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28 October 2014

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You are in: London > London Local > Newham > Your Stories > "I was a child slave"

Debra Chidakwa

Debra Chidakwa

"I was a child slave"

Debra Chidakwa was a slave in Zimbabwe from the age of nine. Her harrowing story illustrates that slavery is still a fact of life in some parts of the world, including London

Debra Chidakwa suffered a horrifying childhood as a slave in Zimbabwe during the 1970s.

From the age of nine she was sent by her parents to work for as a childminder for another family. But she unwittingly entered a world of servitude and regular physical, mental and sexual abuse, trapped in her new home by her ‘masters’.

"I was already a woman before I was a child," says Debra.

Similar to many young children who are forced to work as childminders and servants in parts of the developing world, Debra was forced to work long hours, taking care of a young baby as well cleaning and fetching water for the family she lived with.

When she finally escaped, she ended up working as a servant for another family under similar conditions.

"Even in London there are people who are forced to work in terrible conditions because they have no other choice"


Two decades later, Debra’s experience is still echoed by millions of children worldwide.

According to the International Labour Organisation, in 2002 there were 179 million children worldwide involved in the worst forms of child labour, and that more than 8 million of these were trapped in “unconditional” types of labour including trafficking, debt bondage and slavery.

A lifetime of abuse

In her teens, after a childhood of slavery, Debra joined black nationalists in the Zimbabwean war against the white minority government.

As a female fighter, she once more became a victim of abuse. Again, her experience is not isolated. Anti-slavery International estimates that there are 300,000 child soldiers today fighting in 30 conflicts across the world.

"The world is not as rosy as people believe. For poor people slavery has not ended, and young people are being exploited across Africa and the rest of the world," says Debra.

Debra says that many young people are routinely trafficked into the UK, where they are forced to work as house servants.

When their visas to return home expire, this allows the families they work for to subject them to abuse behind closed doors, because there are no longer any means for them to escape.

Debra Chidakwa's book

Debra's latest book

"Even in London there are people who are forced to work in terrible conditions because they have no other choice," she adds.

Victory over adversity

Debra has managed to overcome the battles she faced growing up. In her early twenties she managed to escape a cycle of abuse in Zimbabwe and built a new life for herself and her children in London.

She is now a successful author and a law student at the University of East London.

Her most recent book, “This is my story and this is my song” is available through Arima Publishing. "The book is full of passion, anger, bitterness, fear, horror and it is full of love," she writes.

To watch Angela’s interview with Debra Chidakwa click on the link at the top right of this page.

last updated: 01/01/2008 at 17:33
created: 21/03/2007

You are in: London > London Local > Newham > Your Stories > "I was a child slave"

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