Zara had accepted her fate for what it was: a life condemned to manual labour and to eating the crumbs left by her master’s children when she washed the dishes they used for their meals.
She was the house maid and delivery girl, running daily from one urgent errand to the next as if her life depended on it. Although sometimes it did, as the lady of the house usually beat her up if she missed any chores and also if she finished late.
Zara’s life consisted of pain and loss. How was a 13-year-old supposed to cope with all the emotional and physical stress she had to deal with, coupled with the traumatising way her parents died, which had come as a shock to Zara because that morning she had waved goodbye to them as she boarded the school bus, only to come home to see her house in ashes and the news that her parents had died in the gas explosion.
Everyone thought it was right that her mother’s sister took her in and looked after her as her only relative, but moving to another town with her aunt was the beginning of the new horror series that was to become her life, a life she would not wish on anyone, not even her class bully who teased her non-stop for being an overachiever.
It wasn’t until three months after the move that her aunt revealed her true self when she began to openly show her dislike for Zara, but well, Zara wasn’t of her bloodline and didn’t deserve any motherly love from her, nor was she obligated to take care of a child, family ties or not. She kept putting off enrolment in a school, telling Zara she had big plans for her.
Eventually Aunty Didi sent Zara to live with a wealthy woman in town who ran a bakery, with the promise of a better life, but that turned out to be a fairy tale, because the life Zara was thrust into was one she could never have imagined. Being a maid and running errands only covered the basics of her job description.
When Zara thought of her life in the present, she mostly thought that life in an orphanage would be better than this, at least she would go to school and be well fed and not look like a shell of her former self like she does now.
Child labour is one of the issues that needs more attention as more and more children are sent to the labour market from a young age where they are forced to do menial jobs to support themselves. These children have either lost their families or are sent into such a lifestyle by their impoverished families, stealing their childhood and destroying their life chances through jobs that crush them mentally and emotionally.
Statistics from the International Labour Organisation show that almost half of all child labour (72.1 million children) is found in Africa; 62.1 million children work in Asia and the Pacific; 10.7 million children in the Americas; 1.2 million children in the Middle East and 5.5 million children in Europe and Central Asia – all staggering figures that show the dire state of affairs and the need for action against such workers. At this rate, even more children will lose their childhood to forced child labour, especially those forced into military service.
While we play our role by highlighting the negativity, there is still work to be done to fight those responsible for this evil act and punish them with the law.