Cazzie Reyes is a Researcher for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center's Anti-Trafficking Programs. She graduated from Bradley University with a Bachelor's degree in International Studies and a minor in Women's Studies.
There are over 300,000 child domestic workers in Haiti, many of whom are trapped in the restavek system, a common practice in Haiti that forces children to work as domestic servants. Once a taboo topic, communities are beginning to openly acknowledge these harmful practices and discuss ways to shift attitudes and discard this system of exploitation. Through root cause analysis, inclusive dialogue, informed advocacy, community mobilization and effective intervention, individuals and groups in Haiti are progressing their mission to end child slavery in Haiti.
Modern-day slavery and human trafficking strip people of their dignity and humanity. Talking about these injustices can be paralyzing and overwhelming. Kathie, one of the young women at Restavek Freedom’s transition home, reminds us that the story does not and should not stop at slavery. And as passionate as people are against slavery, they must also be as equally driven for a world without slavery. After coming home from school, 20-year-old Kathie shared a bit about what a world without slavery looks like for her.
“[After school, for fun] we spend our time doing our homework and study and enjoy…like play with our friends, our sisters in the transition house. We like to play Uno and cards. When I’m in school, the classmate and the house too, the girls [they make me laugh].”
Kathie’s favorite subjects are literature and chemistry. Currently in 12th grade, she has one year left before making the decision to pursue higher education.
“I would like to go in university to study psychology and business, [and then, I’d like to] work with children.”
Having been with Restavek Freedom for seven years, Kathie has experienced and witnessed the long transition for children in the restavek system.
Thinking about her own journey, she continues, “I remember when I was in school, and I was very smart. And the director is my friend and always checked with me. And he make [sic] me meet one of the advocate [sic]. And after that, then they bring me here. I’m in Restavek Freedom now. I would like to stay in Haiti, and I would like to go to other country [sic] to talk about the Restavek Freedom – to talk about the restavek system too and to talk about the children. [My hope is] to end the restavek system, to make all the children be free. The word freedom makes me…the word freedom means for me free like he can do something he wants; he can have joy, love someone. These people always have [a] smile, and he always have a happy heart. And he always have a plan for the future.”
Being free from the system is the first step, and with freedom comes the opportunity to develop personal relationships and values.
“Something very important for me is love, joy and happiness. Friendship means for me is love is the most important. Love and trust. Family means education, love, friendship, it’s a lot of things…affection. There’s a lot of things that family means for me.”
Knowing that there are still many children in the restavek system who don’t have stable friendships and family support, Kathie concludes, “My advice would be [for people] to talk about Restavek Freedom and to help to make them know what is the restavek system here and to make them support us to end the restavek system. Like all the children will be free and they are going to live the life I am living now, the life that some children want to live. To have a better place for them to live. To make them known in the society. To make them go to school, to have food, anything they want. To share and to have love for them. [Finally] what I want to say is to thank you, all of you that support Restavek Freedom. And I wish God will Bless you for all that you do for the children in Haiti. To thank all the people who support us.”
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