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» Child Labor Project
» NPR/About Josimene
» The Foyer Maurice Sixto
» The Restavec Foundation
» National Coalition for Haitian Rights
» Beyond Borders

Haiti Unmasked

Haiti, the first free African republic in the western hemisphere, won its independence from French Colonial slavery in 1804. 200 years later Haiti is plagued by civil unrest and dire poverty. Its rich culture is disabled by an adult literacy rate of 50% and a primary school enrollment of 54%, leaving Haitian children largely unprepared for adult life. In Port-au-Prince, Haiti's troubled capital, 300,000 children are condemned to domestic servitude. This desperate system of indentured servitude is deeply rooted in Haiti and used by a distressed society attempting to cope with its most vulnerable – abandoned, orphaned or impoverished children. Children leave their destitute families or ill-fated situations, to go work for a host family, hoping for a better future. Tragically, they are instead exploited with unpaid 18-hour workdays, neglect, abuse and a denied childhood.

In January, 2005, documentary photographer Gigi Cohen worked with 12 children from the Foyer Maurice Sixto, a school for child domestic workers, located in Carrefour, south of Port-au-Prince. Under her guidance, these children documented their home lives, self-portraits and the yearly celebration of Carnival.

The images were presented in an exhibition in Jacmel during Carnival 2006, where the children and their work were celebrated by their community. The work also premiered in New York in 2007 and will return to Haiti's capital next year.

Through the exhibition of this work, Cohen hopes that the greater community will "see themselves through the children's photographs. These impressive images mirror Haiti, beyond its sadness, bravely showing beauty, creativity and joy. I hope these images will influence the idea that children should not guarantee labor, even in the face of misery and absolute poverty."

For more information about this project, please contact gigicohen1@gmail.com.