Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Haiti radio soap opera raising awareness about child slaves

SHELBURNE, VT – When Christina Guérin was a child, she decided she didn’t want a career in radio soap operas. As a young girl, she spent many days and nights in a Haiti radio studio watching her mother work long hours. In September of 2013, Population Media Center launched a new radio soap opera in Haiti addressing child slavery, reproductive health, and family planning. Now, Guérin once again finds herself in the throes of a radio serial drama, but this time she’s the producer.

“It’s something that I enjoy,” Guérin says laughingly. “I had to admit that. Plus, I realized that my mother was doing everything. We have six people doing what she did.”

It was Guérin’s work in a radio station that brought about the existence of “Zoukoutap” (to limp), PMC’s serial drama in Haitian Creole. In her late 20s, Guérin unexpectedly found herself face-to-face with an important issue: child slavery. In Haiti, young children are sent to work in another household when their family is unable to provide for them. This places young children in the role of servant, with no regard for their education, well-being, or happiness. Guérin says that everyone knows restevek children are part of their society, but not enough people are talking about it.

“I was working at a radio station,” she says, “when a young girl was brought in. We were going to announce her name over the radio to find her family, but she didn’t want to. She was a restavek and didn’t want to return to her life. It was a real surprise to me. I knew this existed, but I didn’t know it was so close to my everyday life.”

Guérin helped get that young girl to a shelter, just one of roughly 300,000 children caught up in the restavek system. Guérin realized that she wanted to help address this issue – the question was how.

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