The tragic journey of maltreated domestic workers

By Inspirer Staff

Impregnated at 14 years old in Nyamagabe district,  Laurence (not real name) parents totally rejected her.

That is when her embittered life started as the husband also disappeared.

“Due to the torture by my parents, I left my baby at 9 months old and went on the street expecting to get a certain domestic work. It was during night when I went on foot from Nyamagabe district to Nyanza district. Then I met two women to whom I narrated my life. And then one of them pledged to take me to Kigali for domestic work,” she narrated.

She was recently sharing testimonies during the campaign against HIV/AIDS and new infections which is funded by USAID/DREAMS project which also look at root causes of early pregnancies and prevention measures.

She is one of 5,415 girls who experienced bad life in Gasabo district.

The girl said the woman from Nyanza district took her to Kigali city where she started as domestic work earning Rwf5,000 per month.

“I worked for over 4 months but the boss they never paid me. I got another woman who directed to me to another home for the same work. But situation became worse since the husband in that home was always forcing me into sexual intercourse and therefore I also left without pay,” she recounted.

Employing young children especially those below 16 years is considered as forced labour and is punishable by the law.

The girl at 14 years old in 2009 then became a broker of domestic workers in a company that deals and transfers domestic workers to households in Kigali city.

However, the expectation was also in vain.

“I had chosen to let my salary remain in the company so that the boss would pay me later a big sum of salary to help me start my own business in Kigali or back home upcountry but he disappeared to Uganda without paying me my Rwf300,000 salary,” she said.

Contaminating HIV/AIDS

That is when she later started a job in a public bar in 2011 at 16 years old that could pay Rwf30,000.

But what she was expecting to be good life became more tragic than what she faced as domestic worker.

“My colleague with whom we used to live in one house was a prostitute. I would come back home from my job in a public bar and found out that she had brought men in a house. Since I was still young at 16 years old and I was new in the city struggling with life, she convinced to always choose a man pledging that he could marry me or give me money,” she said.

However, the teen girl had to sleep with men but they always paid the money to her roommate who had been in Kigali for years in a form of trafficking her.

“Having become familiar with the city, I also started looking for my own clients. But due to sour life I always spent the money to drinking alcoholic beer. It was until I contaminated with HIV/AIDS and three years ago I started Antiretroviral drugs (ARVs).

All woes were triggered by lack of parents’ care and maltreatment of domestic workers. I urge parents to understand children and not reject them when they face such issues. Instead they should seek solutions to them in the family,” she said.

Joining an association to curb new HIV/AIDS infections

Currently at 25 years old, she is one of 30 girls in Kacyiru sector with HIV/AIDS who have formed an  saving association that  have committed to avoid transmitting the disease to other people  by sharing testimonies in different campaigns, churches and the community in Kigali city urging people to protect themselves from HIV.

“We preferred to form a saving association so that we generate income from TVETs we have learnt and save for our future and our children. Being in association is one of the strategies to curb new HIV infections in the community through which we pass prevention message.

However some of our colleagues have been reluctant to join our group which is a challenge in preventing new HIV infections,” she said.

We continue to urge them to join our group so that we strengthen to battle for better life and HIV prevention. If they realise that we are developing our selves they will finally join us, she added.

They were trained in various TVET skills such as hair dressing, tailoring, culinary arts and she said that so far their group has saved over 200,000 in a period of three months this year.

“When I get money I pay rent, food and basic needs with my 11 years old child and save the rest in the saving association. When a member has an issue or needs to start an income generating activity, she takes a loan from the savings and pay pack later. We also spend part of the savings to support our colleagues who are vulnerable without food and shelter or those who are at the hospital,” she said


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Elias Hakizimana

Elias Hakizimana, CEO&Founder of The Inspirer Ltd,( is a professional Rwandan Journalist with Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication, received from University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) in 2014. He served various media houses in Rwanda including Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) in 2013 and became passionate with English Online and Print Media Publications where he exercised his talent as a Freelance News Reporter for The New Times, The Independent, The Rwanda Focus, Panorama and more before he became a Self-Entrepreneur as the CEO and Founder of The Inspirer Limited in early 2017.

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