EXPLOITATION OR EMPOWERMENT? ADOLESCENT FEMALE DOMESTIC WORKERS IN UGANDA
Women’s participation in public employment spaces has emerged with new modes of domestic gender hierarchies, especially in the Global South. A new direction in child labor, especially in the domestic sphere, negatively affects female children. Drawing from a larger study that examined the experiences of employers and employees in domestic spaces, this article examines experiences of live-in adolescent female domestic workers, commonly referred to as “house girls”, in Kampala, Uganda. Data were collected using qualitative methods that included individual interviews and life stories. Study findings reveal competing narratives pointing to both empowerment and exploitation of house girls. Using a feminist intersectional approach, I focus on gender, age, and location to trace the opportunities, challenges, and agency of the house girls. Using the household as the basic unit of analysis, I foreground the voices of house girls as they tell their lived experiences and survival strategies. My central argument is that domestic workers make a crucial contribution to the effective participation of women working outside the home. I conclude that sustainable empowerment of workers, both domestic and outside the home, hinges upon changes and transformations at the household level.
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