Modern Day Slavery and Modern Day Egypt

The two top stories in the news agenda have encouraged me to write about my experience and research into those two aspects, these comments are entirely my own. I was in Cairo during the protests against Mubarak and subsequently wrote my final year dissertation on child domestic workers in Egypt.

IMG_0220

100_3612

Egyptian Arab Spring and Modern Day Slavery

In 2011, both modern day situations were foreign to me but I found myself immersed in their dialogue and urged to participate in varying ways. I barely knew Mubarak but after 3 weeks of being in the country my passion for his removal grew. I witnessed abject poverty and wondered how a growing economy could have such destitution. So much so, families would send their little girls (usually) to work as child domestic workers. I did my semester abroad at the American University of Cairo where the wealthiest send their children for tertiary education. I carried out a survey and a sizeable number of participants either had, knew someone who had a child domestic worker. Their little hands indentured in labour difficult for a person much older at the expense of their education. I visited a centre for street children and they all could not understand English but could understand the value an of an education. Their rights trampled on for the sake of survival, many children (more than anyone can count) are clandestine victims of a poor social system.

I had a dissertation to write because of Mubarak’s actions, or lack thereof. I heard many heart-wrenching stories about little girls facing exploitation and sexual abuse because it was ingrained in Egypt’s formal institution that it was lawful to allow children to work. It was the government’s fault why children found themselves in this situation so the government had to go. People were frustrated so they took to the streets, some lost their lives fighting what they believed in. Massacred for starting a movement in favour of the removal of injustice. Those were lost in vain, Egyptian Judicial system has shown that injustice remains. So for those who still have strength to unite in Tahrir Square will fight once more, in a country where dying for justice holds no weight and perpertrators can be released with blood on their hands and not be held accountable.

The UK and Modern Day Slavery

I used “I am Slave” for my dissertation because it portrayed what modern day slavery in societies such as Britain would look like. It was reported today by the home office that it is more common than expected. I have heard stories of Zimbabweans who have had their passports seized and forced to work in terrible constraining conditions. This problem is not unique to the African context but is widespread. This revelation has been met with backlash at David Cameron’s plans to being stringent to European immigrants. Anti-slavery charities have warned that such measures will result in an increase of slavery.

Like the Egyptian context, will there be a revolt of the Government and its stringent measures causing the common man to struggle to such lengths? Food banks are on the increase, child services have failed to protect their beneficiaries and poverty has become rife in modern day Britain. Charities that predominantly focussed on Third world development have reverted back to grass roots programmes to improve the quality of life of British children. The system has failed to protect the most vulnerable.

Many have called for #CameronMustGo which is slogan that was trending on Twitter. 575 683 tweets in the last 30 days stated many reasons and expressed various frustrations, frankly people have had enough of the current government’s aloof attitude to those who are finding it difficult to make ends meet on a day to day.

So should people just sit back while children with mental health issues fail to receive appropriate assistance? Is it acceptable to watch more & more programmes about child carers and children who live in poverty? I say a protests in Trafalgar Square are in order. For the nation’s children, for the Nation’s poor, for the failing system, for justice.

Lost and Found: True Story of an African Hansel and Gretel

“What would you have done if you never found us?” She closed her eyes and seemed to delve into memories of grief relieved. “My world would have been torn apart.”

image

Photo: Me and my big brothers. Nathan holding my hand. We were around that age.

My mother and I was recollecting our version  of events of the life – changing events. I was two and some at the time and my older brother was 3. We loved car rides so when a car mechanic offered us one we hopped in the car.  My mother tells me the accident happened paMbudzi, commonly known as the unofficial goat market close to the tollgate leading out of the capital city Harare. I distinctly remember all the traffic lights at that intersection turning green at the same time. Cars flooded in anyway causing carnage and death at the scene. I specifically remember a car full of fully clad apostolic faith members was hit by our car, a fault the mechanic was arrested for. I peered over the door to witness the aftermath and all I could see was the police pulling the mechanic away from the car, that was left in the middle of the road.

A bystander must have seen us and took us out of the car in case another accident would sweep us away.  We were retrieved from the car in such a hurry I left my little Sandak shoe in the car. My brother and I were taken from the only security we had to join the thrall of people at that busy intersection. My brother grabbed my hand and we started walking. “Hande kumba Dali,” (let’s go home Dali) my brother said reassuringly so I followed him with a shoe on.

The sun disappeared as we walked along the streets. My mother tells me it should have been Glen Norah. I whined to my brother about my empty stomach and my tired feet. “Tokumbira chikafu,” (please give us food). My brother placed trust in a lady doing some work outside her house. She asked the obvious questions, “Who are you with? Where do you live?” She promptly took us to the police station so they could help us (My mother tells me it was Glen Norah police station).

The duty officers asked so many questions I did not even know. My brother was brave and was not afraid to answer even if most of the responses were ‘I don’t know’. After a barrage of questions he volunteered the most vital information. “Our telephone number is 304771,” that solved the case. All we could do was wait.

My mother told me her side of the story. That day my mother was being baptised at her church and it was a significant day to show her commitment to God. She came home to distressing news that her two youngest children were involved in an accident and no one knows where they were. She told she broke down for a few minutes and strengthened herself to go out and find her children. “I was looking in the reeds, thinking maybe that is where you were harmed and left to die.” She said she prayed while she was driving, “Lord I have been a good servant to you, I have dedicated my life to you. Please give me back my children.” She went to Waterfalls Police Station where she heard the news that they have been found and they are at Glen Norah police station. She began to make her way to us.

“Ndomuuraya!!!” (I will kill him!!). That woke us up from our sleep as we snuggled in the thin blankets usually given to inmates. “Ndinomupisa murume uyu!” (I will burn this man). I saw a man glistening from head to toe from paraffin, which I assumed was poured by the woman hurling threats. The yelling and fracas increased and I held onto my brother tighter. Not long after their entrance, was their exit. I do not know how it was resolved. We fell asleep again and woke up to my mom’s voice, “Vana vangu!!!” (My children). We struggled to emerge from the blankets so we can run to our mother. She looked us up and down, to check if we were ok, thanked the officers profusely and whisked us out of the station. She couldn’t hide the relief and pent up worry from her voice. All I remember from that is asking if we could still have our usual Saturday burgers and chips dinner because we were starving. “You can have anything that you want.”

“I did not realise how important teaching your children your home telephone number was,” She uttered with a grateful smile.

The End

I have never felt so choked up about telling the story as much as I do now. Much like a Hansel and Gretel tale it was spoken about alot and my brother’s memory was the breadcrumb that led us home. I always thought that we were brave but in actual fact it was my brother who was the rock. I am sure many people have times in their lives where they needed someone to hold them by the hand and guide them through the unknown. Sometimes that can be the change from death to life.

image

image

Thank you for reading, lets get a-tweeting (@dali_lamah)