“What impacted me the mostwhen I was a maid was the fact that my mistress gave me only tiny portions of food. I also hated the abuse when my mistress hit me." This girl from Burkina Faso, Aïssata, has left domestic work. Given catering training by Terre des hommes (Tdh), she is now a cook. And at the same time she helps other girls break free from exploitation.
“Have the strength to fight in life”
It was through her landlord that Aïssata learned about the existence of the ‘Help Point’, a protective place run by Tdh to give support to young girls employed as domestic workers. Not wanting to work further as a domestic servant in households and bars, Aïssata regularly went to the Help Point – a place where young girls working as maids can get together to express themselves freely and get advice from professionals and facilitators.
Having put an end to her exploitation and benefited from a catering course , Aïssata wanted to be able to help other young maids. With former domestic workers like Germaine* and Monique*, Aïssata became one of the ‘Big Sisters’ at the Help Point, where they meet and advise young maids about healthcare, their rights in the workplace and perspectives for the future.
“I tell them to take part in the Help Point activities so they can listen to advice, be brave and have the strength to fight for their futures, as you are not born a maid, you become one,” says Aïssata. This place is a “corner for fun, awareness and advice”, Germaine tells us. “We talk things over together, laugh and play games”, adds Monique.
“Training is the key to success”
Monique advises the young maids to learn as training is “the secret to success”. Monique, Germaine and Aïssata have all become cooks by attending training courses run by Tdh. For these three former maids, their training was the focal point that enabled them to break free from menial domestic work.
“As a Big Sister I can give advice to my little sisters coming up from the villages, and I can help them find decent work, suited to their abilities”, emphasizes Aïssata.
Aïssata, Monique and Germaine work on a voluntary basis. All three of them have the same dream, to open a restaurant of their own one day. Together they embody a fine example of the hope for all these youngsters – throughout the world, there are nearly 17 million of them employed as domestic workers.