, the family employed more than one domestic worker to share the tasks.
Although the Moroccan Labor Code sets 44 hours per week as the limit for the industrial sector, there is no minimum set by law for the hours worked by domestic workers. As a result, child domestic workers are at the mercy of their employer. A few described working just a few hours a day or having several hours off in the afternoon or evening, while others began working early in the morning and did not finish until evening, with little opportunity for rest.
In the most extreme cases, girls described beginning work at 6 a. The child domestic worker often was expected to be the first one up in the morning and the last person to bed at night. I had to act as if I was working because if she saw me sitting, she would shout at me. In this house, you never stop working.
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When I finished cleaning the floor, the woman asked me to do it again. Most of the girls worked seven days a week with no day off. She typically worked from 5 or 6 in the morning until midnight. If she tried to rest, her employer would shout at her. As of July 1, , the minimum wage for the industrial sector in Morocco was 2, It increased to 2, In almost all cases, their wages were negotiated by an intermediary or their parents, and were paid directly to their parents.
In addition to their cash salary, domestic workers who live with their employers are also provided with room and board, which is discussed below. Beginning at age nine, Najat S. Her employer allowed her a few hours rest in the afternoon, but she still typically worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, for a total of 84 hours per week. Hanan E. She said she typically worked 18 hours a day, from 5 or 6 a.
After she left the job, her father told her that her employer had reduced her wages over time, paying even less than the agreed dirhams per month, claiming that she was deducting money to cover clothes and food for Hanan.
Hanan said that the employer never bought her clothes and that the food she provided was often inedible. Several girls expressed fear that their employer would deduct money from their wages and that this would cause hardships for their families. I wanted to tell him that I wanted to come home, but I never did because I was afraid the woman would tell him about the vase and she would deduct the cost from my wages. Girls who worked in multiple households reported that their wages typically increased over time. Even after years of employment, however, only one former child domestic worker reported receiving more than dirhams per month.
Even at this wage, however, such an experienced domestic worker made only 34 percent of the minimum wage of the formal sector, often for far longer hours of work. None of the girls interviewed said they received any spending money of their own. Amina M. The majority of the former child domestic workers Human Rights Watch interviewed described both verbal and physical abuse by their employers.
She beat me with anything she found in front of her. Sometimes with a wooden stick, sometimes with her hand, sometimes with a plastic pipe. She used every bad word she could think of. She talked to me badly. She beat me with her hands and pinched me. Once she beat me with a stick. Employers beat girls if tasks were not completed to their satisfaction or if the girl broke something, the girls told us. The 20 former child domestic workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch worked in a total of 35 different households.
They reported physical beatings in 19 of those 35 households and verbal abuse, typically shouting or insults, in 24 of The isolation of child domestic workers in private homes puts them at particular risk of sexual violence from male members of the household in which they work. Her employer had two sons; the eldest was 22 years old. I pushed back and ran away. I ran to the bus stop and told the bus driver my story. He took me to the police. The police took Aziza to a shelter run by social services; she never returned to her employer and said she did not know if the police conducted an investigation.
Her employer came home before he did anything further, but Fatima said that she was afraid of being alone with him. He told me not to tell anyone. Several of the girls said their employers did not give them enough food and that they were often hungry. She ate breakfast at 7 in the morning, but had no other food until receiving dinner at around midnight. If there was no food left over, sometimes the girls would be allowed to prepare something else, but in other cases, the girl would simply not eat.
Zohra H. She received no food after lunch. When the family had dinner, they did not give her any food.
Some of the girls had their own room and their own bed to sleep in at night, but others said they slept on the couch in the living room, in a closet, or on the floor. For nearly a year, Zohra slept on the floor in a closet, with one blanket to sleep on, and another to cover herself. Child domestic workers often travel long distances from their homes to work as domestic workers. Many child domestic workers interviewed said they had limited or no contact with their own families during their employment.
Leila E. Finally she lied and said she was ill so that she could call her brother. Once she reached him, she asked him to come fetch her. Most of the girls Human Rights Watch interviewed, even those enduring routine violence and exhausting working conditions, said they did not consider running away. They stayed because they were not familiar with the city and did not know where to go or who to approach for help. I only knew what I could see from the window. None of the child domestic workers Human Rights Watch interviewed were allowed to attend school by their employers.
The woman never told me why.
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For some, seeing the children of their employer or other children in the neighborhood attend school when they had no such opportunity was particularly difficult. When Karima R. Few of the girls described any government intervention in their situations, including those employed illegally because they were under the minimum age for employment and those who experienced physical or psychological abuse. None of the girls interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they approached the police or knew of any government entity that could offer them assistance. Only two dared to appeal outside their family for assistance.
At age 10, Karima R. Karima heard about Bayti, an NGO that assists vulnerable children, from a local hairdresser. When her employer beat her with a belt, Karima told the hairdresser, who took her to Bayti. A social assistant  working with former child domestic workers said:. In some cases of underage employment or abusive treatment, NGOs intervene. For example, Bayti came to the house where Souad B. A number of girls said they left their employer by appealing to their families to allow them to come home.
Some suffer physical and verbal abuse by the employers themselves, as well as not having the opportunity to go to school and eat properly. Over the last decade, the government of Morocco has reduced the indices of child labor and has been able to increase the level of schooling.
Nevertheless, control on the implementation of laws prohibiting the employment of children under the age of 15 for domestic service and the enforcement of sanctions against employers who facilitate recruitment is still lacking. Most of the girls interviewed were from poor rural areas. Some reported they work hours a week, and only 8 out of 20 had a weekly day of rest.