Child servants a blot on Haiti's abolitionist past
The children are often seen going about their daily chores in the capital: carrying buckets of water on their heads or shopping at the market, lugging charcoal and firewood.
UNUSUAL WEDDING GIFT
The restavek system is driven by a combination of long-standing economic and social problems in Haiti, from widespread poverty and high unemployment to a lack of family planning and health care in rural areas.
Campaigners say the failure of the Haitian authorities to focus on the rights of children or enforce existing laws against child labour is a big contributor.
The government protests it is addressing the restavek problem by helping rural women and promoting free education.
"The government believes the best way to fight this problem is to empower poor mothers living in rural areas and to help those mothers so they don't have to give their children away," said Guy Delva, secretary of state for communications for the government of President Michel Martelly.
Initiatives include food aid and small loans to mothers as part of a $125-million-a- ear state-funded programme, and a government drive to provide free education and school meals to all Haitian children.
But the restavek tradition could not exist if it was not accepted, or at least tolerated, in Haitian culture. It is not uncommon for high society brides to ask for a little person - "ti moun" in Creole - for a wedding present.
"Some families believe they're doing their restavek children
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