Author Archives: claudmba

South Sudanese people still believe in hope

Joseph Kabiru is CAFOD’s Africa News Officer based in Nairobi. He recently travelled to South Sudan, where fighting is causing a humanitarian emergency. Please give to CAFOD’s South Sudan emergency appeal.

South Sudan emergency appeal

South Sudanese people in Juba on a peace march/Photo Joseph Kabiru

On my second day in the South Sudanese capital Juba, I have heard some of the stories of people escaping the violence that erupted last month. In the capital Juba, hidden from the hustle and bustle of a city slowly coming back to normal, are the stories of women and children who have borne the brunt of the suffering.

The streets of Juba can be deceptive to the stranger. They are full of life, signs of a city recovering from recent violent events. Gunshots which were a regular feature of life at night here, are slowly becoming rare.

In the dusty, sandy grounds of St Theresa Catholic Cathedral, I sat with women as their restless children tugged on their arms or legs, wanting to do something more than just sit around and talk. The women told me that their world has been turned upside down by the fighting.

Please help us reach those people caught up in the fighting. Give to our emergency appeal today>>

Stella Jacob, an 18 year old mother of three, gave birth to her six day-old son, Thomas Sebit, on her own. I met mother and baby, plus her two other children, inside the Cathedral compound where they are sleeping on the floor, in an incomplete stone building belonging to the Sacred Heart’s Sisters.

Covering her new-born baby with a mosquito net, Stella told me how she had to flee with her two other children in the middle of the night on December 15 last year when she was 8 months pregnant. “I didn’t even know the baby was due when I went into labour, and the baby came before my mother could summon help,” she told me, her face full of uncertainty. Stella’s husband, had gone to the military barracks for recruitment when fighting broke. She doesn’t know if her husband is dead or alive.

Behind the violence and political posturing, it is ordinary lives that are affected. Mary Abdalla Labalua, a single mother of 12 children, only returned to South Sudan two years ago, to start a new life in her new country after living all her life in Khartoum in Sudan. She came back full of hope for a new life in an independent country, and bought a plot of land and built a new house. It was destroyed within two days of the fighting.

The situation is still tense, the ceasefire is fragile, people are not totally sure what is going to happen next. So, because of the insecurity, I’m not able to travel far outside of Juba. But I have been able to speak on the telephone to CAFOD’s partners in the town of Malakal. Sister Agnes Nyalik told me dogs and chickens were feeding on the rotting bodies of dead soldiers and civilians who were killed in the fierce fighting for control of the town. I was told floating bodies can be seen in the River Nile, which is the source of water for those that are now homeless and living in the church and hospital compounds.

Doctors at the hospital in Malakal are so overwhelmed by the huge numbers of people inside the hospital; they have no way of distinguishing between patients and those looking for shelter.

I was told food – mostly looted from shops and the warehouses of humanitarian agencies – are now being sold at exorbitant prices to anyone who is willing to venture into the streets of Malakal town.

I watched with pride from the comfort of my home in Nairobi as South Sudan peacefully embraced independence on July 9th 2011. Despite the horrors of the violence, the South Sudanese people still believe in hope, they still believe in their new country, they believe that peace and development is their future.

Please help us provide vital aid to those whose lives have been affected by the fighting. Give to our appeal today>>

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Filed under Africa, CAFOD, South Sudan

Christmas greetings from Abba Solomon

Rhus Beal Lidet or Happy Christmas in Tigrinya!

Christmas in Ethiopia was celebrated on 7 January. Here, Abba Solomon, Sebeya’s Parish Priest, sends us his Christmas message.

If you would like to send a message back to Abba Solomon and the community in Sebeya, please add a comment below.

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Filed under Africa, Connect2, Connect2Ethiopia, Ethiopia

Look at us! An agricultural worker from Israel tells her story

Sheherezad Issa is an Arab agricultural labourer in Israel. There are thousands of agricultural jobs in Israel, but most of them are filled by  foreign migrant workers brought in on fixed-term contracts. These workers live and work in very exploitative conditions before being deported back to their home countries.  Meanwhile thousands of the Arab women who actually live in Israel are trapped in poverty, and unable to support their families.  Very few jobs are open to them, and most employers tend to exploit them. CAFOD’s partner WAC-Ma’an, is an independent Trade Union that has been helping women like Sheherezad find jobs and assert their rights for the past 7 years.

Sheherezad Issa (far left) marches for workers' rights on International Women's Day

Sheherezad Issa (far left) marches for workers’ rights on International Women’s Day

I began working because my family’s financial situation was bad. My husband’s salary was not enough for bringing up the children and taking care of the house. He worked with an Arab subcontractor and earned minimum wage.

I first worked in agriculture via an Arab labour contractor, but I found out that the company was paying twice what I received – the contractor was making enormous profit at my expense.

That same day I quit work. And I wasn’t the only one – on that day, the whole group of women quit. The contractor called and proposed I return to work for higher wages, but I refused.

Help us protect workers’ rights around the world. Please support CAFOD>>

After some time, my husband quit working with the Arab subcontractor and began working in organized work with a wage slip. I wanted to work in a place like that.

I found work at a packing house, and there I met women working via WAC-Ma’an. They were earning about the same as me, but I paid a lot for transport which they did not. But what caught my attention was that I saw a WAC representative, Wafa Tiara, coming to visit them, to talk with them, help them solve problems, and asked them what they needed or if anything was lacking.

At my company, they would just throw us onto the premises and leave. It made me begin feeling I wanted to join WAC. I asked the other women whether I should, and they strongly recommended it.

With WAC, I receive all my rights and I know what I get per hour. Nobody is employed “under the table” without wage slips, and everyone receives all fringe benefits including vacations. As members we pay a small fee as dues.

A wage slip is proof that the workplace is properly organized. No matter where you work, if you don’t have a wage slip the state does not recognize you as a worker. If you have a work accident and you work without a wage slip, you’re left with nothing. I received my first wage slip when I began working with WAC. I didn’t care about the money – I liked the wage slip itself, because it showed the exact sum I was supposed to receive and detailed my rights. The wage slip showed that nobody was taking advantage of me.

I got married when I was young. When I wanted to work, my mother was opposed but my husband and children supported me because we really needed the money. In any case, in my family everyone knows that I make my own decisions.

I want my girls to study, and if they work, it won’t be just any work, and never via a contractor. And not just my girls – it’s important that everyone gets the benefits they are entitled to.

Help us make a fairer workplace for our sisters and brothers around the world. Please support CAFOD>>

The contractor called and offered me work, but I refused, even though he has work when WAC has nothing to offer. I am not willing to let them take advantage of me. I don’t want to support him or that system of employment. I want him to understand that there is a problem: that workers are not willing to accept exploitation, and perhaps that way he’ll give the workers what they should get.

I would like to make a difference, I would like the state to sort out regular positions for us so we won’t have to rely on the contractors. I send other women to WAC, and encourage all to take part in the march on International Women’s Day and International Labour Day.

I took part in WAC’s International Women’s Day march. I felt that we were strong, united. Women from various towns, from the Wadi Ara region, Jewish women and Ethiopian women marched with us. I want us all to get our rights, and I want all women to be employed.

Places of work do exist, but we can’t access them. I took part in the march because I want to be heard: I felt there were things in me I was unable to express, so I express them on this day. When you march in a march like that, you feel like something is being set loose.

CAFOD is supporting projects around the world to help people living in poverty support themselves and their families by finding real, fair and rewarding work. Please help us continue to support our brothers and sisters who are working to lift themselves out of poverty. Give to CAFOD today>>

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Guatemala: how prejudice prevents justice for survivors of sexual violence

Montserrat Fernández Piñón is a Nicaraguan and Catalonian Popular Educator and social worker who has worked on gender issues for 20 years. She joined CAFOD in 2006 to promote and accompany our partners in Central America as they work to transform unequal relations between men and women in organisations and everyday life.

A session on rights in Guatemala helps give marginalised communities a voice to speak out

A session on rights in Guatemala helps give marginalised communities a voice to speak out

Imagine the horror of being raped. Then imagine that after such a horrific experience, you can’t tell anyone. You are afraid of the authorities, but even if you weren’t, they don’t speak your language.

This is what happens in Verapaz, Guatemala. If a Qeqchí or Pocomchí person is attacked, abused or raped, they simply have nowhere to turn. These indigenous women and men can’t access public services because they can’t speak Spanish.

Guatemala is in general one of the most unequal societies in the world. Most people live in poverty, especially in rural areas. Illiteracy, infant mortality and malnutrition rates are high, while life expectancy is low.

But for Indigenous communities the situation is even worse. Deeply ingrained discrimination against them means that their culture and ethnic identity are constantly threatened, and they have very limited access to economic opportunities. Worse still, when they suffer violence or crime, they can’t turn to the authorities, because they do not speak Spanish.

We are speaking out for people who can’t speak for themselves. Please support our work>>

CAFOD’s partner, Pastoral Social – Caritas Verapaz, works alongside girls, boys, women and men to give information and training on human rights (including Indigenous Peoples’ rights), gender issues (including violence against women), and HIV.

With the training, people can raise their self-esteem and gain confidence. It gives them the courage to go to authorities and report violations to their human rights. And when they do, our partners accompany them, to serve as translators and give them moral support and strength.

In a country such as Guatemala, where racism and discrimination against Indigenous women and men is rampant, the type of work Pastoral Social is doing is vital. Pastoral Social is a well known organisation, and because they are active in several local and national networks and platforms, public officials open the doors to them and treat people accompanied by them with more respect.

As a survivor of sexual violence, I know the damage such an attack can do, and how important it is to get the right kind of help and support to seek justice. For anyone who has suffered a rape or other sexual attack, speaking out can be one of the hardest things to do. But for people who are already vulnerable, mistrustful of the authorities or already know they will not be heard because they are poor and indigenous, it is almost impossible. That’s why Pastoral Social’s work is so vital: they really are a voice for the voiceless.

CAFOD is campaigning during 16 days of activism. Add your voice to the campaign against sexual and gender based violence>>

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Filed under CAFOD, Guatemala, Latin America and Carribean

“A most fundamental boundary is crossed” – combating child abuse in Kenya

I’m Kate, and I work as child protection adviser to CAFOD.  As I write I’m travelling with some of our partners from the Kenyan Clergy and Religious orders who have come to develop their work on safeguarding children as a fundamental part of their ministry with the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service in the UK.

Kenyan Clergy and Religious orders are developing their work on safeguarding children as a fundamental part of their ministry.

Kenyan Clergy and Religious orders are developing their work on safeguarding children as a fundamental part of their ministry.

Sr. Tecla is amongst those charged with rolling out such work amongst the clergy back in Kenya and has a long and difficult road ahead of her.  So many of CAFOD’s partners are trying to take on the task of child protection around the world, amidst corrupt legal systems and drastically under-resourced state-run child welfare programmes.All the statistics suggest that child abuse – both physical and sexual, run at shockingly high rates in the Global South. In South Africa a young girl is statistically more likely to be raped than she is to learn to read.It’s not enough simply to raise awareness and encourage reporting such crimes to the authorities, since the response is often that the victim’s family and the police will demand compensation and bribes from the perpetrator or insist that he marry the child he’s abused.

Abuse of girls has to stop. Add your voice today and let’s end it once and for all>>

The child protection desks Sr Tecla is helping to set up within the Catholic Church in Kenya don’t only work on allegations of abuse against the clergy, they are deeply involved in the wider issues of safeguarding children, including acting as advocates – collecting evidence and documenting all kinds of cases in a way that places a gentle pressure on police not to settle for bribes and cover-ups.  They’re gaining skills in supporting child victims; they’re raising awareness in schools and communities.

When a child is sexually abused, a most fundamental boundary is crossed.  It’s a sad fact that the victims tend to carry off the lion’s share of the shame, often feeling there is something wrong with them at their very core.

Please help CAFOD and our partners help survivors of abuse to rebuild their lives. Donate here>>

CAFOD works with people like Sr Tecla’s all around the world. One of her counterparts in is Asia is an intelligent, competent woman who told me how she had been sexually abused as a child – nothing was done about it and there was no support.   She told me that despite looking as if she was ‘holding it together’, she has always suffered pervasive paranoia to the extent that whenever someone coughs near her, she believes that it may be because they are repulsed by her.  The scars of childhood sexual abuse may not be visible, but they run deep and they undermine our very foundations.  Let’s do all we can to earn the trust of the children of today and protect the foundations of the adults of tomorrow.

CAFOD is supporting the 16 days of activism against gender violence campaign, which runs from 25 November to 10 December each year. During this time we will be highlighting stories from around the world and campaigning to bring an end to gender based violence around the world.

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Filed under Africa, CAFOD, Kenya