Canada’s walking zombies: women prisoners

Across Canada, federal prisons have routinely prescribed psychotropic drugs, and in particular quetiapine, to women prisoners. Women prisoners, friends and families, and advocates have long complained that the women’s prisons are a factory for zombie production, that women go in with some problems and come out stone cold zombie. They were right.

Howard Sapers, the Correctional Investigator of Canada, has been on the case since last year, when he was informed, by the Canadian Press and CBC, that the Correctional Service Canada had told them that, basically, it didn’t have data on prison prescriptions. It had general information but nothing specific.

The conditions in women’s prisons are specific.

Sapers found that, of 591 federal women prisoners, 370 are on psychotropic drugs, prescribed by the prison staff. 63% of women prisoners are on heavy medication, with dangerous side effects. The more local, the more vicious are the numbers. For example, in the Nova Institution for Women in Nova Scotia, the Joliette Institution for Women in Quebec and the Fraser Valley Institution for Women in British Columbia, the prescription rate is around 75%. Three out of every four women is being given drugs. By contrast, in 2001, the prescription rate was around 42%.

Why are so many women on quetiapine? Not to schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, which is what quetiapine is meant for. No. In Canada’s federal prison system, quetiapine is the go-to drug for any sleeping discomfort, for women, that is. Further, many of the women prisoners are given multiple psychotropic drugs.

There’s a special fate in store for women prisoners: “Women are prescribed more psychotropic medications than men, both in the community and in prison. Prescribing psychotropic medication in the prison setting is particularly problematic given the hierarchical relationship between psy and correctional mandates – where psy care is executed through a correctional system that inherently prioritizes security and carceral power over therapeutic care. Due to the fact that provincial and federal correctional systems are responsible for providing mental health care to prisoners a power imbalance exists between psy and medical experts and the correctional administrators to whom they are accountable and the prisoner-patients. It is important to remember that a prisoner’s ability to refuse medication is not always guaranteed; medication orders are often written into the prisoner’s correctional plan and thus become compulsory.”

For Aboriginal women prisoners, it’s worse. For women in provincial prisons, it’s worse. For all women prisoners, however, the prison produces a mass population of women “walking zombies.”

Current and former women prisoners report now what they reported three years ago. They were given drugs, without explanation. They received little to no real counseling. They couldn’t say no. They were prisoners, after all, and they were women prisoners. If the state wants women to become walking zombies, so be it.

The ordinary everyday torture of schoolchildren

Everyday, across the United States, children leave home and go off to school, where they are routinely tortured. It’s the price of running an efficient country.

Across the United States, school systems are being charged with Taser abuse of children, and especially of children of color and children living with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Justice has charged Wake County, North Carolina, for violation of students’ constitutional rights. Eight students are named in the complaint. They’re all Black. The violation consists of overly high rates of arrest and use of extreme violence, including use of Tasers, pepper spray, and choke holds.

In Syracuse, New York, two students and the New York ACLU are charging the school system with similar violations. In the case of one student, Trevon Hanks, his crime was breaking down and crying. Hanks had been out of school for medical reasons, and had tried to make up for lost time. On his eighteenth birthday, he found out that he would not graduate on time, and he broke down, literally. Crying, in a near fetal position on the floor, the school police came and assaulted him, including using a Taser. As in North Carolina, the stories are the tip of an iceberg.

The iceberg extends beyond this school system or that.

In Texas last year, Noe Niño de Rivera was Tasered by two school police officers. Niño de Rivera collapsed, fell to the floor, and suffered severe brain hemorrhage. After 52 days in induced coma, Niño de Rivera is not expected to fully recover … ever. Staff can’t use Tasers in juvenile detention, but in the school corridors, it’s all good.

In Wisconsin, students, parents, advocates struggle with a system-wide over reliance on seclusion rooms and physical restraint. In Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, students, parents, advocates continue to struggle with the aftermath of the “kids for cash” regime, in which thousands of children were sent off to juvenile detention, and sometimes adult prisons, for minor, and status.

In Santa Ana, California, a 14-year-old boy was tagging a tree with graffiti, when a police officer happened by. The officer jumped on the boy, who called out for help. The officer put the boy in a chokehold. The boy continues to cry out for help. “Stop fighting me,” shouted the officer. “I’m not fighting you,” replied the boy. Witnesses called on the officer to stop. One witness, Elvia Fernandez, tells the boy, in Spanish, “Relax. Don’t move.” The officer shouts at her to stop speaking in Spanish.

Seclusion rooms. Tasers. Choke holds. Harassment. Intimidation. Much of this is directed at students of color and at student living with disabilities. On one hand, the school system has always bullied its minorities. Some must learn to accept their roles as the persecuted. But there’s more. School systems invest in `scientific’ seclusion rooms and `technologically advanced’ Tasers. School police are trained in the most efficient ways to disable an offender.

What is lost in this porridge of science and technology? Children. Some children, by their very presence, impede the efficient engine of education. They must be punished, and they are. They must be tortured, and they are, across the entire nation.

Saziso Nkala spent over five years in prison awaiting trial

Saziso Nkala spent five years and two months in prison, in squalor and degradation, awaiting trial for a crime she never committed. In 2006, Zimbabwean immigrant Saziso Nkala was arrested for robbery and sent to the Johannesburg Women’s Prison, or Sun City, to await trial. When arrested, she was a single mother with a seven-year-old son. In May 2011, after five years and two months, her case was thrown out of court for lack of evidence. At the age of 32, Nkala was unemployed, broke, without any compensation from the State, and struggling to make a life with a boy now 12 years and a stranger. When Saziso Nkala left Sun City, she carried the mark of prison, for, while inside, she had contracted tuberculosis. Innocent until proven guilty. Free.

For years, Saziso Nkala lived in a cell with 36 beds, and life was hard: “That side, if you are sick, they don’t care – especially if you’re a foreigner… one lady was dying in the cell. We called the warders, but they said they were busy having breakfast. Then she died. Inmates who die in the cell after lockdown are left with the other inmates in the cell until morning. If you start getting labour pains and the door is locked, it’s locked. You bang (on) the door for help – and if they eventually come – they only come to the window. They will not open till the following day…”

They will not open till the following day.

This week, the South African Parliament heard that the number of long-term remand prisoners, prisoners awaiting trial, is declining, as a result of new regulations implemented last year. That `improvement’ means that since last year the number of remand prisoners who had been behind bars for two years or longer dropped from 2200 to 1816. While that is a reduction, it means that 1816 people, innocent until proven guilty, have been imprisoned for two years or longer. According to the Department of Correctional Services, as of Tuesday, of 157,394 prisoners, 43,735, or 27.8 percent, are remand prisoners.

Despite reports of `improved conditions’ in South Africa’s prison system, the situation remains grim, according to The State of South African Prisons, a report released this week by the National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders, or NICRO. This report considers only sentenced prisoners.

According to NICRO, South Africa’s prisons’ maximum capacity is 118,154 people. Of that, 25,000 places are held for remand prisoners. The total prison population is 162,162. When NICRO finished its study, 49,695, or 31%, were remand, and 112 467 were sentenced prisoners. That means a national level of overcrowding reaching 137%. It also means that remand prisoner overcrowding was at 200%. Today, remand prisoner overcrowding is at 175%.

Women make up 2% of the sentenced prison population. 45% of sentenced women prisoners have committed `economical crimes’. For men, it’s 22%. 10% of sentenced women prisoners are in for `narcotics’ offenses, while for men, it’s 2%. Proportionally, more women prisoners are awaiting trial than are men prisoners. Most `economic crimes’ are survival crimes. How many women awaiting trial are in for the crime of being poor? How many are remanded because they cannot afford bail? How many are Saziso Nkala? For too many women, innocent until proven guilty has become guilty until you can show a receipt. Who will compensate for that bill?

Anne Nasozzi was deported to Uganda on Wednesday 9th April

Openly lesbian Anne Nasozzi was deported to Uganda last night. Despite threats to the entire gay and lesbian community, Anne Nasozzi was deported, from the United Kingdom, to Uganda. Despite death threats against her personally, Anne Nasozzi was taken from Yarl’s Wood to the airport, where she was put on a Kenya Airways flight. There is no asylum, there is only disgrace, injustice, violence, visited more often than not on women.

Until December of last year, Anne Nasozzi lived in a village, where she earned her keep by renting out ten rooms. Remarkably, Nasozzi chose to rent her rooms to gay women, and so, thanks to her courage, eleven lesbians lived together, formed community together, and built a kind of haven together, for each other.

In December, a mob of `neighbors’, councilors, and members of Anne Nasozzi’s family attacked the house. Much of the property was razed to the ground. Residents who couldn’t get away were severely beaten. Anne Nasozzi escaped.

She fled to a friend’s house. There she managed to secure the deed to her house, the only thing still standing on her property, sold it, and fled to England. She arrived in England in December. From December until yesterday, Anne Nasozzi was imprisoned in Yarl’s Wood. That’s the State response to women, and especially African women, who seek asylum.

Anne Nasozzi describes being shipped to Uganda as “assisted suicide.” She’s too kind. It’s torture and murder, and it’s a disgrace.

Reports suggest that, in Uganda, those `suspected of homosexuality’ are hunted, imprisoned, and tortured. The State recently raided a clinic famous for its clinical and research work in HIV and AIDS, the Makerere University Walter Reed Project. Why? Because the clinic was “recruiting gays”, this according to the police spokesperson. The gay and lesbian community is being hunted and persecuted and worse. There is no question about this.

At the same time, the Uganda Human Rights Commission released a report yesterday that documents a dramatic increase in the number of people illegally detained and in the incidence of torture, cruelty, and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Dangerous overcrowded prisons are ruled by an iron hand of violence. This awaits Anne Nasozzi.

If there is a rule of law in this story, it’s the law of man’s inhumanity to man … or better to women. The endpoint of efficiency driven, fast-track so-called asylum procedures is disgrace. This disgrace is not a state of being nor is it an affective domain. It’s a transitive verb, a relentlessly vicious and violent campaign to strip ever more grace from those who cherish it the most, from those whom we should cherish. There is no asylum, there is only disgrace and violence. Anne Nasozzi was deported to Uganda yesterday. Remember that.

Boys will be boys, and girls will be jailed

Girls are entering into the juvenile `justice’ system at an alarmingly increasing rate. One reason is that girls are arrested more often than boys for status offenses and are more severely punished for those offenses. The thing is those `offenses’ are not crimes. That’s what makes them `status’ offenses. If the girls were older, there would be no offense, no crime.

But they are girls, and they must be protected from themselves. This is the vicious cycle that has been constructed in exactly the same period that has witnessed girl power on the rise: “In a 2010 national census of youth in custody, girls comprised 16% of all detained youth but 40% of those were detained for a status offense. At one time and in some states, girls comprised more than 70% of youth detained for status offenses.” This is the United States’ program of no girl left behind. This is girls’ educational program in the United States.

Why are girls so lucky, when it comes to prison? One answer is paternalism, which expresses itself as a need to protect girls from themselves and the world; a curious comfort with “with using locked confinement to access services for girls with significant needs”; and intolerance towards “girls who are non-cooperative and non-compliant.” Boys will be boys, and girls will be jailed.

At the same time, “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth are twice as likely as other youngsters to be detained in a juvenile detention facility for status offenses.” Why? LGBTQ youth often run away from home or, more precisely, from family rejection. According to one report, 40 percent of homeless youth self-identify as LGBTQ. Living on the streets means engaging in “survival crimes”, like theft. But it also involves an expanding and intensifying universe of so-called status offenses. Once again, LGBTQ youth are jailed to protect them from themselves.

This program for LGBTQ kids is the United States national education program. In schools LGBTQ children suffer harsher punishment, both formal and informal, for truancy, absenteeism, and dress code violations. A vicious school-to-prison pipeline drives the “non-cooperative and non-compliant” further and further into the ground … or else.

Today, the Treatment Advocacy Center released The Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in Prisons and Jails: A State Survey. Here are the numbers: “In 2012, there were estimated to be 356,268 inmates with severe mental illness in prisons and jails. There were also approximately 35,000 patients with severe mental illness in state psychiatric hospitals. Thus, the number of mentally ill persons in prisons and jails was 10 times the number remaining in state hospitals.” Since 2008, the situation has worsened.

From girls to LGBTQ youth to those living with severe mental illness, the crime committed is that of living, of being alive. And what of those at the crossroads of this nightmare, what of young lesbians who are living with severe mental illness? They are marked as non-cooperative and non-compliant, many times over. They were never meant to survive.

Wangari Maathai is smiling on Heather Maseko today

Malawian eco-warrior and organizer Heather Maseko is once again on the move.

Yesterday, Deepa Pullanikkatil, of LEAD Southern and Eastern Africa, posted a video, Zomba city cutting down historical Mbawa trees (African mahogany):

“Hello. My name is Heather Maseko. I was born and raised in Zomba. I did my primary school in Zomba, and my secondary school in Zomba, and my university at the University of Malawi Chancellor College. I am a young environmental activist who works with young people on issues of environmental management … It is with great concern that we see the natural resources of Zomba being degraded, things that have happened in the past couple of years, and it is with a sad note that we see these malpractices have come to Zomba city. What you see in my background is timber production that’s right in the city. They are cutting down Mbawa trees, which have been planted more than a hundred before just in the name of constructing a road. As planners and citizens of Zomba came down to discuss the issues, we found that there were other viable solutions in constructing the road while still maintaining the natural heritage of preserving the trees in the city. It is also with great concern that as a young person we see these malpractices done right in our cities, so that … generations will not benefit from the good climate, from the good environment, that Zomba has always had and that we have always cherished. So we’re calling on authorities, we’re calling on engineers, we’re calling on other civil societies, and every other person who is concerned with the welfare of people in Zomba and the future generations and even the tourists that come to Zomba to help us in putting a halt to this malpractice, to save these trees which are a natural heritage, which help in so many ways, including addressing issues of climate change, as a natural heritage as well, to stop this malpractice, to save these trees, and to make sure that our generation, the future generation, will enjoy both good development and a good environment.”

Zomba was the capital of British Central Africa, then of Nyasaland, and finally, until 1974, of Republic of Malawi. Malawi’s Parliament remained in Zomba for another 20 years, until 1994. Zomba is now the capital of Zomba District, whose economy if primarily agricultural, with tourism a distant second. Zomba is experiencing rapid population growth, with a population of over 130,000 and rising fast.

Born, raised, and educated in Zomba, Heather Maseko embodies all the changes of the last twenty years. Perhaps for that reason, she has been a face of environmental activism. In 2011, she was on the caravan that crossed the African continent, and ended up in Durban, at the climate change conference, or COP 17. She went to learn: “As a youth this is a platform to gain experience on the process of negotiations for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as a future leader.”

Although the conference disappointed Maseko, that disappointment became the point. She saw first hand that environmental change has to happen from the ground up, that the local matters, and that people, and in particular young people who increasingly make up the majority of the population, must learn to organize and take power.

Heather Maseko has been doing just that, organizing, learning, and taking power. In Malawi, the Mbawa tree matters. That’s why, in 2012, Joyce Banda launched a national campaign to plant trees by planting an Mbawa tree. The Mbawa tree takes a hundred years, and more, to grow to maturity. Trust the youth to teach the world the lesson of the value of time and process.

Heather Maseko is making democracy happen, on the roadsides of Zomba. Wangari Maathai is smiling on Heather Maseko today. The democracy of people is gathering among the trees.

Jamaican Christine Case, 40, died on Sunday at Yarl’s Wood

Jamaican Christine Case, 40, died on Sunday at Yarl’s Wood. Nothing to be seen here; move along; just another Jamaican woman in Yarl’s Wood. “One more dead body behind the walls of Britain’s detention centres.” One more dead woman. That’s all.

Officially Christine Case died of a massive pulmonary thromboembolism, but fellow prisoners tell a different story. They say Christine Case was denied medical assistance. It’s also been claimed that local National Health Service doctors who offered assistance to distressed prisoners after Case’s death were turned away.

Serco runs Yarl’s Wood. Serco claims they have “24-hour, seven-day urgent medical cover on site at Yarl’s Wood.” And yet … Christine Case is dead.

Some say Christine Case called for help, as she was feeling severe chest pains, and that the `care’ she received was paracetamol, a mild analgesic for minor aches and pains. Not for severe pains, and especially not for severe chest pains.

Emma Mlotshwa, of Medical Justice, noted: “We are shocked but not surprised to hear of this tragic death. Any death in immigration detention is avoidable as immigration detention is optional. Our volunteer independent doctors have seen an alarming number of incidents of medical mistreatment. The only thing we are surprised about is that there have not been more deaths.”

People have questions. The immigration minister promises, yet again, yet another investigation.

Meanwhile, Yarl’s Wood is in lockdown. Yarl’s Wood is a house of women’s fear and women’s mourning … and women’s solidarity.

Four years ago, almost to the day, women prisoners, asylum seekers all, at Yarl’s Wood organized a massive hunger strike. 35-year-old Jamaican asylum seeker Denise McNeil was identified as a `ringleader’, moved to another prison, and placed in solitary. The Yarl’s Wood women hunger strikers took the calculus of violence and turned it on its head. They said they are better than that, they are women, fighters used to fighting, peacemakers used to making peace, and no one decides that it is right for them to be slaughtered.

The world paid attention … for a minute.

Twenty-one years ago immigration officers killed Jamaican Joy Gardner, 40, as her five-year-old son and her mother watched. What has changed since then? The killing now takes place behind walls and bars.

For some, the handling of women asylum seekers at Yarl’s Wood `puts the UK to shame.’ It does, but it does more than that. It shames the world, where this is the allotted fate for far, far too many women. Black women. Immigrant women. Women.  A woman died that night.

If rape isn’t in the guard’s job description, the jail is off the hook

A woman prisoner in West Virginia says she was raped 17 times by a Regional Jail Authority “correctional officer”. She sued both the officer and the Regional Jail Authority. She sued the jail for negligence in hiring, supervising, training and retaining said officer. The jail asked to be dropped from the suit because sexual assault is not in the scope of his duties. Rape is not in his job description, and so …

A lower court agreed with the woman. Last week, the West Virginia Supreme Court voted 4 – 1 in favor of the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority. The woman is called AB, the officer DH. The Supreme Court majority ruled: “We find that D. H.’s alleged acts fall manifestly outside the scope of his authority and duties as a correctional officer. There can be no question that these acts, as alleged, are in no way an `ordinary and natural incident’ of the duties with which he was charged by the WVRJCFA. Respondent has failed to adduce any evidence bringing these alleged acts within the ambit of his employment beyond merely suggesting that his job gave him the opportunity to commit them. As such, we conclude that the WVRJCFA is entitled to immunity for respondent’s claims based on vicarious liability for D. H.’s acts.”

There you have it. Rape is not in the job description, and so the Jail is “entitled to immunity.”

Supreme Court Chief Justice Robin Davis offered the dissenting opinion: “In order to find that the Regional Jail is immune from liability when female inmates are raped with impunity by correctional officials, the majority opinion recast our law on qualified immunity in such a manner as to make it now virtually impossible for any state agency, not just the Regional Jail, to ever be held accountable for tortious conduct committed by employees within the scope of their employment. I do not make this accusation lightly… To add insult to injury, the majority opinion also has concluded specifically that liability cannot be imposed on the Regional Jail merely because it did not have any regulations designed to protect female inmates from being raped. According to the majority opinion, such regulations `easily fall within the category of ‘discretionary’ governmental functions.’ The majority opinion requires a rape victim to specifically point to `a ‘clearly established’ right or law with respect to . . . supervision[.]’ In the final analysis, under the majority opinion, the Regional Jail simply has to bury its head in the sand and never promulgate any regulation designed to protect the bodily integrity of female inmates to ensure its continued impunity from liability… The majority opinion promotes and rewards `gross negligence and deliberate indifference’ to the constitutional right of female inmates to be free of sexual assaults. But, the State cannot be granted absolute immunity merely because no regulation was violated when its employee raped an inmate seventeen times. Just what will it take to protect women from such assaults? Simply put, the Regional Jail was grossly negligent in not having regulations in place that would have protected the plaintiff from being alone with any male correctional officer on seventeen separate occasions.”

Just what will it take to protect women from such assaults? As reports from the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women reveal, this is not an isolated incidence. What if judges considered the `immunity’ of correctional staff before sending women to prison and jail for the slightest perceived offense? What if judges stopped targeting girls for prison and stopped punishing girls for non-status offenses? What if we turn this darkness into light? Just what will it take?

In Chile, women shut down Monsanto’s Law

Good news! Women across Chile organized, mobilized and shut down, at least for now, the dreaded Monsanto Law. The law would have given multinational corporations the power to patent seeds they discover, develop or modify. For small and mid-sized farmers, which is to say for the rural 99%, this would have been catastrophic. It would have been disastrous for Chile’s `seed heritage’ as well. Women lead the campaign to stop the law, and last week, the government withdrew the bill.

On Monday, March 17, Secretary General to the Presidency Ximena Rincón announced the withdrawal. Rincón had long been a leading critic of the bill, both in Parliament and in government more generally.

ANAMURI, Asociación Nacional de Mujeres Rurales e Indígenas or the National Association of Rural and Indigenous Women, was a central organizer and mobilizer in the campaign. ANAMURI co-director Alicia Muñoz explained, “All of the resistance that rural organizations, principally indigenous communities, led during these past years was a success. We were able to convey to the parliament how harmful the law would be for the indigenous communities and farmers who feed us all. Big agriculture, or agro-business is just that, a business. It doesn’t feed our country.” In their organizing and mobilizing, ANAMURI explicitly linked the capitalization and commoditization of food and of seeds to capital and to patriarchy. Repeatedly, they stressed that the right to food and the struggle for biodiversity is part of the women’s liberation struggle in Chile and everywhere.

Camila Montecinos, of GRAIN, focuses on biodiversity and food sovereignty. Her organization worked with CLOC, la Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Organizaciones del Campo, to organize rural women, workers, and indigenous communities to educate the members of government and the general population as to what is at stake, and again not only for Chile: “This struggle has not ended. Certainly the agrobusiness sector is going to lobby fiercely. We’re ready for that. Sometimes Chile looks like one of the most submissive countries, but if we can win here, others can win elsewhere where similar laws are in place.” In Argentina, for example, women like Sofía Gatica are leading a similar campaign against Monsanto and Monsanto Laws.

Lucía Sepúlveda, of Rapal, la Red de Acción en Plaguicidas y sus Alternativas or Alliance for a Better Quality of Life/Pesticide Action Network, has been organizing to stop the destruction of small farms and the resultant production of rural food deserts, in the heart of the farmlands. At the same time, when the bill was pulled, Sepúlveda reminded the women around her that it was originally Michelle Bachelet, in 2009, who originally presented the bill to Parliament.

After years of organizing, cajoling, mobilizing, and meeting, Bachelet’s emissary pulled the bill for reconsideration. At the same time, Bachelet announced this week her intention to establish a Ministry for Women and Gender Equality. Alicia Muñoz noted that ANAMURI has been organizing and lobbying for this Ministry since the advent of democracy in Chile.

In Chile, women are on the move: in the government, the fields and factories, the schools, the households and the streets: “We won because we organized an enormous collective effort and massively broadcast and shared our position.” In the words of an earlier Chilean popular movement, “¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!”

For Nozuzile Mankayi, the struggle continues

Nozuzile Mankayi is a gold widow.

Her husband, Thembekile Mankayi, spent 1979 to 1995 working underground in the Vaal Reefs gold mine, in South Africa. In 1993, Mankayi contracted pulmonary tuberculosis. He received treatment, improved slightly, and then suffered a recurrence, and had to leave. When he left, he was paid a mere R16,000 for his troubles. In 2006, he was diagnosed with silicosis.

In 2006, Thembekile Mankayi sued AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. for 2.6 million rand. He sued for dignity. Four years later, in August 2010, the Constitutional Court heard the case. Seven months later, March 2011, the Constitutional Court decided in Thembekile Mankayi’s favor.

Thembekile Mankayi died one week before the decision was announced.

It’s been three years, and his widow, Nozuzile Mankayi, has not received a single penny.

The South African compensation system is designed to strangle and choke gold widows to death. First, they have to submit their respective partner’s bodies to a post mortem. For many families, cutting open the body is forbidden. So, women have to be prepared to withstand often intense opposition and worse.

Second, women survivors receive far less than their partners would have.

Jenni Williams, of the Women’s Legal Centre, has argued, “The women who take care of miners are doing unpaid care work. At the moment we are developing a strategy around what would be the best way to litigate around this, but for now we are saying that unpaid care work should be recognised in the context of damages claims, but also in government planning and budgeting. There needs to be recognition that women contribute towards the economy in that they are working for free, which means that there is a saving. In other words, where you had to hire a nurse to look after the sick person, you would have the wife or daughter doing this for free. In terms of this class action suit, what we are proposing is that part of the damages award is a trust that is set up that acknowledges the saving that the mining companies would have by virtue of the fact that these men’s partners and daughters are going to look after them … The court should take that into account when they look at the damages claim because the person doing the harm is actually benefiting from the woman’s unpaid care work.”

It has been said, “Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important.” All the harm addresses women. When miners are attacked, in their lungs by dust and in their chests by bullets, women carry them, through the long day’s night and to the graveside. The persons doing harm benefit from that. They benefit from women’s unpaid labor and used up lives. They benefit from the tragedy of others deemed unheard and unseen: women.

Thembekile Mankayi waged a mighty campaign against predators who ultimately exploded and collapsed his lungs. Nozuzile Mankayi will not stay unheard or unseen. For her, and for the more than 200,000 former gold mineworkers and gold widows now engaged in a class action suit, the struggle continues.