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In the early 1650s, a young Khoi girl named Krotoa was taken into servitude by Jan van Riebeeck. Krotoa was the forerunner to millions of black women who have worked in white households and on white farms in the centuries since, separated from their own children and supporting, as breadwinners, hundreds of thousands of households across Southern Africa.

We often forget that the intertwined institutions of farm work and domestic work have their origins in the enslavement of indigenous people. During our country’s colonisation, and subsequently during apartheid’s cheap-wage labour regime, black women toiled under abusive conditions in white households and on white farms...

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