Mali: Fundamental rights for underage and often exploited domestic workers



Project region: Bamako, Mali

Duration: January 1, 2016 - December 31, 2018

Local partner: GRADEM




For most unmarried girls from the project regions Ségou and Koulikoro, working as domestic worker in a city is the only opportunity to earn money for their dowry or to financially support their families. So many girls leave their villages for Bamako, many of them are only 12 years old.


Most of the households in Bamako occupy at least one domestic worker, mostly a young girl. In the households, these girls often have to work under precarious conditions. Basic employment rights, like the right to regular working hours or the right to social security, are often refused. Furthermore, it is not common for them to have a day off per week, let alone vacation.

The economic exploitation of these girls goes hand in hand with sexual abuse or violence in about 50% of the cases. Without a social community and without knowledge about their fundamental rights, they often don’t know, how to defend themselves. If they are expecting a baby, they usually lose their occupation and do not know, where to turn to for support.

Project Objectives and Target Groups


Girls, who leave their home town to find an occupation in the cities, shall be informed about the risks, accompanied, educated and protected.


A particular focus is set on the respect of the Convention 189 of the International Labour Organization (ILO) about humane working conditions of domestic workers.

In particular, 240 girls (from the age of 15) working in households in Bamako shall:

  • receive basic education for their work in the domestic sector,
  • live under conditions, where their rights as employees are respected,
  • know how to defend themselves against violations of their rights.

The girls should, on one hand, be prepared for their (future) occupation as domestic workers and be equipped with the necessary knowledge and experience. This is the only way for them to fulfill their work as pleased, which will then put them into a position to demand appropriate payment. On the other hand, the girls will be informed about their rights and duties as employees.

The basic education, the information about rights and duties and the introduction of possibilities to exchange experiences put the girls into the position to improve their own working and living conditions as well as those of their peers.


Additionally, 250 girls under the age of 15 shall be reintegrated into their families and into school education as they have not reached the minimum age of working, yet and have to be protected from exploitation and overstrain.


1.200 girls particularly at risk of economic exploitation know their rights, how to defend themselves and where to find help.

Project Activities


In cooperation with our local partner GRADEM, we offer pregnant girls and underage mothers a safe shelter in our center for the protection of children, called “Bamunan - Hope and Life”. We accompany the girls during the pregnancy and birth with medically and psycho-socially and offer classes on infant care, hygene, reproductive health, basic reading and calculating, children's and women's rights as well as rights as an employee. Girls in this center further have the possibility to take classes on domestic work or do an apprenticeship as tailors or learn how to produce soap in order to be able to offer qualified work and demand regular pay and humane treatment.


We offer legal advice to exploited and/or abused girls and help young mothers with obtaining a birth certificate for their children - a predisposition for school attendance, taking exams or gaining access to fundamental civil rights.


On legal and political level, our aim is to establish a protective environment based on a legal framework, that meets internationally accepted standards with respect to labor protection and children’s rights. In this sense, we collect legal texts of Mali protecting children’s and employment rights and spread them via awareness-raising campaigns and radio broadcasts. State representatives (lawyers, deputies, ministers etc.) are being trained in children's rights and are being mobilized to become involved in the protection of underage workers.


At the same time, our project in the regions of origin aims at enhancing work and education opportunities for girls in rural regions, so that they are not forced to migrate to the cities and work under exploitative conditions.



Project costs: 848,335 €


Financial Partners:

  • European Commission
  • German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
  • Globus-Stiftung
  • Kinderrechte Afrika e.V. (donations)

Koné's Story

Koné originally comes from the region of Ségou and had to leave school after just four years, as her parents couldn’t afford her school fees. Koné tells her story:


“My parents entrusted me to my aunt, who lives in Bamako, two years ago. There, I had an occupation as a domestic worker. At the farm, where my aunt lives, there are many other tenants. One night, I got to meet the landlord’s brother. He showed me some music on his mobile phone. Another night, he told me he loved me. He wanted me to come with him. I refused, and my aunt protected me very well. But, one time, I gave way to his request. Three days later I felt sick. My aunt took me to the hospital and told me that I was pregnant. My aunt invited the father-to-be to her home so that we could have a talk. He ignored her. Then, she called the police for help. They cited him to the police station and took him into custody. But he then got released. I think that he returned to his home town. I was lucky in an unlucky situation: somebody told me about the establishment for the protection of children called “Bamunan”. There, I received help.”


Koné received medical and psychosocial treatment after she arrived at Bamunan. The necessary provisional examinations were held and she gave unproblematic birth to her baby. The social workers of the establishment found out about the residence of the baby’s father and he agreed to acknowledge the paternity. This made it possible for the baby to receive a completed birth certificate. Its young mother participated in a literacy class, in mother-child-care courses and in cooking and sewing lessons. After she had learned the basics, she decided to start an apprenticeship to become a tailor. There, she learned to create easy, fashionable clothing. Now, she has a regular income and can take care of her own child. Her parents put up with the fact that her daughter was now a mother herself, and decided to take her in again.

Cover photo: Demonstration of underage domestic workers for better working conditions in Bamako. Children have the right to freedom of expression, Art. 13 UN-CRC, and the right to an appropriate standard of living, Art. 27 UN-CRC.


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