Case study 6 - Seba (France, 1996)

Domestic slavery

Millions of women and children are trapped in domestic labour around the world, working for long hours for little pay, and they are often treated very cruelly. Many of them are girls aged between 12 and 17 but some are as young as eight.

Seba (France, 1996)

Read information about France and Mali.

When she was eight, Seba left her home country of Mali, in West Africa, for France. A couple took her with them to Paris, after promising her parents that they would educate and care for her in return for work as a nanny. But Seba was enslaved as a household servant, beaten, tortured, and forced to do domestic chores. After hearing the sounds of abuse and beating, a neighbour called the police and contacted the French Committee against Modern Slavery (CCEM), and she was freed.

Seba's story

When I came to Paris I had to work every day in the house. I did all the work; I cleaned the house, cooked the meals, cared for the children, and washed and fed the baby. Every day I started work before 7am and finished about 11pm. I never had a day off. My mistress did nothing. She slept late and then watched television or went out.

One day I told her that I wanted to go to school. She replied that she had not brought me to France to go to school but to take care of her children. I was so tired and run down. I had problems with my teeth. Sometimes my cheek would swell and the pain would be terrible. Sometimes I had stomach aches, but I still had to work. Sometimes when was in pain I would cry, but my mistress would shout at me.

I slept on the floor in one of the children's bedrooms; my food was their leftovers. If I took food from the refrigerator she would beat me with the broom, with kitchen tools, or whip me with an electric cable. Sometimes I would bleed; I still have marks on my body.

Once I was late going to get the children from school; my mistress and her husband were furious with me and beat me, and then threw me out on the street. I had nowhere to go, I didn't understand anything, and I wandered on the streets. After some time her husband found me and took me back to their house. Then they beat me again with a wire attached to a broomstick until I lost consciousness.

Some time later one of the children came and untied me. I lay on the floor where they had left me for several days. The pain was terrible but no one treated my wounds. When I was able to stand I had to start work again, but after this I was always locked in the apartment.

Questions and discussion points

  • What do you think was the worst aspect of how Seba was treated?
  • Why do you think she wanted to go to school so badly?
  • Why do you think they just fed her leftovers?
  • What would you have done in Seba's situation?
  • What would you like to ask or say to Seba?


Back to case studies