Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world and the tenth poorest in Africa. Many young girls with little education and few practical skills at their disposal turn to domestic help as a way of making money. Girls as young as 12 leave their village and head to the city where an expanding middle class has increased demand for domestic work.
Once there, however, many are faced with the harsh realities of urban life. Their young age and inexperience mean they are unable to negotiate adequate terms of employment and before long they find themselves at the bottom of the social ladder. Story upon story of violence, sexual abuse and exploitation paint a very bleak picture of the status of domestic workers in Mali.
For some, the conditions are so unbearable that they are forced to flee, leaving behind whatever money they are owed, only to face further abuse and exploitation in a city unknown to them.
Association de Défense des Droits des Aides Ménagères et Domestiques (ADDAD) was established by a group of female domestic workers to highlight the plight of people working in private households and raise awareness of workers’ rights. It works to see the implementation of legislation that provides safe working conditions for domestic workers.
The organisation helps domestic workers settle disputes with employers, offering empowerment workshops, working with public authorities and private employers to secure the workers’ rights.
ADDAD offers literacy and legal training to help the workers improve their employment conditions and has successfully helped 700 people, mainly girls and women who have faced exploitation. The organisation has supported domestic workers who have fallen pregnant as a result of sexual abuse in the course of their work. In some cases, it has convinced the fathers to contribute to child raising costs.
ADDAD has been active and vocal in the media on the rights of domestic workers and has been advocating for policy change at the national level to see Mali adhere to the standards of the International Labour Organisation.
Photos: Fanta Diarra