December 20, 2005

IV. Recruitment into Child Domestic Labor

Recruitment of young girls typically takes place through intermediaries.[36] In some areas individuals are known in the community to act as informal brokers (simsar/a, pl. samasra), placing girls in domestic service for a fee, and families seek them out.[37] In other cases the child's family may ask friends, neighbors, or relatives whether they know of someone in need of a child domestic. Less frequently, prospective employers may contact families directly, or a broker may approach a girl who is already working to encourage her to move to another household.


Agreements through brokers are generally oral contracts where the broker collects a one-time fee both from parents and employers, takes a portion of the child's monthly salary for as long as the child continues to work, or combines a one-time fee from the employer with an ongoing fee from the child's salary.

A broker's interests are frequently at odds with those of child domestics. One-time fees provide an incentive for brokers to negotiate directly with girls to try to maximize the number of times a child changes jobs, further weakening parents' control over their daughters and their ability to monitor the behavior of employers.[38] Conversely, a broker receiving a monthly share of a girl's salary has an incentive to ensure that the child domestic continues to work, even when working conditions are abusive. In some cases the brokers may prevent parents from learning about abuse, or use threats, including threats of turning the child over to the police, to ensure a child continues working.[39]

Even when the broker does not deliberately attempt to prevent a child domestic from leaving an abusive employer, girls may be effectively prevented from doing so if the broker acts as intermediary between families and employers, collecting the child's salary and delivering it to the family. In such situations the broker is often the only person who knows both the child domestic's home address and her current whereabouts, and girls may have to wait months for a religious festival or annual vacation before seeing a family member to whom they can complain about ill-treatment (as discussed below, Chapter VIII). Equally important, young girls who wish to flee an abusive employer may not be old enough to know or remember where their homes are and how to return to them,and parents who want to see their daughters must rely on the broker to tell them how to find the child.

Three of the girls Human Rights Watch interviewed reported having been placed by brokers in their first jobs; all also reported having worked at a large number of houses for short periods of time. Samira M.'s experience is described at the beginning of this report. Zahra H., seventeen, started work at eight and worked "every [school] vacation in different houses." She told us,

My mom and I went to a broker in Khamisat. We paid her 100 dh [about $11] every month and the employer also paid her. She said my salary would be 250 dh [about $28] every month. My mother would get the money, not me. All of the money went to my mom. She took the money from the broker, not the employer.She didn't know the house where I worked.[40]

Salwa L., nineteen, told us:

I started working when I was six. A broker found the job. I don't remember very much about it.My parents would visit every month or two months to take my salary. I wasn't happy and I complained but they said I had to work because they needed the money.I worked in a lot of houses. I don't remember how many.[41]

Other intermediaries

Placements made through friends, neighbors, or relatives are often perceived as offering greater protection for girls, on the presumption that the intermediary will vouch for the good standing of the employer and that a valued relationship between employer and intermediary will result in better treatment for the child.In only a handful of the cases we interviewed did this presumption appear to be born out.

Amina L., sixteen, started working at eight. She told Human Rights Watch that since then she has worked "in three houses, the last one for a very long time." While she said her family had never used a broker, only intermediaries, her first two jobs lasted only short periods because of abusive conditions. She described her current job's fourteen-hour days, with no rest breaks and only eight days off a year, as "restful" in comparison, and attributed the difference to her paternal aunt's "good relations with the current employer."[42]

In contrast, Nasra J. told Human Rights Watch that she was "the last person to go to sleep and the first person to get up" in her first job, arranged through "people who knew my family," and Rasha A. told us she was beaten, had to get up at 5 a.m., and had no day of rest in the job a neighbor found her when she was ten.[43]

Placements directly initiated by parents

Four of the domestics Human Rights Watch interviewed were placed in their first job directly by a parent. They appear to have come from some of the poorest families, and the parents' having initiated placements may reflect the relative poverty of their families' social networks, as well as the parents' desire to save the expense of a broker.

Najat Z., eleven, left school in second grade to join her parents and six siblings begging. She explained how she and one of her two sisters later found work as child domestics:

When my father is begging he is often asked if he has girls who can work. That is how he found my job. I earn 200 dh (about $22) a month, but my father gets it all. I don't get clothes or anything else from the employer. My father and mother come to get the money every month, but I only see them for a short time.[44]

Abeer T., twenty-one, told Human Rights Watch she began working at age five and was the only wage earner in her family. Shaima J., fourteen, told us she began work at ten "because my father said I had to," while Hiba Kh., twelve, told us she started working two months earlier because, "my father was in the hospital and we needed money to buy medicine."[45]

[36]For a discussion of recruitment patterns see Sommerfelt, Domestic Child Labor in Morocco, pp. 60-65, and Regional Office for Greater Casablanca, Study of Girl Domestics, pp. 20-21.

[37] The use of such brokers appears limited to child domestic labor. Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Lahcen Haddad, child rights expert, Rabat, May 18, 2005.

[38]Sommerfelt, Child Labor in Morocco, pp. 61, 69.

[39]Human Rights Watch interview with Rajae al Meskouri, social assistant, Association Solidarité Féminine, Casablanca, May 25, 2005.

[40]Human Rights Watch interview with Zahra H., Casablanca, May 17, 2005.

[41]Human Rights Watch interview with Salwa L., Casablanca, May 27, 2005.

[42]Human Rights Watch interview with Amina L., Casablanca, May 18, 2005.

[43] Human Rights Watch interviews with Nasra J., Casablanca, May 27, 2005, and Rasha A., Marrakech, May 20, 2005.

[44]Human Rights Watch interview with Najat Z., Marrakech, May 20, 2005.

[45]Human Rights Watch interviews with Abeer T., Casablanca, May 27, 2005, Shaima J., Casablanca, May 18, 2005, and Hiba Kh., Marakech, May 20, 2005.