Negotiating Change: Working with Children and their Employers to Transform Child Domestic Work in Iringa, Tanzania

This paper documents the practical and action-oriented findings of an investigation into child domestic work undertaken in Iringa, Tanzania from 2005 to 2007. It provides an overview of the experiences of both child domestic workers and their employers, before discussing their suggestions for how child domestic working arrangements may be improved. The latter sections of the paper relate the attempts to regulate child domestic work that emerged from such dialogue. In providing detailed information on that process, the paper is positioned within the field of action research and resists the boundary frequently applied between academia and activism.

It also moves beyond the tendency – observed in many existing studies of child (domestic) work – to document problems without proposing solutions. The regulatory focus of the project is theoretically supported by a social constructionist reading of the situation facing (child) domestic workers in Iringa (and elsewhere). Domestic workers have been discursively constructed as ‘one of the family’ rather than employees. This paper posits that the exploitation of child domestic workers relies on such constructions, and that improved regulation of this employment sector may offer an opportunity to discursively and tangibly reconstruct child domestic work as ‘real work’. Although formulated in the Tanzanian context, the recommendations are of broader geographical relevance.