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Cameroon Domestic Workers Face Awful Working Conditions 

By Divine Ntaryike Jr.

Over 10,000 mostly women and children domestic servants across Cameroon toil in horrendous conditions, a roundtable convened in the capital Yaounde on 19 December has heard.

Statistics unveiled by the conference organizers indicate that less than half of them have work contracts, three out of four earn less than the actual guaranteed minimum wage of 28,216 FCFA, only 3 percent can boast of social insurance coverage, over 75 percent go for months without pay and 12 percent of them are aged below 18.

The nongovernmental organization, Horizons Femmes, which initiated the two-day whistle blowing congregation, says the time is now to halt the protracting enslavement of Cameroonian women and children. According to the NGO officials, they will stop at nothing to lobby for Parliament to elaborate and adopt legislation safeguarding the rights of house-help professionals across the country.

They add that the vocation is also characterized by grave infringements on the rights of children.  Further figures gleaned from presentations at the solution-seeking conclave disclose that above 6 percent of domestic workers throughout the country are mostly girls barely 15 years old.

Separate surveys conducted in recent years by rights watchdogs have indicated that the bulk of domestic workers serving in the country’s biggest urban centers, especially Douala and Yaounde, are natives of the Anglophone North West and South West regions.  Their parents mostly fall within the ambits of the country’s poorest demographic groups and are easily cajoled and hoodwinked by promises of monthly returns and education for their kids. 

Sometimes, the sweet-talkers are even close kin of the naïve kids, some of who end up as sex workers in covert beer parlors, while others are trafficked out of the country. 

According to Horizon Femmes, poverty is a crucial factor fuelling the “modern day slavery.” It says even among grown-up domestic servants, 90 percent are school dropouts and lack knowledge of their basic rights.  “They are systematically abused at will and threatened dismissal every time they dare raise their voices.  Some, despite their ages are flogged and raped, yet, they remain silent to keep their jobs,” a document distributed at the meeting read.

Horizons Femmes officials say recommendations from the colloquium will be included in a petition to be sent to the UN as well as various Cameroon government ministries tasked with dissuading child labor and bondage.  It adds that legislation governing the domestic servants’ profession in Cameroon dates as far back as 1968 (with an amendment in 1976), but remain retrograde and vestigial.

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