Josefa Condori Quispe left her small village in Peru at age 9 to work as a maid in Lima. After spending much of her life as a house slave, she managed to get an education and escape domestic servitude. She founded Yanapanakusun to fight the root causes of slavery, and she runs a shelter for young slavery survivors.
My name is Josefa Condori. As a child, I was a domestic worker. When I was a child, in the community where I lived, there weren't educational opportunities, nor access to hospitals, or other things needed in the life of a girl.
When I visit a rural community far away from Cuzco, I often feel that I am reliving my own experience. Conditions aren't as they should be. Conditions are different in other parts of the world. The day I left my community, it was a day full of sun. You could say that I was full delusions. There was the emotion of leaving, but also the emotion of leaving my family and my commmunity. It was sad but also exciting. I had heard wonderful things about the city - that I would get educated, I would live better, I would have shoes - we didn't have shoes.
My mother told me "you have to go" because my father had died and she couldn't support us. There were three of us. I was 9 years old, and she couldn't support us. A girl domestic worker in a house must wash dishes, wash the clothes, or take care of another child when she is a child herself. If the girl is hit or falls, you also get hurt. It was not the Lima I had dreamed about. I felt asphyxiated there.
I was wondering why I couldn't go to school because the children of the family I worked for went to school. I saw that they left and they had their lunchboxes, but not me. So I said, "I want to go to school." The years went by and at the age of 16, I met an association of domestic workers that supported young girls, and they told me to come, so I went.
In the Yanapanakusun shelter when a girl or an adolescent enters, we try to give them comprehensive care - tools for their life - so that they can standup for themselves. I would say that it isn't always about changing their work, but if they want to change that is fine. I hope that someday, domestic work is like any other job, but it should be work that is respected, valued, and paid fairly. The older youth are being trained as kitchen helpers, to make drinks, housekeeping. Because many also want to be nurses, teachers - the girls have dreams. We help them group their dreams - first I can do this, and then I can dream something else. Something technical for the medium term, that I can start doing quickly, and then continue dreaming.
As told to Free the Slaves