has quite a situation of female children out of school involved in child labour
and branded as house girls. In southern Nigeria, after a wedding, the new
couple receives as part of their gifts to take home, a female house girl (Afolabi 2012). The maids are usually perceived to bring luck for
easy conception of the couple and assist in performing domestic chores. The United Nations Children’s Fund citing
the International Labour Organization (ILO) states that “staggering 15 million
children under the age of 14 are working across Nigeria” (Unicef. 2018). Nigeria is a country of 182 million people (Bello. 2017), meaning 8.2% of her population is involved in
child labour. Most of these children are out of school. They engage in
dangerous jobs such as street
hawking, begging, car washers or watchers, shoe shiners, apprentice mechanics,
hair dressers, bus conductors, domestic servants and farm hands (Unicef. 2018).
essay discusses the trafficking of girls from rural parts of Nigeria, countries
like Togo, and Benin Republic to urban cities in Nigeria to become underpaid house
maids engaged in domestic services, they are uneducated, maltreated and abused.
Arranged in five parts, the first part identifies the actors involved and
explains why this is a social injustice, the second part delves into the
institutions involved in, the third part lists the social power relations and
the fourth part, using intersectionality of two social power relations analyses
the case. Thereafter is the conclusion and recommendations.
analysis involves the simultaneous analyses of multiple, intersecting sources,
power relations and practices of subordination, oppression, and/or privilege
and is based on the premise that the impact of a particular source of
subordination or privilege may vary, depending on its combination with other
potential sources of subordination or privilege. A person could be at the
bottom of one hierarchy and at the top of another (Denis 2008)
House Girls in Nigeria
In Nigeria, the term house girl is very
prevalent. This refers to under aged children usually between the ages of six
to fourteen who work as domestic helps. Afolabi citing Ramazanoglu (1994)
states that “domestic service indicates the existence of a category of women
who directly control the labour of other women” (Afolabi 2012). They do a range of jobs considered as informal such
as the cleaning of homes, caring for kids, cooking, laundry, hawking, etc.
These children “house girls” mainly are brought from the rural areas to the big
cities in Nigeria and some of them are smuggled from Benin Republic and Togo
into Nigeria to work as domestic helps. They are sometimes forced against their
will by their parents or guardians who hands them over to middle men who act as
the agents and distributes them to the various clients in need of domestic help
because of their busy schedules (Aljazeera. 2015). They are excluded from engaging in activities as their
of different forms and practices of exclusion, discrimination, of different
social disadvantages and hierarchies, of different systems of privilege are
observed(Collins and Bilge 2016).
actors involved here are the girls (children), the traffickers or middle men,
the employers of the children etc. In this essay, the girls (children) will be
our focus. This is a social injustice because the house girls are engaged in
child labour, they are mostly treated as slaves, most of them do not go to
school and so their right to education is infringed upon. They sometimes lose their
identity as they do not ever use their real names and sometimes are treated as invisible.
They are also paid below minimum wage, payment is made through their middle men
to their parents or guardians , their middlemen also hold on to their passport
or any means of them escaping and they are forced to work against their will,
little wonder why the recruitment process is shrouded in secrecy as this is illegal
and people shy away from talking about its existence (Aljazeera. 2015).
involved here includes the families of the girls, (especially their parents and
guardians), National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP) United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF),
Economic Community of West African
States (ECOWAS), International
Labour Organization (ILO) and the governments of Togo, Benin Republic
and Nigeria. The two institutions to be analysed in this essay are the
institutions of the family and the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Social Power Relations
power relations involved are gender, age, race, class etc. As Joan Scott rightfully
insists “on intersecting gender with other social relations of power; gender
does not operate in a vacuum but in/through other social relations of power:
race, class, sexuality, age, religion, ethnicity” (Scott 1986)..This essay from an intersectional perspective
analyses the social power relations of gender and class. Using an
intersectional perspective gives the advantage of analysing just more than one factor
involved in this case.
An Intersectional Analysis of The
Institutions and Social Power Relations in The Case.
and illiteracy can be considered as the main reason which families,
particularly parents and guardians hand their children to middle men
(traffickers) to become maids in unknown places and to unknown people (Afolabi 2012). These
families usually have many other children, clothing, feeding and paying for
their education is usually a problem. The parents give them out to ease the
burden of seeing them starve and use them as a source of income. With the
economic recession and as more families plunge into poverty, the engaging of
children in labour is seen to be on the increase. The children are separated
from their families at tender ages and given to their employers. They have no
agreement as to how many hours of work and mainly live in and sometimes work
for as much as 18 hours per day taking care of children who are either younger
than them or slightly older and serve everyone else in the household by doing
laundry, cooking, hawking, cleaning and other household chores.
Government of Nigeria being a member of ECOWAS as is Togo and Benin Republic,
the citizens have free entry into these countries. This gives the traffickers
easy entry to and from these countries with the victims. This is because of
globalization. The Nigerian government has the NAPTIP, an organization in
charge of trafficking related cases but this case of house girls is still very
rampant and even in Nigeria, girls are taken from the rural areas to the big
cities to engage in child labour. As such, child labour is perpetrated even
though Nigeria has signed the ILO convention and some states in Nigeria have
the child rights law. According to the ILO “child labour is often defined as
work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their
dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. It refers to
work that is harmful to children, interferes with their schooling by depriving
them of the opportunity to attend school, obliging them to leave school
prematurely or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with
excessively long and heavy work (ILO.
labour takes different forms but Article 3 of ILO Convention No. 182 states the
following forms which has to eliminated swiftly;
forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and
trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory
labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed
use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of
pornography or for pornographic performances;
use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for
the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant
which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely
to harm the health, safety or morals of children.
Labour that jeopardises the physical, mental or moral well-being of a
child, either because of its nature or because of the conditions in which it is
carried out, is known as “hazardous work”
to prevent child labour, the ILO Convention sets the age for work, for
hazardous work, ILO sets 18 years and 17 years under strict supervision and
also states that the minimum age for work should not be below the minimum age
for finishing compulsory schooling. For this it states 15 years and 14 years as
an exception (ILO. 2018). However, the Child Rights Act in Nigeria is vague
as to the required age of labour.
Gender creates division between productive labor
and unpaid reproductive and domestic labor, women are assigned to reproductive
work (Fraser 2008)
Household work is considered as
informal and reproductive work. Girls are preferred because female
labour is cheaper, they are considered as more efficient because they already
have motherly instincts and so are biologically wired as care givers. As such
more and more girls leave their homes too early. Again, girls are preferred
because of the dangers of having a male maid. Most householders are afraid that
a male maid might steal, join bad gangs or sexually abuse their children, they
are also more difficult to control while the girls are simple and easy to
control. Again, their work is considered as menial; for example, Marx explains
that “the cooks and waiters in a public hotel are productive labourers, in so
far as their labour is transformed into capital for the proprietor of the
hotel. These same persons are unproductive labourers as menial servants, in as much
as I do not make capital out of their services, but spend revenue on them. In
fact, however, these same persons are also for me, the consumer, unproductive
labourers in the hotel” (Rob.
2014). These maids usually work
without the help of technological appliances, when their mates are in school,
they work all day long, they have no time for play and so grow up as deficient
youths, they also are victims of rape, maltreatment, oppression, sexual
abuse/harassment, teenage pregnancies, forced abortions and VVF (Afolabi
2012). Globalization also projects
women labour as cheap labour.
citing a study carried out by Akinrimisi maintained that among housemaids in
two locations in Lagos – Ikoyi/Victoria Island and Surulere, on the average,
36% of all respondents fall between ages 10 and 17, showing that the
respondents are within the age of schooling. A lot of women now engage in paid
work and so buy cheap domestic labour from these under aged girls to fill the
gap of domestic work at home (Afolabi 2012). It is the purview of women to carry out domestic
work. According to the paradox of Ramazanoglu (Ramazanoglu 2012) “women’s successes in achieving educational and
occupational parity with men have enabled a growing minority of successful
women to buy cheap domestic services from more disadvantaged women” and as Harriet Taylor states in
“Enfranchisement of Women” as cited by Rosemarie Tong that “women cannot both
work full-time outside the home and be devoted wives and mothers without
running themselves ragged” (Tong 2009):18) and that they would be in need of “panoply of
domestic servants” and so they rely on child labour.
wise, these are people from the lowest class who live in abject poverty, As
Marxist-feminist Martha Gimenez comments, while women of all classes share
certain experiences of oppression, women of different classes are also
simultaneously locked into an antagonistic relationship. Thus, as she notes,
crucial class differences between women reflect important class and
socioeconomic status differences the use of paid domestic workers not only by
capitalist women but by women affluent enough to afford them highlights how
oppression is not something that only men can inflict upon women (Gimenez 2005). The real advances upper-middle-class professional
and business women (those earning six-figure salaries) have made in the last 30
years presupposes the existence of a servant stratum, drawn from the less
skilled layer of the working class, including a large proportion of women from
racial and ethnic minorities, often undocumented immigrants.
the house girl syndrome is saddening and should be stopped urgently. For the
eradication of child labour in Nigeria, policy makers should consider the
income status of the families in rural areas, family planning should be
encouraged, NAPTIP should work in conjunction with the Immigration authorities
to foil these easy means of transportation at the borders of each country. According
to Nancy Fraser, Redistribution Justice today requires both
redistribution and recognition.” (Fraser 1999: 1) “In short, no redistribution
without recognition.” (Fraser 1992: 9), government of the day should redistribute
resources and help these children to be recognized as children and not nameless
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