African women smallholder farmers haunt the G8 … and The Guardian

In 2012, the G8 launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which, controversially, gave agribusiness a seat at the African farming table, right next to governments and aid donors. Agribusiness had always been there, but now the arrangements of hand holding and pocket filling would be formalized. Despite promises of the `new’, transparency around the arrangements did not increase. If anything, the world of African food security and nutrition transactions became murkier.

This week The Guardian ran a series of articles on the New Alliance. Many see the Alliance as colonialism with a neoliberal face. First, the aid processes become increasingly privatized and imbedded into the workings, and failings, of markets. Second, the contractual and policy decisions are not only made behind closed doors, they’re made in settings that prohibit any direct involvement of smallholder farmers. Neither the Alliance nor The Guardian seems to care that smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa are overwhelmingly women. What’s not new here? Millions of women workers rendered invisible … again.

Ten African countries signed agreements that `open’ them to greater foreign direct investment. The countries are Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania. The national commitments involve land and water; seeds; tax; finance; infrastructure; food security or nutrition; and other. Ten countries signed 209 commitments. Of those ten countries, only Benin made any commitments to women, and those two commitments are, at best, vague: “Design and set up a gender-based information and communication system to prompt behavioural change in the agricultural and rural sector.” “Improve how gender is addressed when designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating projects/programmes and activities in the agricultural sector.” As of yet, the progress on these is listed as “Unknown.”

The Guardian reported on Malawian smallholder farmers being kept in the dark on Malawi’s commitments; on Tanzanian smallholder farmers’ concerns that the new alliance will only turn them into cheap labor for the new, large farming corporations; and on Ghanaian smallholder farmers’ mixed reactions. The Guardian doesn’t mention or quote any women smallholder farmers.

Women comprise as much as 80% of African subsistence farmers. In Burkina Faso, gardeners and smallholder farmers are overwhelmingly women. From palm oil production in Benin to cocoa production in Ghana to general smallholder production in Tanzania, women predominate in numbers but not in access to resources or control. In Malawi, women make up almost 70% of the full time farmer population. Every major multinational agency has issued a report on the centrality of women in agriculture to any food security agenda. Repeatedly, reports demonstrate that women constitute the majority of smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa, and yet have little to no access to land tenure or to State or international assistance. Those reports also suggest that extension services automatically look to men as `change agents.’

Women farmers are a majority of the adult farming population. They are not part of the picture. They are the picture. They are not part of the story. They are the story. When you see the picture, when you read the story, if you don’t see and read about women farmers, write to the authors and tell them, “No women farmers, no justice.”


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Roseline Akhalu and the atrocious barbarism of the Home Office

Roseline Akhalu on her way to an immigration tribunal

Despite the greatest efforts of the United Kingdom Home Office, it appears that Roseline Akhalu will be allowed to live. Last week, judges rejected `an appeal’ by the Home Office to deport Roseline Akhalu. Akhalu committed no crime, other than that of being ill and of being Nigerian. If she were to return to Nigeria, it is certain that she would die. No one disputes this. And yet … the Home Office has spent years and untold resources trying to deport her. Why?

Furthermore, why do they call it the Home Office, when that agency dedicates its resources to expelling, incarcerating, and generally despising the precisely those who need help? What kind of home is that, anyway?

In 2004, Roseline Akhalu was one of 23 people to win a Ford Foundation scholarship to study in England. That would be enough to celebrate in itself, but Akhalu’s story is one of extraordinary pain and perseverance. Five years earlier, she and her husband were working in Benin City, in Nigeria. Her husband was a nurse, and Roseline Akhalu worked for the local government. They didn’t earn much but they got by. Until March 1999, when her husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The couple was told that they must go to South Africa, or India, for care, but the costs of such a venture were prohibitive. And so … Roseline Akhalu watched her husband die because there was no money.

Now a widow, and a widow without a child, Akhalu confronted a hostile future. After her in-laws took pretty much everything, Roseline Akhalu set about the work of making a life for herself. She worked, she studied, she applied for a masters’ scholarship, and she succeeded.

Akhalu went to Leeds University, to study Development Studies. She joined a local church; she tended her gardens, saving tomatoes that were otherwise destined to die; she worked with young girls in the area. She planned to return to Nigeria and establish an ngo to work with young girls. It was all planned.

Until she was diagnosed with kidney failure. That was 2004, a few months after arriving. In 2005, Akhalu was put on regular dialysis. In 2009, she had a successful kidney transplant, but the transplant meant that for the rest of her life Roseline Akhalu would need hospital check-ups and immunosuppressant drugs. In Nigeria, those drugs would be impossibly costly.

Her attorney informed the government of her change in status, that due to unforeseen circumstances Roseline Akhalu, who had never planned on staying in the United Kingdom, now found that, in order to live, she had to stay.

And so began Roseline Akhalu’s journey into the uncanny unheimlich of the Home Office, where home means prison or exile, and nothing says “compassion” like humiliation and degradation and persecution.

Once a month, Akhalu showed up, in Leeds, at the United Kingdom Border Agency Reporting Office. Then, in March of 2012, without explanation, she was detained and immediately packed off, by Reliance `escorts’, to the notorious Yarl’s Wood, where she was treated like everyone’s treated at Yarl’s Wood, and especially women … disgustingly.

So far this is business as usual. Here’s where it gets interesting. In May, Akhalu was released from detention. In September, the Home Office refused her appeal. In November, a judge overturned the Home Office decision. The judge declared that, since Akhalu had established a private life of value to her, to members of the Church, and to a wider community, removing her would violate her right to a private and family life protected by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The judge noted that Akhalu had done absolutely nothing illegal. She had come to the United Kingdom legally and was diagnosed while legally in the country. Most chillingly, perhaps, the judge agreed that to send Roseline Akhalu back to Nigeria was a swift death sentence. Given the health care system and costs in Nigeria, she would be dead within four weeks. Nigerian and English doctors agreed.

On December 14, the Home Office appealed the decision. That’s right. They’re pursuing a case against Roseline Akhalu, despite all the evidence and mounting pressure from all sides. Why? Because that’s what the Home Office does. Want an example? In 2008, Ama Sumani, 43-year old Ghanaian woman, was lying in hospital in Cardiff, in Wales, receiving kidney dialysis for malignant myeloma. That was until the good old boys showed up and hauled her out and then shipped her off to Ghana, where she died soon after. The Lancet put it neatly: “The UK has committed an atrocious barbarism.” That was January 19, 2008. Five years later and more … the atrocity continues.

(This originally appeared, in January 2013, in a different version, at Africa Is a Country. Thanks as ever for the collaboration and support.)


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The Life and Times of Esther K

Barinem Kiobel is dead. Esther Kiobel is alive, kicking, and organizing. Remember that, and remember the name: Esther Kiobel.

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. Kiobel is Esther Kiobel. Esther Kiobel’s husband, Barinem Kiobel, was a prominent member of government who opposed the devastation wrought by Shell Oil and opposed the violence being committed against the opposition. In 1994, he was arrested, along with Ken Saro-Wiwa and seven others, mostly the leadership of Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, MOSOP. They were tortured for a year and then hanged. The nine, the Ogoni 9, were then dumped in unmarked graves in a Port Harcourt cemetery. The rest, as they say, is history.

Or is it?

Esther Kiobel fled Nigeria, applied successfully for asylum status in the United States, became a U.S. citizen, and sued Shell Oil, aka Royal Dutch Petroleum, for their role in the torture and assassination of her husband and so many others. There’s more to the story. There’s the “ecological genocide” committed over decades by Shell and Chevron … in cooperation with the various national governments of Nigeria. There’s the story of women in the Niger Delta organizing, as they continue to do. And there’s the story of rapacious multinational corporations operating without restraints.

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday decided that Kiobel and her group don’t have a case, at least not in U.S. courts the way the law is currently written. The vote was 9 – 0. This decision is a setback for human rights organizations that hope to bring multinationals to justice, or at least to some sense of accountability, through the U.S. court systems.

Reporters and discussants of the Supreme Court decision have focused on the corporations. Some note the irony of corporations having the rights and standing of individuals, but not the responsibilities or constraints. Others focus on the impact on human rights suits, on corporations, on the prosecution of torture. In a quick and informal survey of articles, barely half reference Esther Kiobel, preferring instead the shorthand Kiobel.

Esther Kiobel is the story. Barinem Kiobel is dead. Ken Saro-Wiwa is dead. So are Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, Baribor Bera, and John Kpuine. Erasing Esther Kiobel from the story does not honor the dead. It continues the narrative.

So, kudos to Katie Redford, of EarthRights International, who wrote: “There are only a few things that are clear about today’s decision in Kiobel.  First, a lot of ink is going to be spilled trying to parse what it really means in the next few days.  And a lot of attorney hours are going to be spent in the next few years litigating the issues in the lower courts.  And of course, the Court dismissed Esther Kiobel and her fellow plaintiffs’ claims of torture, killing, and crimes against humanity, giving Shell a pass for these human rights abuses.  That result is a shame.”

That result is a shame.

Esther Kiobel and her allies will find ways to continue their struggle for justice. Justice must be more than rememorative. It must exist in the present, and it must open new spaces for the future. Meanwhile, for now, let us make sure Esther Kiobel doesn’t vanish in the haze. Corporations are not people; people are people. Esther Kiobel is the story. Remember her name.


(Photo Credit: AP / Carolyn Kaster)

End the war on children living with disabilities. End it now.

Over two years ago, we wrote about `seclusion rooms’. These are solitary confinement spaces in schools across the United States. More often than not, they’re closets or utility rooms, anything small and tight with a lock on the outside. That is not seclusion. That is torture.

And of course, `of course’, the subjects of this practice are overwhelmingly children living with disabilities. Children like Jonathan King, who, at 13, hanged himself in a Georgia seclusion room. Or the 12-year-old girl living with autism, or the seven-year-old girl living with autism and bipolar disorder.

Or, as described in yesterday’s New York Times, Rose, who, in kindergarten, was locked into seclusion rooms for hours … at five years of age. Her `problem’? Rose had `speech and language delays’. For which she was thrown into a closed, dark space for an hour or so at a time.

Rose’s father reports she was deeply traumatized. The school system, in Lexington, Massachusetts, has agreed, or been forced by a lawsuit settlement, to pay for Rose’s treatment.

Seclusion rooms, screaming rooms, school based solitary confinement can be found in Connecticut, Kentucky, New York, Florida, Ohio. Georgia banned seclusion rooms … `thanks’ to Jonathan King. How many children? How many children must suffer? How many children must then be given `the gift’ of post-traumatic treatment? For how long?

While this issue addresses all children, and all people, it strikes at the heart of citizenship for those living with disabilities. Billions of dollars of profit are generated every year from the care provided for those living with disabilities. Those who care for those living with disabilities are overworked, underpaid, and always under-esteemed. Billions are stolen from their labor and lives.

At the same time that billions of dollars of profit are generated, there isn’t enough money to provide decent, humane treatment? No. This is the production of vulnerability writ large on small bodies. In the United Kingdom, Ellen Clifford, of Disabled People Against the Cuts, DPAC, knows this lesson all too well. In Nigeria, Patience Ogolo, of Advocacy for Women with Disabilities Initiative, AWWDI, does as well. So does Marsha M. Linehan, a psychologist at the University of Washington who, as an adolescent, suffered and barely survived seclusion rooms. Only now, many decades later, can she finally share the stories of her life in the cells.

These women know that the State that treats any group as disposable is worse than a failed or a rogue state. It’s criminal.

The claim of State poverty as an alibi for physical, emotional and psychological harm against people living with disabilities is a crime. The suggestion that there isn’t enough money or resources is a lie and a crime. And the lie and the crime are framed within a political economy of vulnerability, in which it is presumed that the vulnerable cannot speak or act for themselves.

They can, and they do. And they know that the question of who lives and who dies has been taken over by the question of who lives well and who lives in hell, under constant attack.

End the war on children living with disabilities. End it now.


(Image Credit: Ward Zwart / New York Times)


You have struck the woman farmer and farm worker …

It’s Women’s Month in South Africa, and the news from government is predictably grim. Women are still suffering, announced Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities Lulama Xingwana, and in particular for `rural women’. This comes a year almost to the day of the Human Rights Watch report, Ripe with Abuse Human Rights Conditions in South Africa’s Fruit and Wine Industries. The report described and documented the face of the abused farm worker in the Western Cape, and, to no one’s great surprise, the face is a woman’s.

A year later, the struggle continues.

For example, Worldwatch Institute issued a report this week that finds that investment in women farmers, globally, is too low. Remember, women produce half of the agricultural output in South Asia and 80 percent in sub-Saharan Africa. Further, women farmers produce more than half of all food and comprise 43 percent of the global agricultural labor force. `Forgetting’ women endangers food security as it threatens food sovereignty. Beyond that, and perhaps more to the point, excluding women farmers and farm workers imperils democracy, locally, nationally, regionally, globally. Remember that the next time you bite into a piece of fruit, wherever you are.

While the situation is grim, the news is not all bad. In the United States, undergraduate women enrolled in agriculture programs outnumber undergraduate men by more than 2,900 students. That’s out of a sum of around 50,000 students. This trend corresponds with the increase in women farm operators.

In Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Senegal, the Philippines, Nepal, and beyond and between, women farmers, women farm workers, rural women activists and organizers, ordinary rural women, are breaking new ground … literally. They are moving from a field not quite her own to a field of her own. And that’s good news … for food security, for food sovereignty, for democracy. The struggle continues.


(Photo Credit: Phuong Tran/IRIN)

Widows demand justice

Tomorrow, June 23, is International Widows Day. Around the world, widows are denied justice. They are dropped from social networks, they are forgotten, they are denied access to property, they are circled in by various `cultural’ and legal restrictions. Around the world. This is not about `the developing world’. It’s global.

Rio + 20 ends today. Many who care about the environment, in whatever way, are frustrated by the lack of meaningful action. Women and women’s advocates, in particular, object to the absolute failure of the conference to understand as fundamental the link between family planning and environmental justice. Family planning covers the entire arc of family history, from before cradle to the grave … or at least it should. Did you hear any major discussion in Rio about widows’ rights? Me neither. What about at the G20 meeting in Mexico City this past week? No? Neither did I. How will widows figure into the family planning summit conference in London, in July? Wait and see.

Widows around the world are of all ages, and they share more than grief. They share reduced access to means of survival and well being. Some are workplace widows, such as Shelly Anderson, Rhonda Burkeen, Sheila Clark, Nancy Curtis, Michelle Jones, Courtney Kemp, Tracy Kleppinger, Sherri Revette, Natalie Roshto, whose respective partners were killed in the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, Have they received proper compensation? No. Do the widows of mining disasters receive proper compensation for their loss? Seldom.

Nanda Bhandare’s husband was a cotton farmer. Debts rose, Indian small farmers faced multinational agro-corporations and a hostile global market, bankruptcy and starvation loomed larger and larger. One day, Bhandare’s husband protested with his life. He drank enough pesticide to kill himself. He died, but his debts live on. Years later, his widow has taken the children out of school to work the fields to pay those debts. Each day, they move closer to death by starvation. Where is Nanda Bhandare in the global conference circuitry? Nowhere.

Around the world, widows are initially acknowledged and supported, especially after a catastrophe such as the recent airline crash in Nigeria. What happens next? Too often they are abandoned. Individuals, communities, agencies move on, feeling they have done their due diligence. They haven’t. We haven’t..

Around the world widows are organizing. In the Cross River State, in Nigeria, widows and their supporters are talking about what is needed: enhanced livelihood options through access to real education and equitable finance; increased cooperation among widows and widows-focused organisations through the formation of widows cooperatives and networks; increased public awareness on widowhood issues through information, education and communication; and, finally, enabling a policy environment for widows through an advocacy campaign.

In Nigeria, as almost everywhere, the condition of widows is lamentable, but it is not inevitable.

In Sierra Leone, for example, more than 20% of households are headed by women. Over a third of the women who are heads of households are widows. Women, like Gladys Brima, the founder of Women’s Partnership for Justice and Peace, are advocating, organizing, pushing. Women like Sia Bona are staking their lives on organizing. When Bona’s husband died, her in laws swooped in and pushed her and her mother off the farm, a farm that had been Bona’s father’s farm. The law says one thing, customary and traditional law says another. Women, and especially rural women, don’t live in `the State’. They live where they live, locally. Federal or national laws without built in requirements for local transformation are, at best, empty symbols. More often than not, they are tools of oppression, exclusion, and betrayal. Bona, Brima and other women in Sierra Leone are organizing at all levels to change that situation … now.

A version of that exclusion takes place almost everywhere. Widows must have more than a seat at the conference table. They must be prioritized, not just recognized. Thus far, they are not. Instead, widows haunt the discussion of global and of local justice. And they are organizing.


(Photo Credit: PTI)

Women do not haunt the State. They occupy it.


Around the world, women are taking to the streets in great numbers, to protest, to take charge, to transform. In the past couple weeks, women have led and populated mass protests and marches in Malawi, Uganda, Lebanon, Argentina, Romania, Chile, Haiti. Women have occupied Wall Street, Nigeria, and beyond.

Women have been the bearers, in every sense, of Spring … in Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain. Today, January 25, women are returning to Tahrir Square … and to every square in Egypt. This is nothing new for northern Africa. Women, such as Aminatou Haidar, have born `spring’ in Western Sahara now for decades.

For women, the street does not end at the sidewalk. It runs, often directly, into the State offices.

Women are everywhere on the move, changing the face and form of State.

In Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner returned to her office today, after a 21-day health related absence, to resume her activities as President. On Thursday, January 5, Portia Simpson Miller was inaugurated, for the second time, as Prime Minister of Jamaica. On Monday, January 16, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was inaugurated to her second term, of six years, as President of Liberia.

These are precisely not historic stories or events, and that’s the point. Women in positions of State power are women in positions of State power. Not novelties nor exotic nor, most importantly, exceptions. That is the hope.

But for now, that struggle continues.

In Colombia, women, such as Esmeralda Arboleda, helped organize the Union of Colombian Women, fought for women’s rights and power, and was the first woman elected as a Senator to the national Congress. That was July, 1958. Fifty or so years later, in January 2012, women in Chile launched “Mas mujeres al poder”, “More women in power”.  In tactics, strategies and cultural actions, Mas mujeres al poder builds on the work of student activists in the streets. Women are saying enough, women are saying the time is now, and women are pushing their way through the electoral process, with or without the political parties, into the provincial and national legislatures.

Meanwhile, in Bolivia, Gabriela Montaño was named President of the Senate and Rebeca Delgado was named President of the House of Representatives. Women are everywhere … and on the move.

On Tuesday, January 10, voters in Minnesota, in the United States, elected Susan Allen to the state legislature. Allen is the first American Indian woman to serve in that body. She is a single mother, and she is lesbian. Many firsts accrue to her election.

Across Europe, Black women are struggling and entering into legislative bodies with greater and greater success: Manuela Ramin-Osmundsen, originally from Martinique,  in Norway; Nyamko Sabuni, originally from the DRC, in Sweden; Mercedes Lourdes Frias, originally from the Dominican Republic, in Italy. The struggle continues … into the national and regional legislatures, into the political structures, into the cultures of power as well as recognition.

Across the African continent, women are on the move. In Kenya, women, such as Charity Ngilu, are set to make their marks in the upcoming elections … and beyond. Meanwhile, South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is running, hard, for the Chairpersonship of the African Union Commission. She would be the first woman in that post, and some say she would be the most powerful woman in Africa.

And in South Korea, four women, Park Geun-hye, Han Myeong-sook, Lee Jung-hee and Sim Sang-jung lead the three major political parties. Together, their three parties control 262 seats of the National Assembly’s 299.

This barely covers the news from the past three weeks. Everywhere, women are cracking patriarchy’s hold on and of power, in the streets, in the State legislatures, in the political structures. Today, and tomorrow, women do not haunt the State. They occupy it.


(Photo Credit: BeBlogerra)

Women indignadas carry Tahrir Square and Spring, and occupy prison

Occupy, along with Indignados and Spring, is spreading, to new places, and so takes different, local and yet global forms.

In Nigeria this week, in response to fuel prices and, even more, to astronomical unemployment and crushing hopelessness among young people, protests, and more, have punctuated the landscape. Occupy Nigeria. Labor unions, women’s groups, farmers’ groups and others have joined, and to a certain extent followed, the lead of their younger comrades. In Kano, for example, the youth have established what they call “Tahrir Square”. Elsewhere, some say that an “Arab Spring” is coming to Sudan, to Zimbabwe, to a theater of engagement near you.

In Haiti, as in Chile as in the United Kingdom as in Spain, students are protesting the inequality of education and the crushing hopelessness it produces. As various forces attempt to privatize a university opening in Limonade, the students of the University of Haiti, l’Université d’Etat d’Haïti, have declared themselves indignés. Indignados.

We are all, or almost all, moving towards our own Tahrir Square; we are all, or almost all, indignés, indignados. Language, concepts, actions not only exceed the borders they cross, they redefine notions of nationhood, identity. Or such is the dream and hope. Indignados articulate with Zapatistas articulate with Arab Spring and Tahrir Square articulate with indigenous movements and keep sending out new feelers, new shoots, new threads that somehow link new and old into something possible, something happening right now.

And so in northern Venezuela this week, 800 women and 150 children occupied the Yare prison complex. They came to visit their loved ones, who suffer overcrowding and overly long waits for trials, as so many do in so many prisons around the world.  Then, they simply refused to leave. They `self-kidnapped.’ They invaded and occupied the prison space with their indignation.

950 women and children looked at armed guards and said, “Nope, we’re not moving.” They invented Spring, the beginning of a kind of liberation.

You want to know what this Spring could mean? Ask the many immigrant women in US immigrant detention centers, women like Julie, who are told they have no right to legal representation, no right to due process, because, well, they’re not in `prison’. They’re in `detention.’ And so they sit, watched, and often sexually harassed and worse, by guards. Most of the detention centers are privately owned. Profit flows from the time women, mostly women of color, sit and wait.

Many of the women live with mental health illnesses. Actually, many are in crisis. Many of the women struggle with the consequences and scars of domestic violence. Many of the women know they are in `detention’ because their English `failed’ them, and because, though they lived in neighborhoods in which English was a second language, somehow the police only spoke English. Who’s failing whom here?

This week, the young women and men of Nigeria have urged us to occupy and liberate public policy. The young women and men of Haiti have urged us to occupy and liberate education. And the young women and children of Venezuela have called on us to occupy prison.

Occupy prison. We have been occupied by the global prison for far too long. Follow the lead of the women and children of Venezuela. Occupy prison. It’s time.

(Photo Credit: Fernando Llano/AP)

Does David Cameron support slavery? Ask the domestic workers.

Last year, England declared October 18th as Anti-Slavery Day. Today is the second Anti-Slavery Day. How will Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha Cameron celebrate this day? Let’s ask their nanny, Gita Lima.

Gita Lima is originally from Nepal. She worked, in England, for a family that proved to be abusive. She received assistance from Kalayaan, an advice and advocacy center for migrant domestic workers. Lima’s situation was all too familiar to Kalayaan. According to Kalayaan, nearly 70% of migrant domestic workers work seven days a week, almost half work 16 hours a day, and nearly 20% have been physically abused. More than half of the transnational domestic workers report that their bosses seize their passports and do not let them leave the house unaccompanied. Many report being denied food, many report sexual abuse.

Among its services, Kalayaan runs an ethical employment agency. David and Samantha Cameron came to that agency and hired Gita Lima, a number of years ago. Lima cared for their four children. In particular, she took care of the eldest child, Ivan, who had been born with a combination of cerebral palsy and severe epilepsy, and required round the clock care. Ivan died in 2009, at the age of six. Gita Lima continued to work for the Camerons, moving with them to 10 Downing Street.

The government, David Cameron’s government, recently proposed a change in visa regulations. This change would require migrant domestic workers to stay with the employers who sponsored them. Like the song says, “You’d better dance with the one that brung ya.” Or else.

Many domestic workers, and their allies like Kalayaan and the trade union Unite, understand the removal of the limited protections provided by the current system, the elimination of the right to change employers, as slavery.

They’re right, it is slavery, and it’s the Parliament of the United Kingdom that says so, in its Anti-Slavery Day Act: “In this Act “slavery” includes—
(a) trafficking for sexual exploitation,
(b) child trafficking,
(c) trafficking for forced labour, and
(d) domestic servitude.”

Domestic servitude. Gita Lima, Marissa Begonia, Noor, Mira, and all the transnational domestic workers did absolutely nothing wrong, did everything right, in fact. They have worked hard, they have taken care of children and households, and in the case of some, like Gita Lima, they have wept at and mourned the loss of a loved one. Who is the criminal here, the one placed in slavery, in “domestic servitude”, or the one who holds the woman worker in bondage?


(Photo Credit: BBC)


The blood and distress of Olayinka Ijaware and her two children

Olayinka Ijaware is a young Nigerian woman who has been living in County Waterford, in Ireland, for the last four years. She is the mother of two children, aged five and seven. Until quite recently, Ijaware was pregnant with a third child. Then she suffered a miscarriage.

Early Tuesday morning, August 16, the Gardaí, or Irish national police, showed up and `escorted’ Ms. Ijaware and her two young children to the Dublin airport, where she was `prepared for deportation.’ Olayinka Ijaware is an asylum seeker. According to the State, she is a failed asylum seeker. According to her, her attorneys, and her friends and supporters, she is in the process appealing the decision, and so is still an asylum seeker.

As she was being `prepared’, Ms. Ijaware complained of pains and bleeding, the result, she explained, of her recent miscarriage. She was taken to hospital. She was seen by doctors. The doctors said she should not fly if she was suffering vaginal bleeding. Witnesses say she was bleeding and in deep distress. The Gardaí disagree. And so, Olayinka Ijaware and her two children, two children who basically know only Ireland, were shipped back to the airport, to `prepare’ for deportation.

Magically, and without explanation, the flight was cancelled. Ijaware was told to report to the Gardaí next week, for deportation.

The date and time of Ms. Ijaware’s miscarriage is being debated. That she was bleeding at some point that night is not debated. That she and her children were taken in the very early hours of the morning, without warning, is not debated. That currently the Irish government is conducting a mass deportation of so-called asylum seekers is not debated.

The full name of Ireland’s national police force is An Garda Síochána na hÉireann. That means “Guard of the Peace of Ireland.” The Gardaí are the Guardians, and Ireland is Ireland. But what is the peace? What is the peace when women’s blood and distress count for nothing, for less than nothing if the women are Black?

What is the peace of Ireland? Ask Olayinka Ijaware. Ask the children of Olayinka Ijaware. They know.


(Photo Credit: