Abuse and Mental Health in Haiti

“It has been three days since someone asked me how I am doing.” –Jozyan

“It was NOT the beatings that I endured that hurt me so much, instead, it was the words they said to me that hurt me.” –a girl from Restavek Freedom


These phrases are from Jozyan and a young girl who was in restavèk. I met Jozyan while I was waiting for a taxi to go downtown to Delmas in Port-au-Prince. She was sitting not too far from me along the street with her baby. That kind of picture is easy to find on the street and attracts my attention every time I see it. It presents the reality of Haiti’s struggle to take care of her children. I know if nothing is done, this woman will eventually be in the street with more children. More children in poverty mean an increased number of children in restavek or homeless in the streets.… I tried to keep my focus on the taxis driving by, but I wasn’t easily finding one. So I found myself waiting. Then, I turned my full attention to the woman and her baby, asking for the baby’s age, sex, and more.

“It’s a girl, and she has more than 1 year,” the woman told me.

“Are you breastfeeding?” I asked her.

She responded, “I breastfeed when I can, but because I don’t have enough food to eat, sometimes my body does not respond well to it.”

This situation is not strange to me at all. It is common, especially in Port-au-Prince to find women and children begging for food and money. What she said next caught my attention: “It has been three days since someone asked me how I am doing.”

“You know, sometimes people are in such a hurry that they are not paying attention,” I said to her.

We continued to talk, and I quickly learned that she was from the north. She had lived in Cite Soleil. Gangs and weapons had killed her husband. She had no family in Port-au-Prince, she had been at the primary school, and her parents had died, she could not continue to go to school, and her life was wrecked upside down.

I was interested to continue to talk with Jozyan, but I was hurried to get a taxi. While I was in the cab, I thought about Jozyan’s situation with her baby, about the tragedy she lived with her husband’s murder, and all other current living situations in the street . . . and especially the way she expressed the need to communicate. Her statement reminded me also about several restavek children who told me about their everyday lives while I met with them. The Executive Director of Restavek Freedom Organization, Joan Conn, wrote to me about a statement made by one of the girls. She said, “It was NOT the beatings that I endured that hurt me so much, instead, it was the words they said to me that hurt me.”

Violence affects the lives of many people and often negatively affects their mental health. In Haiti, the percentage of victims in difficult situations (child slaves, women, people with disabilities, and homeless) is high. Focusing attention on mental health issues in societies like Haiti, where many people live many tragedies, is important and very beneficial for individual health and for the health of the entire country.

In a sample of 120 women who were victims of the restavek practice when they were children, 96 percent were living with physical violence and suffered from verbal abuse, 86 percent of them have placed their children into child domestic slavery, 98 percent of the women had children before their time, 56 percent were victims of rape and attempted rape in the house where they lived, 12 percent went to some night school, and 85 percent suffered severe infections. None of them found the psychological support they needed.

Was Jozyan in restavek? I had not learned the answer from her, but her situation clearly shows that she needs more than economic support in order to help herself and her baby. There is likely no program substantial enough to support women like Jozyan, children, and those who are suffering economically while also counseling them or responding to their mental health needs.

If the help these women and girls need exists, it is not accessible to them.

“There are so many problems to manage every day,” a colleague told me.” “Mental health is not a priority.” But we know in cases like Jozyan’s, economic support without the accompanying psychological support will not be enough to help her. It will then be difficult for the children to find the balance they need to grow and prosper, it will be difficult for women who are victims, like Jozyan, to sufficiently play the role of mother for her baby, support her family, and be a contributor to her community and the country.

“Investing in mental health” are the words that represent the International Day, October 10 in Haiti. Haiti has only 27 psychiatrists and very few psychologists for the entire population of the country (more than 10 million). Also, 28.5% of adults have post-traumatic stress disorder, and 15% have symptoms of depression. Only one service telephone line (177) exists to alert authorities about cases of people who lose themselves in the streets. There are only two hospital Centers in the entire country of Haiti for people with mental illness. One is based in Port-au-Prince, and the other one is based in Croix-des-Bouquets. Only 1% of the national budget goes to mental health care.

It is evident that there are not enough mental health services for more 10 million people, and truly mental health personnel are almost nonexistent in Haiti. But, we can start with what we have and move forward. What about taking and developing some alternative paths to acquire mental health technician certifications, which could produce professionals who could help with at least the basic mental health needs of people? We could also ensure that more programs are instituted at the university level so that we can help more people join the domain of mental health care.

State institutions and private institutions should be committed to providing mental health assistance a place in their social programs in order to help people access mental health care. Helping thousands of women like Jozyan and thousands of children who are suffering to find good counseling is important for mental balance and equilibrium in Haitian society. However small, the change will have a major impact.

Until now only a few institutions have integrated this mental health approach into their programs, but they need to be encouraged and their actions need to be reinforced. Those who haven’t integrated yet should consider doing so.

While we are looking into putting in place a national mental health plan for Haiti, we can begin thinking of the simplest possible approach to addressing people with mental health problems in the society. Mental health care is an integral part of a complete system. For a long time, it was not considered a necessity, but today, we can’t deny its importance, where many people grow up suffering from many things (violence, insecurity, rape…) that have affected their mental health into the future and constitutes a great loss for the country that many other issues we face.


Maltretans ak Sante mantal nan Ayiti

“Se premye fwa depi twa jou yon moun mande mwen kijan mwen ye ak ti pitit la”  –Jozyan

“Se pa baton yo bat mwen an ki pi fèm mal, se pawòl, mo, yo itilize lè yo pale avèk mwen ki fè mwen mal.”

–Yon jèn fi nan Restavèk Freedom


Se fraz Jozyan ak youn nan timoun ki viktim pratik restavèk la te repete. Mwen te rankontre Jozyan, pandan map tann yon taksi pou ale anba Delmas/Pòtoprens. Li te chita sou twotwa bò lari a ak tibebe l nan men li. Se yon imaj ki fasil pou jwenn nan lari epi sa toujou atire atansyon mwen. Li tradwi sitiyasyon sosyal, ekonomik, difisil peyi a fè fas pou pran swen pitit li yo. Mwen konnen si anyen pa fèt, fanm sa a pral rete nan lari a epi fè plis pitit. Plis pitit nan pòvrete vle di ogmante kantite timoun nan restavèk oubyen nan lari. Lespri mwen te okipe pa jwenn yon taksi, sa pat twò fasil. Mwen te tounen atansyon mwen kote Jozyan ak tibebe a pou mande li laj ak sèks li.

“Se yon ti fi, li gen plis pase 1 lane,” Jozyan te reponn mwen.

“Èske ou ba li tete?” mwen te mande l

”Lè mwen kapab,” kèkfwa mwen pa gen ase manje pou manje, pafwa lestomak mwen pa reponn byen.”

Sitiyasyon sa a fasil pou jwenn Pòtoprens kote gen anpil fanm ak bebe yo kap mande nan lari pou manje oubyen pou lajan. Men sa Jozyan te di mwen te atire atansyon mwen: “Se premye fwa depi twa (3) jou yon moun mandem kijan mwen ye.”

Mwen te reponn li, “kekfwa moun yo prese sa fè yo pa gade sa kap pase sou kote yo.”

Nou kontinye pale, epi mwen aprann ke li te soti nan zòn nò. Li te viv nan Site Solèy ak mari li. Nèg ak zam te rantre lakay li epi touye mari l. Li pa gen okenn fanmi nan Pòtoprens. Li te lekòl lontan lè li te timoun, men manman li ak papa li te vinn mouri, li pat ka kontinye ale lekòl ankò, lavi li te chavire tèt anba.

Mwen te enterese kontinye pale ak Jozyan, men mwen te prese, pou jwenn yon taksi. Pandan mwen nan taksi a, mwen tap reflechi a sitiyasyon Jozyan ak tibebe a, sou trajedi li te viv ak asasina mari li, ak tout lòt sitiyasyon lap viv nan lari a….e sitou a fason li te eksprime bezwen pou kominike. Sa te fèm reflechi tou a plizyè temwayaj timoun ki rete kay moun te rakonte sou lavi yo chak jou pandan mwen tap rankontre ak yo. Direktis Egzekitif Òganizasyon Restavèk Freedom la, madan Joan Conn te voyem yon mesaj sou sa youn nan demwazèl nan òganizasyon li te temwaye “se pa baton yo bat mwen an ki pi fèm mal, se pawòl, mo, yo itilize lè yo a pale avèk mwen ki fè mwen mal.”

Vyolans kelkeswa fòm li pran afekte lavi moun epi souvan li afekte negativman santé mantal moun. Nan ayiti, pousantaj moun ki viktim sitiyasyon difisil (timoun restavèk, fanm ki viktim, andikape,…) wo anpil (m pa ka jwenn pousantaj egzat la). Mete atansyon sou pwoblèm sante mantal nan soyete tankou Ayiti kote anpil moun ap viv anpil trajedi , enpòtan epi benefik anpil pou sante endivisyèl ak pou santé tout peyi a.

Sou yon echantiyon 120 fanm ki te viktim pratik restavèk la lè yo te timoun, 96% te viv vyolans vèbal ak fizik ak sibi maltretans/ 86% nan yo te mete pitit yo nan restavèk, 98 fanm sou 120 te fè pitit anvan lè yo/ 56% te viktim vyòl ak viktim atanta vyòl nan kay kote yo te rete/ 12% te ale nan ti lekòl diswa/ 85% te soufri gwo enfeksyon. 0% te jwenn sipò sikolojik ki te nesesè pou yo.

Eske Jozyan te restavèk, m pat gentan aprann sa, men sa ki evidan sitiyasyon klèman montre ijans yon akonpayman sikolojik an plis akonpayman ekonomik pou ede l ak pitit li. Manke pwogram akonpayman ekonomik ak sikolojik pou sipòte Jozyan, timoun ki maltrete ak lòt moun kap soufri, ki reponn a bezwen yo genyen. Si yo egziste, yo pa aksesib pou yo.

“Gen tèlman pwoblèm ki pou jere chak jou, yon kolèg te di mwen, sante mantal pa yon priyorite.” Men nou konnen nan ka sa yo tankou Jozyan ak jèn demwazèl Restavèk Freedom nan, sipò ekonomik la san sipò sikolojik la pa ase pou ede yo, li pral difisil pou timoun sa yo jwenn balans yo bezwen pou grandi, li pral difisil pou fanm tankou Jozyan ki viktim akonpaye pitit li kòmsadwa, jwe wòl manman li pou pitit li, itil fanmi li, kominote lap viv, peyi li….

“Envesti nan santé mantal”, se tèm jounen entènasyonal sou santé mantal 10 Oktòb ki sot pase a. Ayiti gen selman 27 sikyat pou tout peyi a (10 milyon abitan). Apre 12 Janvye: 28,5% granmoun prezante syndrom post-tromatik epi 15% prezante sentom depresif ki enpòtan , genyen tou yon liy telefon (177) pou alète otorite yo sou ka moun ki pèdi tèt yo ki nan lari, gen 2 sant lopital inivèsitè santé mantal pou tout peyi a ki baze Pòtoprens ak Croix-des –Bouquets. Sèlman 1% bidjè nasyonal la ale nan santé mantal.

Li evidan sa pa ase pou yon peyi ak plis pase 10 milyon moun, li vre pèsonèl sante mantal preske pa egziste nan peyi a. Men nou dwe koumanse ak sa nou genyen e nou ka koumanse. Sa nou wè nan devlope kèk demach altènativ pou vinn genyen teknisyen nan Sante mantal sètifye ki ka ede ak bezwen bazik yo nan sante mantal? Ranfòse Inivèsite yo ak plis pwogram Sante Mental pou plis moun kapab enterese ale nan domèn sa a.

Enstitisyon leta, prive, kap entèveni nan diferan domèn sosyal nan peyi a, dwe entegre aktivite pou moun yap desèvi kapab jwenn santé mantal. Ede milye moun tankou Jozyan ak milye timoun kap soufri jwenn yon bon akonpayman sikolojik enpòtan pou ekilib mantal yo ak ekilib sosyete asyisyen an. Piti koulye lap gen yon gwo enpak. Jounen jodia, sèlman kèk enstitisyon entegre apwòch santé mantal la nan pwogram yo, men yo bezwen ankouraje epi ranfòse. Enstitisyon ki poko fè sa dwe konsidere sa.

Pandan nap chache mete an plas yon plan nasyonal santé mantal pou Ayiti, nou ka koumanse pa apwòch ki pi senp la pou adrese pwoblèm mantal moun ap viv nan sosyete a. Swen mantal se yon aspè entegral nan sistèm pran an chaj moun. Pandan lontan li pat konsidere kòm yon nesesite, sa ki fè anpil moun grandi ak pwoblèm ki afekte santé mantal yo pi devan e ki konstitiye yon gwo pèt pou peyi a.

Another Organization Sharing a Similar Mission to Follow

I am honored to be mentioned in a recent blog post by the organization called Free the Slaves. Free the Slaves is an organization “dedicated to ending slavery worldwide,” and we are working toward the same goals in Haiti. Their approach is holistic, and their mission is important. They work with businesses, governments, and individuals on research-based solutions. I hope you will check out their blog and consider supporting their efforts to end slavery.
Check out their website:
Check out their blog:

The Prospects for Change…



Soon, I will invite you to read the prospects for the elimination of the practice of the “restavèk” in Haiti. These insights are derived from meetings with civil society, rural community leaders, political leaders, academics, and adult and children victims of this practice. I think you will be very interested to read simple and complex prospects that all involve feasible change. We must join together. We are living in the year 2014. Millions of children in Haiti age 1 to 17 years are at risk of suffering the same fate as Bella, Nita, and many others. Let’s start with the simplest and most feasible solutions and avenues for change. Know that a good deal of commitment and seriousness from everyone is essential for change. Stay tuned.


Bientôt, je vous inviterai à lire les perspectives haïtiennes pour une élimination de la pratique du système “restavèk” en Haiti et pour la protection de l’enfant haitien en general. Ces perspectives sont tirées des rencontres avec la société civile, les leaders des commuanutés rurales, les leaders politiques,les universitaires, les adultes et les enfants victimes de cette pratique…. Vous serez étonner de lire des brillantes perspectives simples, complexes mais faisables qui n’attendent qu’une chose…”konbit / tèt ansanm”. Nous sommes en 2014, des millions d’enfants en Haiti agés 1 à 17 ans sont en risque de subir le même sort que Bella, Nita et tant d’autres. Commençons par les plus simples et les plus faisables, néanmoins , une bonne dose de volonté et de sérieux de tout un chacun est indispensable… Restez branches.


Nan semèn kap vini la yo, map envite nou li refleksyon ayisyen fè pou sistèm restavèk la kapab elimine nan peyi a epi pou pwoteksyon timoun ayisyen an jeneral. Refleksyon sa yo soti nan rankont avèk moun nan sosyete sivil la, lidè kominotè yo, lidè politik yo, inivèsitè yo, granmoun ak timoun ki viktim pratik sa a….Wap etone li bon jan pèspektiv ki senp, komplèks,reyalizab men ki nesesite yon sèl bagay “ Konbit ki vle di tèt Ansanm”. Nou nan lane 2014, anpil anpil timoun ki gen laj soti 1 rive 17 lane kapab nan risk pou sibi menm kalamite ak Bella , Nita epi lòt ankò. Nap koumanse pa pi senp la, sa ki pi fasil pou fèt la, men sa mande bon jan volonte ak serye kote chak moun.…Rete branche.



Vita’s Story

I did not know my mom. I stayed with my stepmother. She was a “Madame Sara,” which is a Haitian term for a woman who usually prepares bags of food supplies for sale in the city on a truck. I would get up early for work. My father was a carpenter. I had a lot of big makout (sheaf, which are bundles of grain stalks tied together) to move. I would sweep under them and put them back in place every morning. I was always dirty and wore a little, pink satin dress every day. I remember that dress. I was the last to eat, and every morning I had to complete all of my work before I was allowed to eat my food. When my father and my stepmother insulted each other, I was always the victim of their anger. Here is how my father beat me. He tied my feet and hands with rope, lowered my head under the bed, and beat me with a rope.

I knew that my biological mom was alive, but my dad never let me see her or let her visit me. My stepmother did not love me. When my dad was at home, she never mistreated me, but when my dad would go out, then she started. One day, I went to bathe in the river not far from the yard of the house where I lived, and I heard my stepmother call to me to give me some food. At the moment I was going to eat the food she had given to me, a man appeared and said to my stepmother “Don’t do that to her, don’t give to her that food.” My stepmother had added to the food a poison we use to kill rats. I was saved by that man.

I met my biological mom for the first time when I was 12 years old. On the day I met her, I was carrying a load on my head, and I saw a woman in my neighborhood, signaling for me to come to her. She told me “Put this load down on the ground.” I listened and went to her. She asked me: “Do you recognize this woman? She is your mother” I ran to that woman and, I was so happy that day. I was very happy to see my mom, because I had never known her. My mom tried to take me back from my stepmother’s house, and people in the neighborhood pressured my dad to let me go back to my mom. Finally, I returned to my mother’s house.

I can tell sometimes when children are sent away from home, it is because of irresponsibility, but often it’s because of the harshness of life. Sometimes, life is so hard, and the parents don’t have any other choices. Listen, my story was very hard. Despite all that I’ve lived through, I’ve given birth to five children. I could not care for them, and I had to put them in restavèk, to give them away. At the time where I gave birth to my children, condoms were not present, I knew nothing of condoms, and sex education was not done. All the women in my village thought that children were the wealth of the poor. Children are gifts from God, and it is riches when parents can take responsibility for the care. Today I know that the responsibility to have children depends on my desire after God, but unfortunately, I had already given birth to my five children.


Istwa Vita

Mwen pat konnen manman mwen. Mwen te rete kay belmè mwen. Li te yon “madan sara” li te konn pote sak pwovizyon tout kalite al vann lavil. Mwen te konn leve bonè pou fè travay. Mwen te gen anpil makout pou mwen deplase, apre mwen deplase yo mwen bale epi remete yo nan plas yo chak maten.  Mwen te toujou sal, ak yon ti rad woz saten, se avèl pou mwen fè tout jounen an, jiska prezan mwen sonje ti rad sa a. Se mwen ki manje an dènye lè swa, e lè maten mwen dwe finn fè tout travay mwen anvan pou mwen manje. Papa m te yon ebenis. Lè papam nan diskisyon ak belmè mwen, se mwen ki victim. Men kijan papa m te konn bat mwen ak belmè mwen. Yo mare pye mwen, mare men mwen , yo foure tet mwen anba kabann nan pou yo bat mwen ak kod yo konn mare bwa yo. Manman mwen te vivan, men papam pa  janm ban mwen okazyon pou mwen te wèl, ni pou li vinn wèm. Belmè mwen pat renmen mwen ditou. Lè papam la, li pa janm maltretem. Kou papam soti, li maltretem. Yon jou, mwen te ale lave nan rivyè ki pa lwen lakou kote mwen rete, bèlmè mwen rele men pou ban mwen manje. Nan moman mwen pral manje, gen yon mesye ki parèt ki di bèlmè mwen an, “ou pa dwe fè pitit madanm nan sa, pa ba li manje sa a.” Bèlmè mwen te gentan mete pwazon rat nan manje a. Mesye sa a te sovem.

Mwen vinn fè konesans ak manman mwen lè mwen gen 12 lane, jou sa a mwen t ap pote yon chay sou tèt mwen epi mwen wè yon vwazin ki fè mwen siy, li dim konsa a”mete sa ki nan men ou la atè, vini kote mwen.” Mwen koute l epi ale jwenn li. Li mandem: Eske ou konnen fanm sa a ? Se manman ou li ye” Mwen kouri al jwenn li, mwen te telman kontan jou sa a. Mwen te kontan anpil wè manman mwen paske mwen pat konnen l. Manman mwen te vinn fè demach pou retirem kay bèlmè mwen epi moun kite nan vwazinay la te pale ak papam, fè presyon sou li pou li remèt mwen bay manman mwen. Finalman mwen te ateri kay manman mwen.

Mwen ka di kek fwa se vre timoun yo kite kay paran yo se iresponsabilite paran yo, men kekfwa lavi a tèlman di, paran yo pa gen lòt chwa. Gade mwen menm, malgre sa mwen te viv, mwen te vinn gen 5 pitit. Mwen pat ka okipe yo epi mwen te oblije mete yo kay moun, mwen te oblije bay yo. Nan epok mwen fè pitit sa yo,sa a pa te gen afè kapòt, epi edikasyon seksyèl mwen pat fèt, tout fanm nan kominote mwen te ye te konnen pitit se richès malere. Pitit se kado Bondye, men li se richès lè ou kapab okipe yo. Kounye a, mwen konnen ke pouvwa fè pitit rete nan men mwen apre Bondye, men malerezman mwen te deja fè 5 pitit deja.




Bella’s Story

My mother died when I was seven months old, and I was raised by my grandma  and then by my aunt after my grandma became too old. Since the time that I was 7 years old, I had to wake up early in the morning to make coffee and sweep the yard. I was beaten if I took a nap, because I had to fetch the water, which was far away. I walked long distances with heavy baskets on my head to go to town to sell my aunt’s products. And I walked all the way back by myself.

When I was 10 years old, I saw the other children going to school. My father was a vagabond. I wanted to go to school, too, but he would not send me. I once had a chicken, and I sold it for 25 gourdes. But I could not gochildwalkin to school even if I paid for it, because I had too much work to do at home. I felt much pain because of it.

My first communion should be an occasion for celebration, but I was sad on that day. That day should have been a wonderful memory. I did not have the chance like all the other children to have a pretty white dress and a good pair of shoes. Although I was dreaming of having them every night when I knew my first communion was coming, and I was happy.

After the first communion at church, I arrived home, hoping that I would have a nice meal like rice and chicken. That was not the case. I was given two kalbas (kalbas are containers) to go fetch water. When I was out on the streets in search of water, all of my little friends in the neighborhood who also just had their first communion looked at me with pity and told me “you just had your first communion and you’ll go to fetch water?” I was really saddened by this, and it was there that I realized I was different than the other kids my age. My consciousness and reality were different from the other children who lived with their true families. That day, I lingered longer than usual with my little friends talking on the road. They gave me food from their first communion celebrations. I was late returning home with the two containers of water. That afternoon, when I reached the house, they beat me a lot because I spent too much time away.

My dad beat me a lot. I remember he bought me small black plastic sandals (boyos is the Haitian Creole term for sandals) for five gourdes. That’s my strongest memory of him. I feel that this “boyo” should not be lost, and I must keep it so that I never forget. As I have grown older, I have been committed to raising my own children. Life has taught me that only moms must raise their own children.


Istwa Bella

Manman m mouri kitem sèt (7) mwa ak grann mwen, apre sa mwen te al jwenn ma tant mwen lè grann mwen vinn granmoun nèt.  Depi a laj 7 lane, mwen te deja ap leve bone nan maten pou fè kafe, bale lakou.  Mwen pran anpil souflet si mwen ta fè yon ti dòmi, paske fok mwen ale nan dlo byen lwen. Mwen te te leve bone epi mache anpil pou rive lavil pye a tè ak gwo panye sou tèt mwen pou al vann pou matant mwen.

A 10 lane, mwen wè tout timoun pral lekòl, papa m te yon vagabond.  Mwen te vle ale lekòl tou men li pat vle voye m.  Mwen te gen yon poul, mwen te vann li pou venn senk goud. Men malgre mwen te peye lekòl la ak venn senk goud la, mwen pat ka ale lekol akoz mwen te gen twòp travay pou mwen fè nan kay la.  Sa te fèm mal anpil.

childwalkinPremyè kominyon mwen, ted we yon gwo jou fèt pou mwen.  Mwen te tris jou sa a , jou sa a ted we yon bèl moman nan lavi mwen.  Mwen pat gen chans menm janm ak tout timoun yo pou mwen te gen bèl ti wòb blanch epi mete yon bon ti soulye nan pye mwen, men mwen te kontan kominye.

Apre kominyon an, mwen rive lakay mwen ak kè kontan epi lespwa yo pral fè yon bèl ti manje pou mwen (diri ak poul). Sa pat fèt . Yo te lonje 2 kalbas ban mwen pou al chache dlo.  Lè mwen soti nan lari a pou al chache dlo, tout tizanmi mwen yo kite kominye avek mwen te gade m ak pitye, yo te dim “ Ou fek kominye epi ou pral chache dlo”, mwen te tris anpil epi mwen te pran konsyans ke mwen te diferan ak lòt timoun yo vre. Reyalite mwen te diferan ak lòt timoun kap viv avèk paran yo.  Jou sa a , mwen te mize ak timoun yo nan rete nan pale nan wout.  Timoun yo te ban mwen manje yo fè lakay yo pou kominyon an.  Mwen te retounen lakay mwen ak 2 kalbas dlo a byenta.  Lè mwen rive lakay mwen li te apremidi, yo te bat  mwen anpil, akoz mwen te pase twop tan deyò nan wout.

Papa m te achte yon ti boyo plastic nwa pou mwen pou senk goud.  Li te konn bat mwen anpil.  Se souvni sa a sèlman mwen sonje de papam.  Mwen santi boyo sa a pat dwe te pèdi, mwen te dwe kenbe l pou mwen te ka toujou sonje.  Lè mwen vinn gran, mwen te pran angajman pou leve pitit mwen epi pa janm voye yo al rete kay moun. Lavi te aprann se manman sèlman ki dwe leve pitit yo.

Nita’s Story—The Daughter of Dadin

My dad died when I was 3 years old. My mom enrolled me in the national school because she could not afford to send me to private school. I remember when my mom made ​​my uniform for school and bought my school shoes. I spent five years with this little uniform. The uniform had gotten significantly shorter, and students at school were laughing at me because I was wearing a uniform mounted just above my chest. The fabric was extensively worn. This sticks in my memory in a very deep way. I will never forget how the daughter of a woman in my neighborhood laughed at me. She was my age. I never forgot, and one day she said to me “why do you come to school if you can’t find a good uniform to wear.” My shoes were worn, and I was dirty. That memory has always stayed in my mind. One day, my mom was crying and announced to me that she could not afford to send me to school anymore. I told her that it was ok and that I knew that when she was able, she would send me back to school.

UniformSo, my aunt told my mom to send me to her so that she could help. My aunt was a mambo [the term for a female High Priest in the Vodou religion in Haiti] with a big house that had 12 rooms. Five of the rooms were closed because the house is for the loa, [the term for Haitian Vodou spirits], and the other 6 rooms were not locked. But every morning, I had to clean the 12 rooms, fetch the water, sweep, go to the market, and prepare the meals. Until I completed the work, I was not allowed to eat. My aunt cooked food to sell. I had to get up at 3 A.M. and go to bed at 11 P.M.. But despite this, at 11 P.M., I had to pick up all of the big chaudieres [a Haitian term meaning “pails”] and fan my aunt afterward so that she could sleep. Sometimes, she did not go to sleep until after 1 A.M., so I often had to wait until then to go to sleep. She had blood pressure problems, and I had to take her to the bathroom and wipe her. Sometimes, she used a bucket as a toilet, and each time I have to take the bucket and throw her shit away. When my mother came to visit me and asked me how I was doing, I always told her that I was doing great, but inside, I was dying.

I was never allowed to stop my work. One day I remember feeling so bad. I was very tired, so I found a little place to get some sleep. My aunt was looking for me in the backyard and found me hiding in a hole. She hit me a lot that day. The next time my mom came to visit, I told her that I would not stay with my aunt any longer. My aunt had a small sewing machine, and she sold it for 250 gourdes [this is equal to about $5 US with the current exchange rates]. She sold it and bought clothes and shoes for me to take back home. She had never sent me to school while I stayed with her because I could never finish the school year anyway. After three months, the school sent me home because I could not pay the school fees. I was able to go to one class about four times because I could not pay.

But when people serve God with confidence, He helps support the suffering you live with. I will continue to walk in the way of God because He helps me and supports me in my sufferings when I call Him.

Nita told this story to her mother Dadin. Her mother listened in silence and tears. Her children had lived what she had lived, and they both had plenty of tears in their eyes.


Istwa Nita (pitit Dadin)

Papa mwen mouri lè mwen te gen 3 lane. Bò lakay mwen , mwen sonje mwen te gen yon ti fi nan laj mwen,men paran li te gen mwayen. Manman mwen te metem nan lekòl nasyonal, paske li pat ka peye lekòl prive pou mwen. Mwen sonje manman mwen te fè yon ti inifòm pou mwen ale lekòl epi achte yon ti soulye pou mwen. Mwen pase senk lane ak menm ti inifòm nan. Rive yon tan, ti inifòm nan vinn kout anpil pou mwen, elèv yo te ri mwen paske inifòm nan te monte jis anwo lestomak mwen epi twal la te finn blaze. Souvni sa a te make mwen nan vi mwen anpil. Mwen pa janm bliye kijan pitit fi vwazin ki te gen mwayen an, kite gen menm laj avek mwen, te konn ri mwen akoz fason mwen te ye. Mwen pa janm bliye epi lè li te dim poukisa mwen vinn lekòl si mwen pa ka jwenn inifòm pwòp pou mwen vinn lekòl. Soulye m te chire, kochi epi mwen te sal. Sa te toujou rete nan tèt mwen. Yon jou, manman mwen ak dlo nanje dim li pa ka voye m lekol ankò, mwen di li manman sa pa fè anyen, lè ou kapab wa voye m lekòl. Ma tant mwen di manman mwen voye mwen ba li paske li malad, pou mwen ka ede l. Ma tant sa a se te yon mambo, li te gen yon kay ki te gen 11 pyes ladan li, 5 nan pyes sa yo te fèmen paske se kay lwa li yo ye, lòt 6 chanm yo pat yo pa fèmen. Men chak maten, mwen te oblije pase twal mouye nan 11 pyès kay la, apre sa mwen te ale chache dlo byen lwen chak manten, bale , ale nan mache epi prepare manje. Toutan mwen pa finn fè travay sa yo , mwen pa ka manje. Ma tant mwen te konn vann manje kwit. Mwen te oblije leve a 3 zè di maten pou kouche a 11 zè di swa. Men malgre sa , a 11 zè di swa, fok mwen al rantre chodyè yo, epi fè van apre sa pou marenn mwen dòmi akoz te gen anpil marengwen. Kek fwa li dòmi a 1nè nan maten epi se lè sa a pou mwen al kouche . Li te gen pwoblèm tansyon, se mwen menm ki mennen l nan twalèt epi siye l . Li twalèt nan yon bokit epi se mwen ki jete bokit la.   Lè manman mwen vinn wèm , li mande m kijan mwen ye, mwen toujou di l mwen byen, men mwen t ap mouri nan kèm.

UniformMa tant mwen te konn fè vwayaj panama, lite gen yon gwo ofis kote li mete anpil vessel, e se mwen menm li te konn fè netwaye yo, mwen pat janm te ka finn fè travay mwen. Yon jou, mwen santi mwen men pa kapab ankò, mwen al kache pou mwen ka dòmi epi repozem, li chache mwen nan lakou a epi jwenn mwen kache nan yon twou, li te bat mwen anpil jou sa a.

Lè manman mwen vini, mwen di manman mwen mwen pap rete ankò, ma tant mwen te gen yon ti machin a koud pou 250 goud. Li vann li epi achte ti rad ak soulye pou mwen tounen lakay mwen. Li pa janm te voye mwen lekòl vre paske malgre mwen te ale lekòl , mwen pa t janm te ka fini ane lekòl la. Aprè chak 3 mwa , lekòl la toujou voyem tounen paske ma tant mwen pat peye. Gen klas mwen refè 4 fwa poutèt mwen pat ka peye. Men lè moun ap sèvi bondye , li ede w sipòte soufrans w ap viv. Ma p mache nan vwa Bondye paske depi mwen piti li ede m sipòte lèm rele l nan fon kè mwen.

Nita te rakonte istwa sa a devan manman li Dadin . Manman li te koute li an silans ak dlo nan je li, pitit li te viv sa li te viv, yo toude te gen anpil dlo nan je yo.


Restavek: Is It Slavery?

A few months ago, I remember that I wrote a response to an article written about restavek. The author was writing about restavek as “slavery”, and some of those who commented said they did not agree with the words “slavery.” So one of them posed to me the following question: What do you think? Is restavek slavery? Or is it not slavery?

I have heard this argument before, even thlaundry4ough there is a generally accepted definition for the term restavek. For you, I want to take the liberty to define the term restavek from my experiences and from what I see. A restavek is a child, most often a girl, who is forced to leave her home by her parents to live with relatives in a city or another community to stay with another family that is in a better financial situation than that of her parents. The child works hard without pay, she is often provided little food, and sometimes she is allowed to attend the afternoon school. [Afternoon school sometimes means very informal school. Most children in restavek go to these types of school.]

If we go back in time to examine slavery from a historic sense, we know that the slave had no value as a human life. The slave was a material possession that was paid for, which meant that the master could take it and do what he wanted with it. The master might do many thhouse4ings including kill the slave, violate her, or make her a slave-prostitute.

Let us look now at someone with a child who lives with their family as a domestic servant. The child was not paid for and may appear to be part of the family in front of others, and the family sometimes calls this little child “my little protected” as if this child is protected. In reality this child is mistreated and often secretly violated, and the adults who have this child can do what they want with the child without the eyes of others seeing. We agree at this time that the child is not a slave in the historic sense because the child has not been paid for. A person who has a child slave would go to jail because slavery is illegal in Haiti.

So in looking at this situation, it is not always easy to tell that this is called slavery., especially because the parents did not sell the child but instead put the child somewhere with all good wishes for prosperity.

In general, child servants have been significantly mistreated, which is not a secret to most people. Abuses are so severe that when these children are grown adults and no longer held as servants, they are zombies.

Taking a person into slavery is rendering that human being a zombie, meaning that person stands employed but not alive. Reality shows us that even though these children grow into living and walking adults, becausbroom4e of what they experienced, they are living but not alive. They still have faces, but they can’t look someone in the eye like you and I do, because they do not believe they are the same as everyone else. They are victims of incredible and intense physical and psychological abuse. The child taken into servitude will hear bad words from the family where he or she lives. These are the harsh words that destroyed the child’s soul and made the child grow into all that prevents it from seeing herself as human. Our history is the same. we were settlers turned into slaves and were prevented from seeing ourselves as individuals, as humans.

I seek to share some living history from a group of women (names and areas to remain unchanged) who were in restavek. Do you think that if they are dead standing, we can’t call them slaves?

I am not here to define the morals of humanity. However, I think that ultimately, all mothers are mothers, all children are children, and every person is human, even if they do not have the same means, including education and finances. They all deserve respect and the right to live in dignity. These children need help in order to be productive parts of society, and these families need help so that they do not feel that they need to send their children away. There is action that must be taken to prevent this cycle of suffering from continuing because these children learn to be parents from their parents.

Read the stories of women who have had to leave home to live as restaveks.

For more information on restaveks in Haiti, please click on the following recent news links:








Restavèk: Esklavaj oubyen pa esklavaj

laundry4Kèk mwa pase, m sonje mwen te ekri yon repons a yon atik ki te ekri sou Pratik restavèk la. Moun ki te ekri l la te pale de “esklavaj,” moun ki te reponn te di li pa dakò ak mo esklavaj modèn nan. Konsa youn ladan yo te pataje tèks la ak mwen epi te pozem kesyon an. Kisa nou menm panse bò isit? Se esklavaj oubyen se pa esklavaj?

Mwen tande diskisyon sa a plizyè kote deja. Pa gen yon definisyon nasyonalman aksepte sou tèm restavèk la. Mwen pran libète define li konsa swivan sa mwen wè.

Restavèk la se yon timoun ki an jeneral yon tifi ki kite lakay li sou obligasyon paran li ouyen fanmi li pou ale nan yon lòt andeyò oubyen lavil kay yon lòt moun oubyen fanmi li tou, ki pi bon pase paran li ekonomikman pou travay san peye, men jwenn ti manje e kekfwa ki kapab ale lekòl bòlèt. Si nou ale dèyè nan tan lesklavaj, esklav la pat gen valè, mèt li ki se kolon an te kapab pran li epi fè sa li vle avèk li, li gen dwa touye li, gen dwa vyole, abizel, se te sa yo rele nan lang franse “sa chose.”

An nou gade kounye a, yon moun ki gen yon timoun ki rete ak li ki se “restavèk li” kapab matirizel fizikman, toupizil devan lòt moun, li kapab vyole men an kachèt, epi fè sa li vle ak li tou men pa sou je lòt moun. Nou dakò nahouse4n tan nou ye la, si sa rive moun nan kapab peye pou sa. Yon moun ki gen yon timoun rete ak li pa kapab chwazi touyel jan li vle paske li prale nan prizon.

Donk lè ou fenk gade ou pa wè ou ka di sa rele esklavaj. Sitou paran li konnen li pa vann li, men li mete l yon kote ak tout bon volonte pou byen li.

An jeneral timoun ki restavek sibi maltretans anpil, sa pa yon sekrè pou pesonn moun. Maltretans sa yo tèlman grav, li konn fè timoun sa a lè lap grandi pèdi bon bon lanj li ki an fèt se pwen santral la ki fè li pa esklav, tounen yon zombi.

Esklavaj la te rann moun zombi, sa vle di ou debou wap travay men ou pa broom4vivan. Reyalite montre nou, menm si timoun yo manje, grandi, akoz de sa yo eksperimante, yo pa vivan. Yo pa gade moun nan je, paske yo pa wè ni kwè yo se moun menm jan ak tout lòt moun. Yo tèlman viktim ni fizikman ni sikolojikman kay fanmi kote yap viv la, yo grandi ak tout komplèks ki anpeche yo wè tèt yo kòm moun, se menm bagay kolon yo te fè pou anpeche esklaj yo wè tèt yo kòm moun. Map pataje kek istwa vivan yon ekip fanm ki te “restavek” (non yo ak zòn yo chanje). Eske nou panse yo se moun mouri debou? Eske nou ka rele yo “esklav.” M pa la pou fè moun moral, menm m panse finalman kòm tout manman se manman, tout pitit se pitit, tout moun se moun, menm si nou gen diferan mwayen ekonomik, diferan nivo edikasyon. Tout moun merite respè ak dwa pou yo viv nan diyite. Timoun yo bezwen nou pou yo patisipe nan sosyete a, fanmi yo bezwen èd pou yo pa santi nesesite voye pitit yo lwen yo. Li evidan gen aksyon pou ki pran pou anpeche soufrans sa yo kontinye pou pitit nou yo, paske timoun sa yo pral yo menm vinn paran demen. Li istwa moun ki te viv kòm restavèk lè yo te timoun, na reflechi nou menm si se esklav yo ye oubyen non.