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Niger’s Wahayu Endure Domestic and Sexual Enslavement

By Sharon L. Fawcett, CLC Contributing Writer

Niger’s Tahoua region has a history of enslavement dating back to the early 18th-century arrival of the Touaregs, who brought slavery-like practices with them. Today, young girls and women sold as domestic and sexual servants are the victims of this centuries-old scourge.

Although the Nigerien government has maintained, since 2005, that slavery no longer exists in Niger, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (USDOL’s) 2013 Trafficking in Persons report and a joint report by UK-based non-governmental organization Anti-Slavery International and Niger-based Timidria, suggest otherwise. According to these reports, it is not uncommon for Nigerien girls to become the victims of human trafficking and forced labor.

In Niger, a girl born into slavery can be sold by her master as a wahaya (plural: wahayu) or “fifth wife” to a wealthy or powerful man in the country’s Tahoua region—or in northern Nigeria—for as little as $400 US (200,000 CFA).

While owning a wahaya is a sign of affluence, wahayu “marriages” are illegitimate because they do not comply with several of the Islamic rules for marital unions. Since they are illegitimate wives, the women “wed” to men through this practice also bear the name “fifth wives”—not one of the four legitimate wives permitted by Islamic practises in a nation where Muslim is the predominant religion.

A wahaya works without pay; she is enslaved in domestic and sexual servitude. Tikirit Amoudar, a 45-year-old who became a wahaya at age 10, described her experience to Anti-Slavery International and Timidria researchers:

My workload was heavy: fetching water for all the family; fetching water for livestock (over 100 cattle); hulling and pounding grain…for food and foodstuffs; providing firewood for the family; [making] large preparations [for] community gatherings in the master’s fields…; washing up; preparing the mistresses’ and the master’s beds; looking after the children and keeping the courtyard clean…

Wahayu face constant physical and verbal abuse from their masters’ legal wives, who may view them as competition. They also live in fear for the welfare of any children they may bear for their master, as these children are considered his legitimate offspring and represent a threat to the inheritance of his other children. The master’s legitimate wife, or wives, may attempt to eliminate those threats through kidnapping, sorcery, or even murder.

Niger’s young wahayu are among the 10.5 million children worldwide who perform domestic child labor. Eighty-three percent of the wahayu interviewed by Anti-Slavery International and Timidria researchers had been sold into this form of servitude before age 15.

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Kenya’s Somali Refugees: Overcoming Cultural Obstacles to Girls’ Education in Dadaab

11 April 2012 [from the AllAfrica Web site]

Dadaab — A mix of cultural practices, such as early and forced marriage, as well as child labour, are depriving girls of education in the Dadaab refugee complex in eastern Kenya.

Out of Dadaab’s estimated population of 463,000 mainly Somali refugees, more than half are children under 18; of these about 38 percent attend school. The proportion of girls in the camps’ primary and secondary schools is 38 and 27 percent, respectively, according to the UN Refugee Agency. A third of girls aged between 5 and 13 in Dabaab go to school; for those aged 14 to 17, only one in 20 are enrolled.

Hawa Ahmed, who arrived in Dadaab about seven months ago with her six children, told IRIN that only her sons attend school.

Her two daughters stay at home cooking, washing utensils and fetching water. “[These are] already enough lessons as they learn how to keep a family,” said Hawa as she plaited her daughter’s hair.

While boys are generally encouraged to attend school, barriers to girls’ education remain. A local saying among Somalis in Dadaab, for example, is ‘Gabar ama gunti rageed ama god hakaga jirto’ (a girl should either be married or in the grave).

Halima, 19, was married off to an older man in 2011 forcing her to drop out of high school at Dadaab’s Ifo camp. The now divorced single mother of one, said: “I am very disappointed. My life is almost destroyed. I can no longer go back to school because I have to take care of my child; I [have] lost my pride.”

Many young girls at the camp are married off against their will to Somali men who come back from the USA and can afford to pay a huge dowry, according to officials.

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Child labor in Yemen…outlaw phenomenon

Yemen Observer: http://www.yobserver.com

Posted in: Reports
Written By: Fatima al-Aghbari
Article Date: Aug 26, 2010 – 4:54:28 AM

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The child labor phenomenon in Yemen has worsened since the 1960s because of the economic deterioration and high rates of poverty, as field studies have shown.

(Saba)- The socialists see that the aggravation of this phenomenon is also linked to the early marriage problem.

Deteriorating economic situations in Yemen, especially in light of the global economic crisis and the accompanying high prices and the individuals› low income, plays a significant role in the growth the of child labor phenomenon.

In recent years, the phenomenon has significantly exacerbated as many children started flocking to the labor market to work in different areas such as restaurants, auto repair shops, construction sites and selling items in streets amongst other work.

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