IntroductionNigeriahas quite a situation of female children out of school involved in child labourand branded as house girls. In southern Nigeria, after a wedding, the newcouple receives as part of their gifts to take home, a female house girl (Afolabi 2012). The maids are usually perceived to bring luck foreasy conception of the couple and assist in performing domestic chores. The United Nations Children’s Fund citingthe International Labour Organization (ILO) states that “staggering 15 millionchildren under the age of 14 are working across Nigeria” (Unicef. 2018). Nigeria is a country of 182 million people (Bello.
2017), meaning 8.2% of her population is involved inchild labour. Most of these children are out of school. They engage indangerous jobs such as streethawking, begging, car washers or watchers, shoe shiners, apprentice mechanics,hair dressers, bus conductors, domestic servants and farm hands (Unicef.
2018).Thisessay discusses the trafficking of girls from rural parts of Nigeria, countrieslike Togo, and Benin Republic to urban cities in Nigeria to become underpaid housemaids engaged in domestic services, they are uneducated, maltreated and abused.Arranged in five parts, the first part identifies the actors involved andexplains why this is a social injustice, the second part delves into theinstitutions involved in, the third part lists the social power relations andthe fourth part, using intersectionality of two social power relations analysesthe case. Thereafter is the conclusion and recommendations. Intersectionalanalysis involves the simultaneous analyses of multiple, intersecting sources,power relations and practices of subordination, oppression, and/or privilegeand is based on the premise that the impact of a particular source ofsubordination or privilege may vary, depending on its combination with otherpotential sources of subordination or privilege. A person could be at thebottom of one hierarchy and at the top of another (Denis 2008) House Girls in Nigeria In Nigeria, the term house girl is veryprevalent.
This refers to under aged children usually between the ages of sixto fourteen who work as domestic helps. Afolabi citing Ramazanoglu (1994)states that “domestic service indicates the existence of a category of womenwho directly control the labour of other women” (Afolabi 2012). They do a range of jobs considered as informal suchas the cleaning of homes, caring for kids, cooking, laundry, hawking, etc.These children “house girls” mainly are brought from the rural areas to the bigcities in Nigeria and some of them are smuggled from Benin Republic and Togointo Nigeria to work as domestic helps. They are sometimes forced against theirwill by their parents or guardians who hands them over to middle men who act asthe agents and distributes them to the various clients in need of domestic helpbecause of their busy schedules (Aljazeera.
2015). They are excluded from engaging in activities as theircounterparts, intersectionalityof different forms and practices of exclusion, discrimination, of differentsocial disadvantages and hierarchies, of different systems of privilege areobserved(Collins and Bilge 2016).Theactors involved here are the girls (children), the traffickers or middle men,the employers of the children etc. In this essay, the girls (children) will beour focus.
This is a social injustice because the house girls are engaged inchild labour, they are mostly treated as slaves, most of them do not go toschool and so their right to education is infringed upon. They sometimes lose theiridentity as they do not ever use their real names and sometimes are treated as invisible.They are also paid below minimum wage, payment is made through their middle mento their parents or guardians , their middlemen also hold on to their passportor any means of them escaping and they are forced to work against their will,little wonder why the recruitment process is shrouded in secrecy as this is illegaland people shy away from talking about its existence (Aljazeera.
2015).InstitutionsInstitutionsinvolved here includes the families of the girls, (especially their parents andguardians), National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP) United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF),Economic Community of West AfricanStates (ECOWAS), InternationalLabour Organization (ILO) and the governments of Togo, Benin Republicand Nigeria. The two institutions to be analysed in this essay are theinstitutions of the family and the Federal Government of Nigeria. Social Power RelationsThepower relations involved are gender, age, race, class etc. As Joan Scott rightfullyinsists “on intersecting gender with other social relations of power; genderdoes not operate in a vacuum but in/through other social relations of power:race, class, sexuality, age, religion, ethnicity” (Scott 1986)..This essay from an intersectional perspectiveanalyses the social power relations of gender and class. Using anintersectional perspective gives the advantage of analysing just more than one factorinvolved in this case.
An Intersectional Analysis of TheInstitutions and Social Power Relations in The Case.Povertyand illiteracy can be considered as the main reason which families,particularly parents and guardians hand their children to middle men(traffickers) to become maids in unknown places and to unknown people (Afolabi 2012). Thesefamilies usually have many other children, clothing, feeding and paying fortheir education is usually a problem.
The parents give them out to ease theburden of seeing them starve and use them as a source of income. With theeconomic recession and as more families plunge into poverty, the engaging ofchildren in labour is seen to be on the increase. The children are separatedfrom their families at tender ages and given to their employers. They have noagreement as to how many hours of work and mainly live in and sometimes workfor as much as 18 hours per day taking care of children who are either youngerthan them or slightly older and serve everyone else in the household by doinglaundry, cooking, hawking, cleaning and other household chores. TheGovernment of Nigeria being a member of ECOWAS as is Togo and Benin Republic,the citizens have free entry into these countries. This gives the traffickerseasy entry to and from these countries with the victims. This is because ofglobalization.
The Nigerian government has the NAPTIP, an organization incharge of trafficking related cases but this case of house girls is still veryrampant and even in Nigeria, girls are taken from the rural areas to the bigcities to engage in child labour. As such, child labour is perpetrated eventhough Nigeria has signed the ILO convention and some states in Nigeria havethe child rights law. According to the ILO “child labour is often defined aswork that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and theirdignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.
It refers towork that is harmful to children, interferes with their schooling by deprivingthem of the opportunity to attend school, obliging them to leave schoolprematurely or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance withexcessively long and heavy work (ILO.2018)”. Childlabour takes different forms but Article 3 of ILO Convention No.
182 states thefollowing forms which has to eliminated swiftly; i. allforms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale andtrafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsorylabour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armedconflict; ii. theuse, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production ofpornography or for pornographic performances; iii.
theuse, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular forthe production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevantinternational treaties; iv. workwhich, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likelyto harm the health, safety or morals of children. Labour that jeopardises the physical, mental or moral well-being of achild, either because of its nature or because of the conditions in which it iscarried out, is known as “hazardous work”Also,to prevent child labour, the ILO Convention sets the age for work, forhazardous work, ILO sets 18 years and 17 years under strict supervision andalso states that the minimum age for work should not be below the minimum agefor finishing compulsory schooling. For this it states 15 years and 14 years asan exception (ILO.
2018). However, the Child Rights Act in Nigeria is vagueas to the required age of labour.Gender structures the fundamental divisionbetween productive labor and unpaid reproductive and domestic labor, assigningwomen to reproductive work (Fraser 2008). Household work is considered as informal andreproductive work. Girls are preferred because female labour is cheaper,they are considered as more efficient because they already have motherlyinstincts and so are biologically wired as care givers. As such more and moregirls leave their homes too early.
Again, girls are preferred because of the dangersof having a male maid. Most householders are afraid that a male maid mightsteal, join bad gangs or sexually abuse their children, they are also moredifficult to control while the girls are simple and easy to control. Again,their work is considered as menial; for example, Marx explains that “the cooksand waiters in a public hotel are productive labourers, in so far as theirlabour is transformed into capital for the proprietor of the hotel. These samepersons are unproductive labourers as menial servants, in as much as I do notmake capital out of their services, but spend revenue on them. In fact,however, these same persons are also for me, the consumer, unproductivelabourers in the hotel” (Rob.
2014). These maids usually work without the help oftechnological appliances, when their mates are in school, they work all daylong, they have no time for play and so grow up as deficient youths, they alsoare victims of rape, maltreatment, oppression, sexual abuse/harassment, teenagepregnancies, forced abortions and VVF (Afolabi 2012). Globalization also projects women labour as cheaplabour.Afolabiciting a study carried out by Akinrimisi maintained that among housemaids intwo locations in Lagos – Ikoyi/Victoria Island and Surulere, on the average,36% of all respondents fall between ages 10 and 17, showing that therespondents are within the age of schooling. A lot of women now engage in paidwork and so buy cheap domestic labour from these under aged girls to fill thegap of domestic work at home (Afolabi 2012). It is the purview of women to carry out domesticwork. According to the paradox of Ramazanoglu (Ramazanoglu 2012) “women’s successes in achieving educational andoccupational parity with men have enabled a growing minority of successfulwomen to buy cheap domestic services from more disadvantaged women” and as Harriet Taylor states in”Enfranchisement of Women” as cited by Rosemarie Tong that “women cannot bothwork full-time outside the home and be devoted wives and mothers withoutrunning themselves ragged” (Tong 2009):18) and that they would be in need of “panoply ofdomestic servants” and so they rely on child labour.Classwise, these are people from the lowest class who live in abject poverty, AsMarxist-feminist Martha Gimenez comments, while women of all classes sharecertain experiences of oppression, women of different classes are alsosimultaneously locked into an antagonistic relationship.
Thus, as she notes,crucial class differences between women reflect important class andsocioeconomic status differences the use of paid domestic workers not only bycapitalist women but by women affluent enough to afford them highlights howoppression is not something that only men can inflict upon women (Gimenez 2005). The real advances upper-middle-class professionaland business women (those earning six-figure salaries) have made in the last 30years presupposes the existence of a servant stratum, drawn from the lessskilled layer of the working class, including a large proportion of women fromracial and ethnic minorities, often undocumented immigrants.CONCLUSIONConclusively,the house girl syndrome is saddening and should be stopped urgently. For theeradication of child labour in Nigeria, policy makers should consider theincome status of the families in rural areas, family planning should beencouraged, NAPTIP should work in conjunction with the Immigration authoritiesto foil these easy means of transportation at the borders of each country. Accordingto Nancy Fraser, Redistribution Justice today requires bothredistribution and recognition.” (Fraser 1999: 1) “In short, no redistributionwithout recognition.” (Fraser 1992: 9), government of the day should redistributeresources and help these children to be recognized as children and not namelessmaids.
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