Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Two stories

Two stories

Two stories (I'm summarising fromTGW here - but you'll see the connection)

Made in China

You may have heard last May about a series of suicides at an Apple iPad factory in China. The company responded by issuing workers with t-shirts, to improve morale, and placing nets under the windows. Monks were brought in to exorcise evil spirits, and workers were asked to sign contracts promising not to suicide.

The workers at the Foxconn factory making iPads and iPhones are still being exploited and living dismal lives.

In the factories at Shenzhen and Chengdu about 500,000 people provide the labour for Apple, a company that made a net profit of $6 billion in the first quarter of 2011. Workers are recruited through government advertisements promising work and good pay. Most workers are aged 18-20. When workers arrive they are put through military drills run by former soldiers. The dormitories sleep up to 24 people in a room. The rules are strict. No kettles allowed. Chinese law caps overtime at 36 hours a month, however many regularly work up to 80 hours of overtime a month. The rule is that workers are entitled to one day off in seven. However one day off in thirteen is not unusual. Workers are forced to work through their lunch break. Some say they are forbidden to talk to one another.

City of Joy

City of Joy is a centre for the survivors of rape in Bukuvu, in DRC. One of its founders is Eve Ensler, who wrote The Vagina Monologues, and raises money from performances of her play. Money is also contributed by UNICEF and various foundations and donors. Eastern Congo is the rape capital of the world. A conservative estimate is that half a million women have been raped since 1998. The City of Joy was created when Eve asked the women of the Congo what they needed - shelter, a roof, a place to be safe, a place to be powerful. The women there are referred from the hospital. The gynecologist had noticed that rapes had become more brutal - women’s wombs were being destroyed with guns, sticks and glass. Says Eve Ensler, ‘If you destroy women, you destroy the Congo...Raping women is the cheapest and most effective way to instill fear in and humiliate a community. It doesn’t even cost a bullet. ‘ Says Mukwege, who has worked with these women for two decades, ‘ If you destroy enough wombs, there will be no more children. So then you can come right in and take the minerals.’ The City of Joy is owned and led by Congolese women. The program houses sixty women for six months. Survivors have counselling and learn about their rights. They also learn literacy, accounting, farming, production, business, self-defence and the internet. The space is arranged like a village. The women are empowered. This is feminism in action.

Congo is the poorest country on earth, yet rich in resources - gold, diamonds, minerals. Under Belgium rule it was plundered for rubber. Now it is coltan - a mineral used in mobile phones, laptops, iPads, which is in high demand. The history is one of many brutalities, linked to the Rwandan genocide. Women are escaping the Congolese rebel militias. Recently a lieutenant colonel and three other army officers were charged and sentenced with crimes against humanity. The other side of the problem is what becomes of former child soldiers who want to rehabilitate. Two groups are working with the army - the British NGO Christian Aid, and a Congolese church and development group, CBCA. They are running training sessions for high-ranking soldiers to teach them about civilian rights, child protection, sexual violence, and the law. Soldiers are supposed to be paid $50 a month, but in reality are not fed for days. Reform of the army may be a big part of the solution.

1 comment:

Motherhugger said...

A fire at a Foxconn factory kills and injures workers.

And more about workers' conditions.