Girls lured to Cape for ‘slave’ wages

Written by Lindsay Dentlinger
Monday, 11 September 2006 00:00

Teenage girls from around South Africa are being lured to Cape Town to do domestic work for meagre pay.

Although there are no available figures to confirm the extent of the abuse, experts in the field say it is more prevalent than previously thought.

According to child labour organisation Anex CDW, girls working as domestic workers in the city are often recruited through “agencies” and forced to work for more than one family in exchange for meagre pay and a place to stay.

Anex CDW says the girls are “bonded” to the families, raking up debts for toiletries and clothes they cannot repay.

The girls come from small towns and farms and are often encouraged to take up work in the city when they cannot afford to go to school and have to find a way of supporting themselves.

In 1999, the last survey on child labour in South Africa estimated that 10 000 children were involved in domestic work in the country.

Anex CDW informed the city council’s safety and security committee on the situation and their work last week.

Councillors said they were mortified to learn that this was happening in the city.

Anex CDW’s Julayga Alfred told councillors that recruiters lured girls to the city with what appeared to be a “free taxi” ride. They often worked up to 15 hours a day, seven days a week, and were also often required to work in family businesses once they had done domestic chores.

They earn a monthly salary, below the minimum wage for domestic workers, of between R200 and R700.

But Anex said that, through its work, it had also encountered teenage boys who had come to the city for work and who often ended up addicted to drugs and on the streets with no way of finding their way home.

Anex CDW said the extent of the problem was difficult to quantify because police stations and other places where children sometimes sought refuge, if they were able to break away from their abusive employers, did not keep records of the cases.

If Anex CDW is called to assist in such cases, the organisation tries to arrange for the child to return home.
This article was originally published on page 5 of The Cape Argus on September 11, 2006