Children Serving Children
: Exploring relations between child domestic workers and the children of employing families in Mwanza, Tanzania

  • Jonathan David Blagbrough

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    In the Majority World context of Tanzania, child domestic workers, the large majority of whom are female and ‘live in’, are distinctively characterised by complex and ambiguous relations with employing families, situations which are often motivated and made acceptable by notions of kinship, community obligation and reciprocity. Up to now, evidence has emphasised the household conditions of these child workers, the causal factors underpinning their situation and the challenges they face in the urban environments where most end up. By contrast, the perspectives of children from employing families and their household relations with child domestic workers are far less understood, as are the compounding effects of their intra-generational hierarchies on the ebb and flow of power within and between the generations. The study is based on research in Mwanza (north-western Tanzania) combining creative visual techniques, individual interviews and group discussions conducted with around 50 children and young people from both sides of the ‘serving-served’ relationship, as well as insight from former child domestic workers and children of employers. Co-reflexive engagement with the research population was undertaken through a 20-strong local advisory group of young people which informed the research process – from tool development to sense-checking of findings and in analysis. Utilising a variety of concepts including friendship and relations of care, the research has lifted the lid on employing household relations from the perspectives of the children living within them – including for the first time with children of employers. Despite deep socio-economic divides, results illuminate the interdependent and power-laden relationships between child domestic workers and the children of employers, their ‘not-quite-friendships’ and their active influence on each other’s lived experience both as children and into adulthood. In doing so, the research paves the way for a wider – more relational – understanding of the practice of child domestic work.
    Date of Award2020
    Original languageEnglish
    SponsorsEconomic and Social Research Council, UK
    SupervisorLorraine van Blerk (Supervisor) & Edward Hall (Supervisor)

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