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GHANA STUDIES / Volume 14 ISSN 1536-5514 / E-ISSN 2333-7168© 2012 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System 163 CHILD DOMESTIC LABOR IN ACCRA: OPPORTUNITY AND EMPOWERMENT OR PERPETUATION OF GENDER INEQUALITY?1 PEACE MAMLE TETTEH Introduction Child labor is a relatively dynamic phenomenon, varying in its extent, nature , and effects in different countries or even within the same country over a period of time. As a result of this, the exact estimates, effects, and knowledge on measures to tackle child labor have proved rather elusive. One identified challenge in tackling of global child labor is the unavailability and/or paucity of current, comprehensive, and disaggregated data on the subject. This is not totally surprising because researching domestic labor is particularly challenging because of its “hidden,” “invisible,” and “inaccessible ” nature. The cultural notions of childhood and children’s work have produced attitudes and misconceptions that have acted as a hindrance to researching and tackling child (domestic) labor. A common attitude of recruiters, employers, and officials working on behalf of children is to deny that child domestic work is a form of child labor or employment at all; or to refuse to acknowledge that it is detrimental to the wellbeing of the children concerned. Thus, child domestic workers have become culturally accepted and are largely relied on in many households. Engaging children 1. I would like to thank the many child domestics I interviewed for this study and the anonymous reviewers and the editors of Ghana Studies for their comments. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the British Sociological Association (BSA) Youth Conference, University of Surrey, United Kingdom, in July 2010. 164 Ghana Studies • volume 14 • 2012 as domestics in a household is considered safe, indeed important for the child’s development and hence it is not stigmatized. This article on child domestic labor in Accra seeks to “(re)-search” the nature and realities of child domestic workers and contrast it with the notions and perceptions held about it. The article addresses four specific questions namely: Who are child domestic workers? What prospect does domestic work hold for children? What is the nexus between child domestic labor and gender inequality, discrimination, and female poverty? And, what policy measures are required to tackle the engagement of girls in domestic labor? Who Are Child Domestic Workers? The jury is still out on a specific definition of child labor and indeed of child domestic labor. What is considered domestic work varies from country to country. Whether children biologically or socially related to their employers can be considered domestic workers is still being debated. Thus, the definition given a child domestic worker reflects the way a household operates , considerations of a child’s role, and the way paid and unpaid work is defined (Hagemann et al. 2006). Definitions of who these children are have been made with regard to their age, relationship to their employers, the kinds of tasks they perform in the homes of their employers, and their remuneration (Hagemann et al. 2006). “Child labor” as used in this article refers to “all economic activities carried out by persons between the ages of five and seventeen which have the potential to interfere with their school work, i.e. depriving them of the opportunity to attend school, obliging them to leave school prematurely or requiring them to combine school attendance with excessively long hours of work (more than four hours a day) and heavy and strenuous workinjurious to their health or development” (Hilowitz et al. 2004: 16). The International Labor Organization considers “domestic labor” to be work done by children in the home of a third party or employer under Tetteh • Child Domestic Labor in Accra 165 exploitative conditions. Where exploitation is extreme, and the work is hazardous or conditions are akin to slavery, it is seen as the “worst” form of child labor. The position of children employed by third parties in non-­ exploitative conditions seems inconclusive. However, where a child “helps about the house” performing light tasks in his or her home, the work undertaken is not considered “labor” but viewed as part of the socialization process of children. In this regard, child domestic workers...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2333-7168
Print ISSN
1536-5514
Pages
pp. 163-189
Launched on MUSE
2020-02-05
Open Access
No
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