Domestic work; one of the main form of women and Girl Child Exploitation

Domestic work; one of the main form of women and Girl Child Exploitation

Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals aims at “achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls” in all spheres of their lives. The UN estimates through its studies that; In sub-Saharan Africa, girls still face barriers to entering both primary and secondary schools. 

The Challenge!

According to the Uganda National Population and Housing Census 2014, women and the girl child constitute 51 % of Uganda’s population, and yet recent studies indicate that more males 52 % as compared females 48 % had enrolled to schools at all levels. This represents a disparity between genders with long-term consequences for women and the girl child. 

For many uneducated young girls, already out-of school, the immediate and available prospect of earning a living is to work as a maid in urban areas of the country and even overseas.

Research also show that 40 percent of girls below 17 in Uganda are working in people’s homes as maids. Currently, over 65,000 Uganda graduates below 30 years are doing odd jobs in the middle East countries. These girls are not only exposed to the horrible nature of domestic work, but do not have the bargaining power to determine their wages/or salary, and hence they are paid what their bosses are willing to. 

This is due to the fact that majority of parents do not value Girl Child Education”. That’s why they keep young females at home, and in so doing, the trend has led many young girls to engage and seek dangerous and unproductive work that has shuttered their lives. 

Worse still, parents and care-takers agree, often through brokers/or labour exporting companies, to send their young girls to do domestic work in homes of working couples who are always seeking for individuals to support them in doing domestic work and taking care of their young ones. The motivation for accepting to let their daughters work for people they have never met or visited can be categorises under “pool and push factors”. This extremely worrying trend is motivated by money gains, and economic desperation in their families, which compel them to allow their daughters to work as maids. 

Many are ready to risk their lives to work anywhere with a hidden prospect of marrying a “richer husband” in towns and foreign countries. However, they face numerous challenges, as they are continuously mistreated, and sexually abused by their bosses. Because of the fear to lose their job, they do not report these injustices to local authorities, and many of the local authorities especially Arab countries have labour laws that only protect the employer and not employees.

Because of the informal nature of their employment, their work is always terminated as soon as their bosses learn that they are pregnant, have contracted HIV/AIDS, or when there’s any conflict that involves the maid. This is one of those social injustices that are hampering the women and the girl child from fulfilling and realising their dreams.

Furthermore, domestic work has been institutionalised after the government of Uganda recently signed bilateral agreements with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and United Arab Emirates; to ensure Ugandans get employment by working as domestic workers. Currently 42,000 Ugandans (60 % women) travels to the Arab countries to do domestic work and other related activities annually. (New Vision August 2017, 2017). Although in the year 2006, the government started issuing licences to all labour exporting companies, and whilst this is a well-intentioned move to employ young people, there are no policy mechanisms for monitoring, identifying and addressing issues that have frequently been raised indicating maltreatment, and violence against Ugandans especially women working as domestic workers in middle-eastern countries. Worse still, there are numerous illegal labour exporting companies that have operated unrestricted. This had led to many young women trapped in the business of prostitution in foreign countries including Europe. 

Way forward

Goal 5 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), among other things, seeks to;

  • End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.
  • Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate.
  • Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
  • Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
  • Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences.
  • Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women.

Mission for African Mothers (MAM) through its programming activities, has contributed to the implementation of the SDGs though providing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) services and information to young people especially the girl child; the Girl Empowerment Programme – on reusable sanitary pads in schools of Ngora district has empowered young girls in rural schools to become confident of themselves, address menstrual hygiene, stay longer in school and be able to finish their primary education.

There is also need to empower women by equipping them with relevant information and skills they need to harness and exploit the available business opportunities in the country. 



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