Creuza Maria Oliveira (1957) became a domestic worker at age ten. Her first payment, which was worthless, came at 15. As thousands of Brazilian children, she increased the child labor statistics. As not many of them were able to do, she changed her life. President of the National Federation of Domestic Workers (Fenatrad), she is currently a national role model in the fight for the rights of her working class, for racial equality and for the elimination of child domestic labor.
In Brazil, half a million kids and teenagers between 5 and 18 years old are domestic workers. They have to leave their toys and books behind, in order to support themselves. Creuza Maria Oliveira is the portrait of something that still happens all over Brazil. At age ten, she exchanged her childhood for never-ending working hours. “A lot of girls leave school, move out of their families' house, and lose touch with children of their age and social class. As they grow up, their only role model is their employer.” Creuza used to live in the countryside in the hinterland of Bahia. There was not enough food for everyone. Her mother sent her to the city. She used to cook, clean and do the laundry seven days a week. This lonely life lasted until she was 26, when she found out, through a radio show, that domestic workers were meeting to discuss their rights. In 1985, along with her colleagues, she created an association. They joined leaderships from other states and managed to include domestic worker's rights in the new 1988 Brazilian Constitution. She founded the Union of Domestic Workers of Bahia and she also founded the National Federation of Domestic Workers (Fenatrad), presided by her. Creuza attends meetings throughout the country and abroad. She has regained her self-esteem and always has a beautiful smile on her face. She is the reason for eight million Brazilian domestic workers to be proud. She uses her history to fight against child domestic labor. She tries to increase the awareness of politicians and society regarding the situation and gives classes to young domestic workers. She teaches them their rights as citizens. And, on top of all that, she tells them to love themselves as Afro-Brazilian women and competent professionals.
Federação Nacional das Trabalhadoras Domésticas (President of the National Federation of Domestic Workers)