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February 26 2014

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February 19 2014

February 11 2014

South Korean Film About Samsung Worker's Death Slowly Winning Over Moviegoers

A film about the tragic death of a Samsung worker is slowly gaining traction in South Korea, the birthplace of electronics giant Samsung and a country notoriously nicknamed “The Republic of Samsung“ for the corporation's enormous power and influence there. 

“Another Promise” faced many hurdles from the very beginning. According to an extensive interview with local media [ko], the director recalls getting countless rejections from investors and production houses, adding that without the help of many generous citizens, the movie would not have been possible.

Poster Image of movie Another Promise, Fair Use Image

Poster for the film “Another Promise.” Fair use.

The film, which depends entirely on crowdfunding and small, private donations, tell the story of a Samsung worker who died from acute leukemia and her father's draining legal battle with the corporation as he struggled to prove that disease was linked with the company's harsh and unsafe working conditions. A series of legal fights continue between Samsung and labor groups who allege that employees suffering from leukemia and other rare diseases contracted them because of working at the company's factories.

Amid rising suspicions [ko] that some multiplex theaters are too afraid to expand the number of screens showing the movie even without pressure from Samsung, the movie seems to have deeply touched and inspired moviegoers, many of whom took their reviews to Twitter and popular South Korean online venues, encouraging other users [ko] to see the movie. 

After his daughter died in the back seat of his own taxi, the father calls the labor attorney and says, “Yumi has just passed away. There is no one around I can tell this.” No one to complain to, no one willing to take their side. There are over 58 cases of similar deaths. Watching this movie is listening to those voices.

It's my second time watching the movie. Since it is so realistic, it almost felt like watching a documentary, especially since I witnessed that particular scene with my very own eyes – where people blocked with the bus. But back then, I merely found that people's cries coming from inside were just bit too noisy. Why did I not take interest in what was going on in this society back then?

After watching a romantic film, people wish it would happen in their real life. However, after watching movies depicting ugly facts of reality, they wish to keep them where they were, as something that exists only on the screen. But actually, when these responses are reversed, people can bring positive changes to the real world. “Another Promise” is a reality which needs to be changed outside a movie theater.

Many of the comments were about the seemingly unfair treatment that the movie is getting – less active promotion by distributors and not many screens are showing the film. People also mentioned that the title of the movie, “Another Promise”, is a satirical use of Samsung’s famous advertising slogan “Another Family”. 

That ad slogan “Another Family” – they would have never imagine this would come back to bite them like a boomerang. I really hope they pay the full price for taking advantage of their “family” in the ad without really taking responsibility for the customers, labor workers and victims.

With members of my group “Power to the People”, I watched the movie “Another Promise”. I've tried to take a confirmation photo proving that we watched it, but there was no movie poster displayed inside the theater, and not even one banner stand. And they say the movie is screened only twice a day. What a pathetic situation. 

February 08 2014

Legalizing And Regulating The Sex workers in Sri Lanka

Shilpa Samaratunge, a development worker, discusses in Groundviews about the problems surrounding the sex workers in Sri Lanka. Instead of abolishing and criminalizing them, which is the path Sri Lanka currently is on, she suggests to legalize the profession and impose regulation and provide health-services for the sex workers.

February 06 2014

Pay Hike Ends Garbage Strike in Cambodia

Trash piled up for three days in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, as hundreds of garbage collectors went on strike to demand a pay hike and better working conditions. The strike ended on Wednesday, February 5, when workers agreed to a slight pay hike.

More than 400 garbage workers of the Cintri company refused to work last Sunday to protest their monthly salary of 65 US Dollars. They vowed to dance until their demands are met such as a $150 monthly pay, health bonus, and overtime pay during weekends.

Cintri, a subsidiary of the Canadian Firm Cintec, signed a 50-year exclusive contract in 2002 to collect Phnom Penh’s trash.

Initially, the management agreed to a slight salary hike:

Cintri management agreed to raise the basic monthly salary for general staff from $65 to $80, and from $70.5 to $95 for daytime waste collectors. Nighttime waste collectors were offered a salary increase from $97.5 to $110, and daytime garbage truck drivers were offered an increase from $110 to $120, and from $120 to $135 for nightshift drivers.

But workers rejected the package. After several negotiations, and after several days of mounting trash in the city, both parties came to an agreement. Street cleaners will now get $90 per month and truck drivers will receive $130. In addition, a health care center will be funded by the company. The uniform fee charged against employees will be scrapped too.

During the brief garbage strike, Phnom Penh residents complained of stink coming from the uncollected trash in the streets. Below are some reactions on Twitter:

The launching of Cambodia's first public bus was not enthusiastically reported because it coincided with the strike

After the end of the strike, garbage workers started collecting trash in the streets

The garbage strike came right after the government violently dispersed a strike by garment workers who have been demanding a $160 monthly minimum wage. It was feared that the garbage strike will be dispersed as well because of the increasing presence of military and police forces in the city.

*Thumbnail is from @LTO_cambodia

February 05 2014

Fighting the Poor Instead of Poverty in Angola

In a move aimed primarily at improving the image of Luanda, Angola's capital and largest city, the government of this Southern African country announced a controversial measure: from now on, it would be illegal to engage in street trading in Luanda. Buyers as well as sellers would be fined.

Street sellers have been a way of life in Luanda since colonial times [pt], and there are several songs from well-known national musicians that celebrate this particular part of the culture. These men and women sell just about anything and everything on the streets.

Angola is currently one of Africa's strongest economies and is enjoying new-found wealth coming primarily from its oil industry. However, the wealth does not trickle down to the great majority of Angolans, and the country has maintained one of the worst social inequality levels in the world.

“Fruits vendor on a street near the Alvalade Hotel (Average price per room per night 450 US dollars). You can't find a decent hotel room in Luanda for less than 400 US dollars/night. A basic lunch in a decent restaurant (Just one course meal and a bottle of still water) will cost you about 75. The poor are finding harder and harder to manage to survive here.” Photo and caption by Ionut Sendroiu copyright Demotix (8 October 2010)

The Governor of Luanda Fights Street Vendors” [pt] was the title of one of the most liked and shared posts last week by Mana Mingota (Sister Mingota, in English), one of Angola's most popular Facebook pages. A fictitious character, almost no one knows who is behind it. Yet the page, which posts advice, humor, and commentary about a diverse range of subjects that appeal to the country's younger, Internet-active generation, has nearly 76,500 fans – more than most well-known brands and celebrities in Angola.

The post reads:

Tantos problemas para combater, água, luz, saneamento básico, emprego para os jovens, falta de casa, comida cara, prostituição legalizada, venda de bebidas a menores de idade, consumo exagerado de álcool pela população, acidentes de viação, falsificação de documentos, burocracia na emissão de documentos, propinas elevadas das universidades privadas, gasosas nos polícias, corrupção nas escolas, mau atendimento das repartições públicas, ene problemas, e a sua excelência senhor governador está com todas flechas apontadas para as zungueiras que com sacrifício tentam ganhar a vida para alimentar famílias e colocar os filhos na escola para não virarem delinquentes. Sinceramente muitos aqui pensam ao contrário!!!

So many problems to resolve – water, electricity, basic sanitation, employment for the youth, lack of housing, expensive food, legalized prostitution, the sale of alcohol to underage kids, an exaggerated consumption of alcohol in our society, motor vehicle accidents, document falsification, bureaucracy in the emission of new documents, high cost of education in private universities, police corruption, corruption in schools, horrible public service, so many problems and his Excellency the governor has all guns pointed at the street vendors who make many sacrifices and are just trying to earn some money so that they can feed their families and put their kids through school so that they don't turn into criminals. Seriously, a lot of people here think backwards!!!

The banning of street traders – or zungueiras, as they are locally known – appears to be part of a larger effort to hide Luanda's poor and dump them in the city's outskirts. Out of sight and out of mind, if you will. Besides zungueiras, inhabitants of Luanda's sizeable slums are also frequently awakened by the sound of bulldozers razing their homes to the grounds without prior warning, and then they are taken on buses to land without basic livable conditions.

“For most of the inhabitants, the skyscrapers of Luanda mean nothing but a background.” Photo and caption by Ionut Sendroiu copyright Demotix (8 October 2010)

Due to a variety of factors including a prolonged civil war and notoriously low investment in education, the majority of Angola's workforce is unskilled and over a quarter are unemployed.

According to the recently released “Bertelsmann Stiftung, BTI 2014 Angola Country Report“ [pdf], which covers transformation towards democracy and market economy in 129 countries:

[...] the population in [Angola's] cities often depends on informal commerce to make ends meet. This is especially the case in the capital Luanda, where an estimated one-third of the population lives, and which is alone responsible for 75% of GDP production.

Zungueiras. Photo shared by the blog O Patifúndio under a Creative Commons license (BY-NC-ND)

Zungueiras. Photo shared by the blog O Patifúndio under a Creative Commons license (BY-NC-ND)

The same report states that 70 percent of the informal workforce is made up of women. Invariably, the government's latest policy will adversely impact women, who are the most vulnerable in these sorts of cases. And it didn't take long. The anti-corruption watchdog Maka Angola recently reported that nearly 50 women, children and men were detained, some for three days, in the same cell in a Luanda police station for being caught selling goods on the street.

But this is nothing new. As Louise Redvers states in an article published last week examining this same issue on the website of Open Society Initiative for South Africa:

[...] worse still, these women are regularly abused by exploitative police officers and government inspection teams, who beat them, steal or damage their goods and subject them to bribes. You can read more about the scale of this horrific abuse – and the seeming impunity of the officials involved – in this damning Human Rights Watch report released last September.

Popular reaction to the government's latest measure has been one of incredulity mixed with widespread condemnation, but it's important to note that not everyone thinks this way. Many have applauded the government's decision, saying that street selling was getting out of hand and that it was detrimental to the city's image. And I've seen how zungueiras can turn any empty patch of concrete or asphalt into an unsanitary open-air market.

But as Angolan rapper MCK sings:

em vez de combater a pobreza estão a combater os pobres.

Instead of fighting poverty they are fighting the poor.

Street selling is not the problem – rather, it is the effect of a much larger issue, which is the government's inability to address the massive gap between the haves and the have-nots. It is the government's inability to address poverty despite the huge oil riches that the wealthiest Angolans are enjoying. And it is their mistaken belief that the way to deal with poverty is by hiding it.

“Commercial street in Luanda.” Photo by Ionut Sendroiu copyright Demotix (31 October 2010)

A quote in Louise Redvers’ piece cited above is particularly eye opening:

I remember very clearly one very well-dressed and expensively US-educated Angolan oil worker telling me: “We can’t have these people on our streets anymore, not in the city centre next to places like Sonangol. We need to improve our image, we are a modern country, these people can’t be here like this.”

Angola is a country where the National Registry is closed for four days because there's no “system” (read: intranet). Where a routine Western Union or Moneygram transfer can take several trips and several hours. Where there is no reliable water or electricity distribution. Where the government is incapable of providing even the most basic services to its population. Where the government spends only a small fraction of its budget on health and education, amongst the lowest figures in Africa. Where corruption is a way of life and where the government has forgotten its promise from independence that the most important thing to do was to resolve the people's problems.

The zungueiras and the country's poorest will continue to bear the brunt of this image-conscious makeover until more serious policies aimed at reducing poverty and giving the poor another option to sustain themselves are enacted.

Also read Clara Onofre's post on Global Voices (2008): Angola: Hawkers face a hard life with dignity and courage

January 31 2014

Iran: Several Miners Arrested

Iran's Anarchist Workers’ Facebook page reports that several striking miners got arrested in Yazd province.Iran's students tweeted

January 29 2014

Putting Faces on the Mysterious Disease Killing Nicaraguan Sugar Cane Workers

Photo by Ed Kashi, used with permission.

Photo by Ed Kashi. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

An epidemic of fatal Chronic Kidney Disease (CKDu) is killing sugar cane workers at alarming rates in Nicaragua, and photojournalist Ed Kashi has set out to document their stories to “draw attention and resources that could help save lives.”

Kashi explains in his Indie Voices funding campaign:

We’re infatuated with sugar. But where does our beloved sweetener come from? and who tended the crops? More importantly, how does sugar affect them?

In Nicaragua, which exports 40% of its sugar to America, the average life span of men who harvest sugar cane is 49 years. At the root of these early deaths is an epidemic of fatal Chronic Kidney Disease (CKDu). In the town Chichigalpa, often called the “Island of Widows,” 1-in-3 men, mostly cane workers, are in end-stage renal failure. This fatal disease is not only a public health crisis, but also a social injustice. The cause of this epidemic is unknown, which is why we are launching this documentary project.

Photo by Ed Kashi. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Photo by Ed Kashi. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

The New York Times recently featured Kashi's photographs in their blog LENS. In a post about the project, David Gonzalez writes:

What he encountered when he arrived in Nicaragua was troubling: There were daily funerals and increasing evidence that younger workers were falling ill. A former Sandinista commander who had spent the last 20 years in the cane fields died a month after Mr. Kashi photographed him. Mr. Kashi also learned how the kidney condition was killing workers in parts of India and Sri Lanka, where large-scale mechanization had yet to be introduced.

Gonzalez concludes by quoting Kashi about his goal for this project:

“How do we use visual storytelling to not only tell the tough stories but also offer some amount of light?” he said. “That’s why in my practice my goal now is to humanize and maintain the dignity of my subjects and open people’s eyes so they will at least learn, and maybe also take action.”

Photo by Ed Kashi. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Photo by Ed Kashi. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Kashi wants to return to Nicaragua to capture more videos and photographs in order to “generate education, support, and community awareness.”

Ultimately this material could be utilized in local information and outreach programs to address problems confronting the workers and their families, to stimulate conversation within Nicaragua, to facilitate the development of community-lead solutions, and to expand the network of people willing to take a stand.

Worldwide print and digital media outlets would draw on the work to raise awareness of this growing health issue in an industry whose product is consumed by nearly everyone on earth: sugar. Furthermore, I will make my work (images and film) available to La Isla Foundation, and any other advocates working to raise awareness of the issue, support affected families and eliminate this growing work place hazard.

You can see more of Kashi's photographs and contribute to his campaign for the documentary project “The Island of Widows” on Indie Voices. You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

To learn more about this disease, visit this video post where we feature the work of another photojournalist, Esteban Félix from the Associated Press, who received the Gabriel García Marquez Prize for Journalism [es] for documenting this disease affecting Central American sugar cane workers.

Double Standards Toward Women in Corporate Japan Are a Joke

Photo of Japanese male employee and female employee working in office, discussing plans. Rroyalty free photo

Photo of a Japanese male employee and female employee working in office, discussing plans. Royalty free photo

A Tumblr post [ja] illustrating double standards in attitudes towards women in corporate Japan has been widely shared on social media among users:






If a boss asks him for lunch, they say he is getting promoted soon.
If a boss asks her for lunch, they say she is a lover.

If he talks with his colleagues, they ask what he is discussing.
If she talks with her colleagues, they say she's chatting again.

If he decides marry, they say to him “now you can settle down to work”.
If she decides marry, they say to her “when will you resign?” 

If he has overseas business trip, they will say to him, “it'll be a good experience, go for it”.
If she has overseas business trip, they will say to her, “are you leaving her family at home?”

If he resigns, they say, “he found a better job”.
If she resigns, they say, “here it goes again, women…”

The Tumblr post seems to be quoting a website [ja] that collects jokes around the world, but when and who made this joke remains unknown.

The post was sub-edited by Kevin Rennie and L. Finch

January 26 2014

Cries of Discrimination as Israel Detains Illegal African Immigrants

La grève des immigrés africains  à Tel-Aviv

Screenshot of African immigrant demonstrators in Tel-Aviv via Zahi Shaked on YouTube 

About 30,000 undocumented Africans living in Israel [fr] mounted a three-day strike and a series of protests backed by human rights defenders in early January against an act that allows Israeli authorities to place illegal immigrants in detention without any trial nor case review for up to a year.

Aside from the new law, approved on December 10, 2013, protesters denounced the refusal of Israeli authorities to consider their applications for refugee status as well as the detention of hundreds of them. The video below highlights the scale of events and presents protesters demands:   

The Holot detention centre in the Negev desert, near the border between Israel and Egypt, already has received numerous inmates since December 2013.

The site irinnews.org offered an idea of the centre's capacity

Holot can house 3,300 migrants and is set to expand, eventually reaching a capacity of between 6,000 and 9,000 people, according to Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Israel's Public Security Minister.

The anti-illegal African feeling has reached alarming levels, fed by hate speech, such as the “Le sentiment” video published by Djemila Yamina. The video shows Israeli citizens stating in a public gathering that illegal immigrants are “psychopaths, scum and manure that need to be expelled from our country”

Elsewhere, minority extremist groups have attacked immigrants. In Israel, the government and the judiciary systems are taking an active part. Previously in July 2012, Allain Jules condemned [fr] on his blog:

 Ce qui se passe en Israël actuellement est indigne. Entre un ministre qui demande que les clandestins soient simplement assassinés, puisqu’il recommande qu’on tire sur eux au moment où ils tenteront de franchir les frontières, un autre qui parle du risque d’impureté future de l’État d’Israël qui doit garder son caractère juif 

What is going on in Israel is shameful. Between a minister demanding that illegal immigrants are simply assassinated, suggesting we shoot at them at the very moment they try to cross the borders, and another minister that talks about the risks of impurity for the future state of Israel that must retain its Jewish character

Racism was apparent even before the new law. On July 18, 2013, Darfuri asylum-seeker and actor, Babaker (Babi) Ibrahim was arrested simply for not having a receipt for his bicycle.

Jean Shaoul explained [fr] the reality for asylum seekers in Israel on his blog cameroonvoice.com: 

En vertu de la loi israélienne, il est interdit aux immigrés de travailler tant qu'ils ne sont pas enregistrés comme demandeurs d'asile. Ce qui leur est pratiquement impossible. En effet, selon l’agence des Nations unies pour les réfugiés, alors que le taux de reconnaissance national moyen des demandeurs d’asile est de 39 pour cent, en Israël ce taux est inférieur à 1 pour cent. En Israël, la plupart des demandeurs d’asile sont des Erythréens et des Soudanais qui connaissent un taux de reconnaissance international moyen de 84 pour cent et de 64 pour cent respectivement.

By virtue of the Israeli law, work is prohibited for immigrants as long as they are not registered as asylum seekers. Which is virtually impossible for them. In effect, according to United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), while the national average recognition rate for asylum seekers is 39 percent, in Israel this rate is lower than 1 percent. In Israel, the majority of asylum claimants are Eritreans and Sudanese, that have an international recognition rate of 84 percent and 64 percent respectively.

 In a post published on a Mediapart blog, JOSEPH AKOUISSONNE [fr] wrote:

Ce racisme est incompréhensible de la part d’un peuple qui a souffert de l’abjection nazie, avec sa cohorte d'actes odieux visant à l'extermination des juifs. Pourtant, c'était bien Madame Golda Meir qui proclamait que  : « …les Africains et le peuple juif partagent des points communs. Ils ont été victimes de l’histoire : morts dans les camps de concentration ou réduits en esclavage… » Dans les années 1960, l'état d'Israël avait tissé des liens très forts avec le continent noir. Des étudiants africains étaient accueillis dans les kibboutz. Inversement, nombreux étaient les Israéliens qui allaient en Afrique pour soutenir le développement des états fraîchement indépendants. Il faut aussi rappeler le combat des juifs sud-africains, aux côtés de Nelson Mandela dans sa lutte contre l’apartheid. Sans oublier ceux qui s’engagèrent avec les militants des Droits Civiques aux États-Unis.

This racism is incomprehensible coming from people who have suffered under the Nazis, with its cohort of heinous acts aimed at Jewish extermination. Nevertheless, it was Golda Meir who proclaimed that:  “… Africans and Jews share common points. They have been victims of history, who died in concentration camps or have been enslaved… “. In the 1960s, the Israeli State forged strong links with the African continent. African students were welcomed into the kibbutz. Vice versa, there were plenty of Israelis who were involved in supporting the development of the newly enacted independent states. It is worth mentioning too the struggle of South African Jews alongside Nelson Mandela in the strife against apartheid. Not to forget those who engaged with the Civil Rights activists in the United States.

What is it about illegal immigration that provokes so much hatred in Israel? In response, JOL Press site presents figures [fr] from the Freedom 4 Refugees Association:

“Environ 50 000 demandeurs d'asile et réfugiés africains vivent aujourd’hui en Israël. Nous avons fui la persécution, les forces militaires, la dictature, les guerres civiles et le génocide. Au lieu d'être traités comme des réfugiés par le gouvernement d'Israël, nous sommes traités comme des criminels » explique Freedom4Refugees. ”Nous réclamons l’abrogation de la loi, la fin des arrestations, et la libération de tous les demandeurs d'asile et les réfugiés emprisonnés”, ont encore déclaré les réfugiés dans une pétition relayée par l’association Freedom4Refugees. Principalement d'origine soudanaise, sud-soudanaise et érythréenne, les manifestants demandent également que les demandes d'asile soient effectuées de “manière individuelle, équitable et transparente ”.

“Approximately 50,000 asylum seekers live currently in Israel. We fled persecution, military forces, dictatorship, civil wars and genocide. Instead of being treated as refugees by the government of Israel, we are being dealt with as criminals,” explained Freedom4Refugees. “We demand that the law be revoked, the end of arrests, and the release of all asylum seekers and refugees imprisoned,” the refugees declared in a petition communicated by the Freedom4Refugees Association. Mainly Sudanese, South Sudanese and Eritrean demonstrators further demand that asylum applications are made “in an individual, fair and transparent way”.

Al Monitor website noted the discriminatory character of measures taken against African immigrants:

At the same time, however, there are some 93,000 “tourists without valid visas” in Israel, about half of them from the former Soviet Union. Needless to say, the government is not building special detainment centers for them. The number of people requesting asylum is also significantly lower than the number of legal guest workers in Israel (approximately 70,000), much to the relief of those companies that arrange to bring them to the country and employ them.

There has been striking indifference at an international level. In an article published on Rue89, Renée Greusard disclosed everyday racism against Israel's black population:

Quand nous abordons ce sujet ensemble, David Sheen, le journaliste américain, pèse ses mots et parle plus lentement :

“Le niveau de racisme actuel en Israël, il peut être comparé à ce qu’on a connu dans d’autres pays occidentaux, il y a cinquante, soixante ans. Les gens se font insulter dans la rue. Souvent, quand les Noirs entrent dans les bus, les gens se bouchent le nez, bloquent les places à côté d’eux, ouvrent les fenêtres, pestent : “Ah ! Mais on n’a pas besoin de tous ces Noirs !”

Dans les autres pays, les gens sont gênés par leurs pensées racistes. Ils ne les disent pas en public. Là, non. C’est un racisme assuré, et dont les gens sont fiers. “

When we address this issue together, American journalist David Sheen weighs his words and talks slowly: 

“The current level of racism in Israel can be compared to what has been experienced in other Western countries 50, 60 years ago. People are insulted in the streets. Often when blacks board buses, people would plug their noses and block the seats near them, opening the windows while ranting ‘Ah! But we don't need all these blacks!' 

In other countries, people are embarrassed by their racist thoughts. They do not divulge them in public. Here, not quite. They are confident and proud on their racism.”

These anti-black sentiments can be observed even from the comments published on blogs and online media such as  lemonde.frseneweb.com and tempsreel.nouvelobs.com.  

These types of comments frequently arouse passions on both sides of the issue. An article by Jack Guez on Yahoo News has received 2,410 comments, and many of these comments have in turn attracted plenty of “likes”. The comment below has received 82 favourable opinions

People criticize Israel but no one says a thing about Saudi Arabia, why? 

Saudi Arabia expelled 200,000 Africans a few weeks ago!

The death of Ariel Sharon brought the protests and strike to a temporary halt for a few days. However, the struggle of the undocumented migrants in Israel continues. After marching outside the offices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as well as other foreign embassies in Tel-Aviv, protesters have held demonstrations in front of The Knesset, the Israeli Parliament in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, the government continues to herald sluggish proposals.

January 23 2014

A Growing Job Market for Young People in Senegal: The Fishing Sector

fishermen return to the beach at Soumbedioun, Dakar via wikimedia commons  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0

fishermen return to the beach at Soumbedioun, Dakar via wikimedia commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0

To combat rampant youth unemployment in Senegal, a new initiative geared toward job creation in the fishing industry was created. Ibrahima Lô, one of the lead on the project, explains [fr] :

Nous avons un déficit de personnel. Tous les deux ans, il peut y avoir un recrutement de volontaires. Rien n'est garanti mais on fait le nécessaire pour leur recrutement dans la Fonction publique.

We have a glaring need in human ressources (in the sector). Every two years, there is a new wave of recruitment. No permanent job is guaranteed but we tried as best as we can to integrate new recruits into public service.

The fishing sector has replaced the groundnut sector as Senegal's export leader. 17% of the workforce (600,000 workers) already belongs to this sector.

January 22 2014

How Protecting the Environment and Fighting Poverty Are Linked in Madagascar

With a new president in Madagascar, the country is finally taking steps towards exiting the four-year-long political crisis since a military-backed coup toppled the last democratically elected leader in 2009. It is now time for the new administration to tackle the more pressing issues plaguing the island, such as the alarming poverty rate among the most disenfranchised citizens [fr] and the rapidly deteriorating ecological system. 

Let's examine how those two issues, although seemingly unrelated at first, are closely interconnected in Madagascar. 

The exploitation of mineral resources in the southern region

A legal conflict involving mining giant Rio Tinto Group and an environmental group in southern Madagascar illustrates how poverty and environmental issues are closely linked.

Lavaka (erosion gully) in Madagascar caused by deforestation via wikipedia CC-BY-2.0

Lavaka (erosion gully) in Madagascar caused by deforestation via wikipedia CC-BY-2.0

QIT Madagascar Minerals, owned by a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, has been involved in the exploitation of several mining resources in the south of the country. The project website states the following about its activities there:

QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM), which is 80% owned by Rio Tinto and 20% owned by the Government of Madagascar, has built a mineral sands mining operation near Fort-Dauphin at the south-east tip of Madagascar. QMM intends to extract ilmenite and zircon from heavy mineral sands over an area of about 6,000 hectares along the coast over the next 40 years. [...] Current mining activity is at the 2000 ha Mandena site, to the north of Fort-Dauphin. Production on this site will eventually ramp up to 750,000 tonnes a year. Later phases will be at Ste-Luce and Petriky and there is potential to expand production to 2.2 million tonnes a year.

Website Malagasyfordevelopment.kazeo.com adds that [fr] the project was projected to create 2,000 new jobs over three years: 600 would be directly related to the project, while between 1,000 and 2,000 would be indirectly created during the production phase.

This is the sunny side of the story. The other is much darker, as described by Libération afrique [fr]:

 75% de la population malgache vivent avec moins de US$ 1 par jour. Le gouvernement malgache se résigne à se faire piller son sous-sol pendant 40 ans par Rio Tinto avec ses conséquences : dette, salaires de misère et environnement unique au monde détruit. Pour les trois années de construction, Rio Tinto ferait appel à des sous-traitants, dont plus de 500 ouvriers spécialisés venant d’Afrique du Sud et d’Asie alors que le chômage à Madagascar est parmi les plus importants en Afrique.

About 75% of the Malagasy population live with less than 1 US dollar/day. Yet, the Malagasy government is resigned to let Rio Tinto exploit its mineral resources for the next 40 years with the following consequences: increased national debt, very low salaries and the destruction of a unique mineral ecosystem. During the three-year construction phase, Rio Tinto has summoned at least 500 workers from South Africa and Asia, while unemployment in Madagascar is one of the highest in Africa.

Several environmental groups have denounced the impact of the project on the local population and their environment. Some of these allegations against the project are described in the following post by Sarah-Jayne Clifton for Friends of the Earth:

Customary land rights have not been respected, with families without formal land title being persistently disadvantaged in the compensation process despite Rio Tinto’s commitment to respecting traditional land tenure . Some families were excluded from the compensation process altogether because they were not present when the register of families requiring compensation was drawn up [...]

QMM has said it will replant the mine site once the ilmenite has been removed and has collected seeds from the forest for this. But 70 per cent of the area will be planted with exotic species because QMM’s specialists claim that the soil in these areas is too degraded to support the reintroduction of native species. There are concerns that this could have devastating impacts. Exotic species such as eucalyptus could over-run native trees on the island, take valuable water resources, and fundamentally change the biodiversity of the forest floor.

When asked about these allegations, QMM was at first not exactly forthcoming, as their response to pointed questions regarding the issue demonstrates:

The tension between Malagasy civil society and Rio Tinto/QMM reached a peak when protests outside QMM factories led to the arrests of 15 environmental and indigenous rights activists from the association Fagnomba in March 2013, who demanded compensation for the land taken by the company. 

Perle Zafinandro Fourquet, a co-founder of the association, was one of those arrested. Her family provided further details about the context of the arrest [fr]:

Depuis janvier, Fagnomba installe des barrages sur l'accès à la mine et les militaires ont été diligentés pour lever ces barrages…Dernièrement, des bureaux et du materiel informatique ont été saccagés et le juge semble mettre tout cela sur le dos de Fagnomba : une affaire montée de toute pièce ! Enfin, pour montrer que l'affaire est scabreuse, la plainte a été déposée par la présidente de la CENIT (qui regroupe l'aide exterieure pour mener à bien les élections à Madagascar) qui est cousine par alliance du chef de Région…

Since January, the association Fagnomba has raised fences in front of the entry of the mines and the army was summoned to remove them. Recently, the offices and the IT system of QMM were looted and the judge seemed to have decided that Fagnomba was to be blamed for that: This was just a trap! To tell you how fishy the whole thing is, the complaint was filed by the president of the National Electoral Commission (the body who is supposed to make sure that the elections will be transparent and free). She is also the cousin of the regional political leader…

Fagnomba argues that a few measures are necessary to make it right in the region via this petition:

Elle réclame également l'embauche de travailleurs locaux au sein de cette société qui fait venir la plupart de ses employés de la capitale. Elle lutte pour la protection de l'environnement malmené durement (les poissons disparaissent depuis l'installation d'un barrage…).

The association asks that local workers be recruited instead of bringing workers from the capital city. They also ask that the environment be better protected (as seen in the vanishing of fish since the dam was built…).

Potential solutions

However solutions do exist that combine providing for the neediest with ensuring that forests are protected.

First, Anup Shah at Global Issues argued that a more comprehensive outlook on the issue of poverty is needed:

Just as doctors highlight the need to prevent illnesses in the first place, and resort to cures when needed, so too do we need to understand these deeper issues in a more holistic manner. The interconnectedness needs more recognition if environmental degradation, poverty and other global problems can begin to be addressed.

In addition to a more holistic approach, the risk assessment of the consequences of poverty has to be broadened as well. Larry West, an editor for environmental issues at About.com, explained:

The lower your income, the higher the likelihood that you will be exposed to toxics at home and on the job. The greater the risk that you will suffer from diseases — ranging from asthma to cancer — caused or exacerbated by environmental factors. The harder it will be for you to find and afford healthy food to put on your table.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) states that an important proportion of people in Madagascar and around the globe rely on forest resources for subsistence, and therefore protection of forests is an integral part of the fight against poverty:

Close to 1.6 billion people depend on forest resources for their survival. Forest resources directly contribute to the livelihoods of 90% of the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty. [..] Damage to the environment, as well as a lack of clean water and land suitable for farming or growing food, leads to more hunger, illness, poverty and reduced opportunities to make a living.

The WWF recommends the following course of action to achieve this goal:

work with local communities across the world to:
-help them to secure their rights to manage the forest resources on which their livelihoods depend
-support them to manage forests sustainably, for their own well-being as well as to protect the environment
-provide opportunities for generating long-term incomes from sustainable forest management, for example by providing business training and linking them to national and international markets
-enable them to gain FSC certification and access markets for sustainably managed timber

The Worrisome Job Market Projection in Burkina Faso

The AFDB published its country report for Burkina Faso in which it highlights the worrisome job market trend [fr] for the next decade : 

Sept burkinabè sur dix ont moins de 30 ans. Le nombre de jeunes (15-24 ans), primo demandeurs d’emplois, doublera entre 2010 et 2030, passant de trois à six millions ce qui va créer une tension sur le marché du travail. Les opportunités de travail se limitent à celles qui ont une faible productivité ou qui génèrent peu de revenus : environ 80 % des travailleurs dépendent de la production agricole ; seuls 5 % des travailleurs sont salariés dans le secteur formel (public ou privé). 

In Burkina Faso, 7 put of 10 citizens are less than 30 years old. The number of young people (15-24 years), primary job seekers will double between 2010 and 2030, from 3 to 6 millions,  which in turn will create tension on the labor market. Employment opportunities are limited to those with low productivity outlet or those that will generate little revenue: about 80% of workers depend on agricultural production and 95% of workers are employed in the informal sector.

GDP sectorial distribution in Burkina faso in 2011 via AFDB Report - Public Domain

GDP sectorial distribution in Burkina faso in 2011 via AFDB Report – Public Domain

Cambodia Garment Workers Demand $160 Monthly Minimum Wage

Image from Facebook page of Dae-oup Chang.

Image from Facebook page of Dae-oup Chang.

The poster illustrates the $160 monthly minimum wage demand of Cambodia garment workers.The current standard is $80 but the government is only willing to grant a $15 increase. A nationwide strike was launched by workers last December but this was violently dispersed by the police early this month.

January 21 2014

Indonesian Maid Says She Was Beaten, Starved and Burned in Hong Kong

Thousands rallied on January 19, 2014 demanding justice for Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, an Indonesian maid who was allegedly tortured by her employer. Photo from Hong Wong.

Thousands rallied on January 19, 2014 demanding justice for Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, an Indonesian maid who was allegedly tortured by her employer. Photo from Hong Wong.

[The author of this post is a volunteer editor for news site inmediahk.net, which is quoted in this report.]

Another damning case of foreign maid abuse has recently been exposed in Hong Kong. Thousands of Indonesian domestic workers and local residents in the city on January 19, 2014 demanding justice for Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, a domestic worker who was allegedly abused by her employer for months.

The 23-year-old maid arrived in Hong Kong in May 2013 and started working for a family in Tsueng Kwan O, where she says was beaten with sticks and hangers on a daily basis for 8 months for “poor performance” at her job. As a result of the compulsory live-in arrangement, she could not reach out to her fellow maids for help. She could not even escape because her passport was held up by the maid agency, which she says only cared about getting back their service fee from the maid's monthly salary and ignored her desperate call for help.

Local media reported that she was found “covered in cuts and burns” in the Hong Kong Airport on January 10, 2014 and was hospitalized immediately after she arrived back home in Java, Indonesia. Apart from obvious cuts, the initial medical report found small bone fractures in her head. In fact, she was let go by her employer because she could barely walk due to the injuries.

Erwiana Sulistyaningsih was found in the Hong Kong airport on January 10 with obvious physical injuries in her body. Photo from Apple Daily News, non-commercial use.

Erwiana Sulistyaningsih was found in the Hong Kong airport on January 10, 2014 with obvious physical injuries on her body. Photo from Apple Daily News, non-commercial use.

Back home in the hospital, Sulistyaningsih told the media that “she was beaten daily, burned and allowed only two meals of plain bread and rice per day. She was allowed to sleep only between 1 p.m.-5 p.m. but not at night”. In fact, she's not the first maid from this family who has claimed they were abusive; at least two other maids who worked for the same employer have said that they had similar experience.

Activist groups are working together to press for policy solution to end the city's modern-day slave system. Auyang Lunfa from inmediahk.net, a local citizen media site, reported from the rally one of the maid's testimony:

Foreign maid Susie revealed in the rally that she was also starve abused by the same employer between 2011 to 2012. Photo from Tom Grundy's Twitter.

Foreign maid Susie alleged at the rally that she was also starved and abused by the same employer between 2011 to 2012. Photo from Tom Grundy's Twitter.

印傭 Susi 稱,自己在2010年4 月開始為涉案僱主工作至2011年3月,期間11個月,除了被禁足不準出門,而且每天被要求工作20小時,同時亦受到不同程度的虐打。她指「每當做錯野時就會被打」,曾被僱主曾用雞毛掃打,亦試過被猛耳仔。最嚴重一次,僱主曾威脅 Susi 叫她自殺。結果 Susi 苦苦哀求對方說:「自己有一對子女, 唔好要我死。」Susi 又指,中介公司無按合約每月3580付人工,反而在 Susi 終止合約時,只付上約六千元,作為11個月人工。Susi 表示已經到警署提供資料。

Indonesian maid Susi said she was working for the same employer between April 2010 to March 2011. For 11 months, she was forbidden to leave the apartment and was required to work 20 hours a day. She was beaten as well. “Whenever I did something wrong, I would be beaten”, she said. Her former employer would beat her with sticks and twisted her ears, once Law even threatened Susi and asked Susi to kill herself. Susi had to beg her, saying: “I have two kids, don't ask me to die.” Susie says the agency did not pay her the 3,580 Hong Kong dollars [approximately 480 US dollars] monthly salary. She was only given 6,000 Hong Kong dollar [approximately 880 US dollars] by the end of her 11 months of work. Susi had reported her case to the police [after Sulistyaningsih's case was exposed].

外傭組織發言人 Eni Lestari 透露,有另一名叫 Tina 的印傭於2011年間,為涉案僱主短暫工作三個月。Eni 說,Tina 要每日超時工作和沒有足夠食物,並同樣受到虐打。最後 Tina 在朋友幫助下報警,最後成功離職,現身在新加坡。

Eni Lestari, a foreign migrant worker campaigner, revealed that another Indonesian domestic worker named Tina had worked for the Law family for three months in 2011. Tina was also starved, worked overtime and was beaten. She reported the case to the police with her friends’ help and managed to resign from the job. Now Tina is working in Singapore.

Tina's case was never investigated, according to local media's report. The Hong Kong police said that they did not have enough evidence. When Sulistyaningsih's case was exposed by local media, Hong Kong police filed it under “miscellaneous case” because they did not have enough evidence to warrant taking further action.

Local women rallied on January 19, 2014 to show their support for Erwiana Sulistyaningsih. Photo from campaign page: Justice for Erwiana! Justice for Migrant Domestic Workers!

Local women rallied on January 19, 2014 to show their support for Erwiana Sulistyaningsih. Photo from Facebook campaign page Justice for Erwiana! Justice for Migrant Domestic Workers!

Over the past week, migrant organizations and local activist groups, including Mission for Migrant Workers, Amnesty International (Hong Kong), Open Door, Women Worker Association and Hong Kong Coalition of Trade Unions has been campaigning for justice for Sulistyaningsih. The weekend protest attempted reveal the Hong Kong police's long-time negligence of domestic workers’ calls for help as well as other discriminatory and exploitative policies, including the mandatory live-in requirement and the fortnight regulation on their visa, as well as the lack of minimum wage and working hour protection. Similar discussion happened a few months before when the story of Kartika Puspitasari's abuse came to light.

An info-graphic showing exploitative policy concerning foreign domestic worker. Image from campaign page: Justice for Erwiana! Justice for Migrant Domestic Workers!

An infographic explaining the exploitative policy concerning foreign domestic workers. Image from Facebook campaign page Justice for Erwiana! Justice for Migrant Domestic Workers!

It is obvious that the Hong Kong government has to bear responsibility for the vulnerable situation of the foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong. Post 852, a newly established commentary platform, explained the unbalanced power relationship between the employer and maid and made a suggestion:


Different from local residents, foreign domestic workers are isolated from the society and thus in a vulnerable position. [...] foreign maids have very frew friends and their family members are not in Hong Kong. No one knows that she is being abused. Even if foreign maids get to know some of their peers in Hong Kong, they don't have each others’ addresses. When the employer confiscates their mobile phone, she would be cut off from the rest of the world.

Many kids joined the rally to support their nannies. Image from campaign page: Justice for Erwiana!

Many kids joined the rally to support their nannies. Image from Facebook campaign page Justice for Erwiana!


[In principle] every agency should provide services such as paying home visits to the maid. However, such visits are not set to ensure the safety of the maids, but to solve communication problems between the employers and the maids (the main purpose is to serve the employers). If the employers choose “no home visits” when they sign the contract, home visits is not mandatory.


Actually the government can make it mandatory for the agencies to pay home visits to the maid or they cannot obtain the licenses. Or the government can even set up its own team to randomly pay home visits to the maids or require the maids to have a private interview with the officers.

As a result of the pressure from migrant organizations and the Indonesian consulate, Hong Kong police and labor department finally sent an investigative team to Indonesia on January 20 to obtain testimony from Sulistyaningsih, as well as her medical reports from the hospital.

January 17 2014

Job Market Trends in the Mobile Phone Industry of Côte d'Ivoire

Alain François Loukou, a research fellow and teacher at the Alassane Ouattara University in Bouaké, Côte d’Ivoire, wrote an extensive report on the evolution of IT in Côte d'Ivoire [fr]. He shares the following table on the recent evolution of the mobile phone market in his country in terms of mobile penetration, jobs, turnover and investment [fr]: 

Job market in mobile phone industry in  Côte d'Ivoire - Public Domain

Job market in mobile phone industry in Côte d'Ivoire – Public Domain


January 14 2014

Another Indonesian Maid Tortured in Hong Kong

Erwiana Sulistayaniangsih, a foreign domestic helper from Indonesia, was found severely injured in the Hong Kong airport when she returned home last week on January 10. She told her fellow maid on flight that she was beaten and tortured for months but too scared to report the case to the police. She was hospitalized soon after she arrived and the case was exposed. More from Hong Wrong.

Erwiana Sulistayaniangsih, a foreign domestic helper from Indonesia, was found severely injured in the Hong Kong airport when she returned home last week on January 10. She told her fellow on flight that she was beaten and tortured for months by her employer in Hong Kong but was too scared to report the case to the police. She was hospitalized soon after she arrived and the case was exposed. More from Hong Wrong.

January 11 2014

PHOTOS: Brutal Crackdown of Cambodia Labor Strike

Soldiers threaten a female bystander during a crackdown of the labor protest in Phnom Penh. Photo from Licadho

Soldiers threaten a female bystander during a crackdown of the labor protest in Phnom Penh. Photo from Licadho

The Licadho human rights group has uploaded a set of photos showing the brutal crackdown of a strike conducted by garment workers in Cambodia. The workers have been demanding an increase in their monthly minimum wage which is currently pegged at 80-100 US dollars.

January 09 2014

Peruvian Volunteer Firefighters Fight More than Just Fire

During the first 24 days of December 2013 alone, the General Corps of Volunteer Firefighters of Peru [es] took care of 454 fires in Lima, Callao and Ica.

One of the most serious fires occurred on Tuesday, December 10, 2013, in a tire warehouse in the Limean district of La Victoria, which was extinguished after hours of hard work by the firefighters. About this, the blog Prensarte reported [es]:

Luego que el jefe departamental de Lima [...] denunció que empleadores de tres bomberos de la compañía 115 de Chaclacayo los despidieron por ausentarse de sus centros de labores mientras atendían el incendio en la av. Nicolás Arriola en La Victoria, El jefe de Comunicaciones de la Compañía [...] rectificó que se trataba de la preocupación de varios bomberos que sentían sus puestos de trabajo amenazados y que así se lo comentaron.

Por su parte, León, aclaró horas después reincorporaron en sus trabajos a los bomberos denunciantes quienes no quisieron identificarse para evitar más problemas con ellos.

After the Lima departmental chief [...] claimed that employers of three firefighters of Unit 115 from Chaclacayo were fired for being absent from their jobs while they were fighting the fire at Nicolás Arriola Avenue in La Victoria, the Head of Communications Office of the unit [...] rectified it was the concern of many firefighters who felt their jobs were at stake and they let him know that.

Meanwhile, León explained that hours later the fired men were reinstated in their jobs, and that they didn't want their names to be known to avoid having problems.

The so called “men in red” prevent, control and put out fires, assist with car accidents and emergencies, and rescue threatened lives, all on a voluntarily basis, meaning they don't receive any payment for their services.

As early as November 2012, the blog Nuevo Reporte presented [es] “the sad reality faced by the General Corps of Volunteer Firefighters of Peru”:

Desde hace varios años, se vienen detectando fallas en los equipos antiquísimos con los que cuenta para hacer su denodada labor los muy pocas reconocidos Bomberos Voluntarios del Perú. Pues, los equipos son inutilizables debido a averías, roturas e ineficiencias presentadas en el momento que más se necesitan, al salvar vidas.

For years now, several flaws have been detected in the ancient equipment used to carry out the dauntless labor by the barely appreciated Volunteer Firefighters of Peru. Thus, their equipment is hardly usable due to breakdowns, tears and defects that appear when they are most needed, when saving lives.

Furthermore, website Sin sentido reviews part of the history [es] of Peruvian firefighters and explains their current situation:


Photo by user ms. akr on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Actualmente, si bien sus miembros trabajan ad honorem – a diferencia de lo que sucede en otros países – el Cuerpo de Bomberos es un organismo descentralizado que depende de la Presidencia del Consejo de Ministros y cuenta con un presupuesto para compra de materiales, equipos y mantenimiento de unidades. Sin embargo, muchas de sus compañías se encuentran en pésimo estado, [...] [lo que] ha dificultado su trabajo, no obstante los bomberos mantienen su espíritu en alto y cada vez son más los jóvenes que desean ser parte del servicio voluntario. [...] Recuerden que los bomberos siempre están prestos a atender todo tipo de emergencias las 24 horas del día, por lo que deberíamos ayudarlos a que hagan mucho mejor su labor :)

Today, although members work pro bono –unlike other counties– the Firefighters Corps is a decentralized organ dependent of the Presidency of the Cabinet of Ministers and has a budget for purchasing material, equipment and units maintenance. However, many of their units are in a lousy condition [...] [and this] has complicated their work; nevertheless, the firefighters keep their spirits high and each time there are more and more young people who want to be part of the volunteer service. [...] Keep in mind that the firefighters are always ready to take care of all kind of emergencies, 24 hours a day, so we should help them carry out their tasks in a much better way :)

As told by the website Doug Copp's Blog, there were Peruvian volunteer firefighters in the rescue efforts in New York immediately after the 9/11 attacks:

My name is Efrain Huaman Carrion and I am a volunteer firefighter in Peru. I’m part of the International American Rescue Team. [...] I volunteered at the World Trade Center after the attacks on the Twin Towers.
When the attacks happened, I didn’t think twice about coming to help but I couldn’t get a flight. I was finally able to buy a ticket to come help my brother firefighters and police.

On Twitter, users expressed their appreciation for the firefighters’ work, many times hindered because of the daily needs they face and for various administrative hindrances:

A special New Year's greeting for the volunteer firefighters of Peru, who take daily risks for all of us. THANKS!!

Peruvian firefighters – the new Peruvians.

“We admire the firefighters’ spirit of service”.

How did [Peruvian] firefighters celebrate New Year's?

Firefighters took care of 54 fires and 23 car accidents on New Year's: the General Corps of Firefighters took care of 54 fires…

Lastly, newspaper Diario16 tweets:

National Congress proposes a life annuity for firefighters.

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