Skip to content

Reducing the prevalence of child domestic servitude in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

March 12, 2021

This scoping study by the Population Council and Freedom Fund informs the design of a forthcoming prevalence study of child domestic servitude in Addis Ababa, as well as the engagement of local organisations to help improve outcomes for child domestic workers (CDWs). The study is part of a Freedom Fund initiative funded by the United States Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

Thirty-five interviews were conducted with informants who have direct knowledge of child domestic work and child trafficking in urban Ethiopia, including representatives from government offices, multilateral and United Nations agencies, as well as local and international non-governmental organisations.

Several key themes emerged from these interviews:

  • Children’s entry into domestic work is often through false promises of schooling or money, this deception can be at the hands of parents, brokers or employers. Sometimes the parents are misled about what the arrangement for their child will be, while in other cases the child is misled by parents into working for a relative or non-family employer upon the promise of a better life.
  • CDWs are typically expected to perform the duties of an adult worker and treated very differently to other children in the house. Oftentimes they are not thought of as children at all. As one respondent noted, employers “don’t consider their soul as important.”
  • CDWs are exposed to a wide spectrum of harms, ranging from arduous work, neglect and discrimination, to more severe and deliberate forms of abuse by the employer. However, several respondents noted that the severity of mistreatment varies and is highly dependent on the employer.
  • Households that prefer to employ CDWs tend to be low- to middle-income households, who consider CDWs to be cheaper alternatives to adult domestic workers.
  • The types of services available to CDWs are often not well designed for the distinct needs of this group. Service providers need to plan more deliberate outreach into this hidden population of children and help build trust with employers so that CDWs can access external support services.

This scoping study is formative to a larger piece of research to estimate the prevalence of child domestic servitude in Addis Ababa. Key insights from this study will feed into the design and implementation of the prevalence study, including the selection of study areas, a method for recruiting employers and CDWs into the study, priority topics and data gaps that should be incorporated into the survey questionnaire, as well as potential limitations and strategies for mitigating biases in the larger quantitative study.

Read the full report.

Photo credit: UNICEF Ethiopia/”FGM”/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Written by
The Freedom Fund