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Women and
gender justice

Women and gender justice / Presentation

Cultural dignity

Photo by imageBroker/Alamy

Cultural dignity

The pain of a child-labourer

Thirteen year-old girl working in a towel production in Karur, Tamil Nadu, India.

When God created Man and Woman, he was thinking, ‘Who shall I give the power to, to give birth to the next human being?’ And God chose woman.

Malala Yousafzai

A girl's struggle for dignity and justice

Lily, as narrated in The Dolls Speak, by Francoise Bosteels

“I was a domestic help in several houses. After my father’s death I stopped going to school. At the age of eighteen I went to work in a relative’s house to get some food for myself. We had nothing to eat at home and the little I got I brought home and shared with my mother, sisters and brothers. One day I didn’t go to work. I got beaten up. I decided to work elsewhere and earn my living. I wanted to stand on my own feet I left my relative’s place. From then on I worked for wages.

I was a domestic worker in a family. I experienced great suffering. Though the owners were rich I had to sleep on jute rice sacks in a small room adjacent to their house. I was frightened. My food was served in the dog’s vessel. I was supposed to keep awake to open the door for the husband returning late at night after the wife had gone to sleep. One night she slapped me on the face for falling asleep. I left the house next day.

One of my relatives abused me. I was ignorant of the consequences. I became pregnant. I wanted to marry him. He refused to marry me. I felt guilty. I felt unworthy to enter the house. I didn’t want to kill the child. Twice I attempted suicide. Once I tried to hang myself, but somebody rescued me. I was then five months pregnant. God wanted me to live. Today I think if I had died that would have been my final act of failure.

I am alive, I struggle for my son. I want to prove that I can stand on my own and take care of my son.”


The International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour stated that the risks to working children include long and tiring working days, use of toxic chemicals, carrying heavy loads, handling dangerous items (such as knives, axes and hot pans), insufficient or inadequate food and accommodation, and humiliating or degrading treatment including physical and verbal violence, and sexual abuse.The Government of India has ordered a ban on the employment of children under the age of 14 years as domestic servants or servants in roadside eateries, restaurants, hotels, motels, teashops, resorts or in other recreational centres. The law came into force in October 2006. (Editor's note)

When God created Man and Woman, he was thinking, ‘Who shall I give the power to, to give birth to the next human being?’ And God chose woman.

Malala Yousafzai