what happened last week - Looking for justice in Ciudad Juárez

what happened last week in Asia, Africa and Latin America


Hey, this is Sham, your very own news curator. It's Labor Day in Germany today.
In issue #332, I write about how the Ethiopian government wants to recover from its 2-year-long civil war on the backs of some 500,000 female domestic workers, "girl-bossing" nationalist Hindu women in India and a protest by around 3,000 migrants in Mexico to end detention centers. Plus, Ethiopia's very own "Aretha Franklin", a new sci-fi from WANA, potentially good UFC news for Senegal, a video on Brazil's Indigenous leader who won the world's most prestigious environment prize last week, some fun facts about Zambia's first president, and so much more.

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Ethiopia plans to send 500,000 women to Saudi Arabia for domestic work

What happened
Ethiopia is recruiting 500,000 women for domestic work in Saudi Arabia, drawing criticism from human rights activists due to Saudi Arabia's poor human rights record. 

Why this matters
Ethiopia is dealing with the aftermath of a two-year civil war, and women's lives and safety are put at risk because of it.

Context: Since the 1980s, Ethiopians have been seeking blue-collar jobs in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Kuwait, often through local recruitment agencies or human traffickers. This time, the Ethiopian government is overseeing the entire process, including recruitment and advertising.

Tell me more
Zecharia Zelalem reports for Al Jazeera that Ethiopia plans to send up to 500,000 women, aged 18-40, to work in Saudi Arabia as domestic workers. The government has been promoting this opportunity, promising free flights to Saudi Arabia and monthly salaries of US$226, which is significantly more than what most jobs in Ethiopia pay. 'This is an opportunity of a lifetime,' they're being told. 'Much better than school, and you won't have to migrate for work and risk your lives by passing through Yemen or Djibouti, it's so dangerous.'
  • Did you know that, according to activist Sagal Abas, "Ethiopian and Somali migrants en route to Saudi Arabia can be murdered, or die in road accidents in Yemen and are quickly buried with no follow-up"? 
What's in it for the Ethiopian government?
Ethiopian authorities claim that the program will help the country's economy and save lives by eliminating the need for dangerous migration. Officials hope that remittances from workers abroad will help Ethiopia's struggling economy. However, "Only a small fraction of Ethiopian migrants transfer money through official channels," Ayele Gelan, a research economist at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, told Al Jazeera. "The bulk of funds end up in the black-market sinkhole." We're talking a lot of money here; think $US6.9 billion per year.

Tell me more about the "kafala" system in Saudi Arabia
The "kafala" system in Saudi Arabia is a sponsorship system that governs the relationship between migrant workers and their employers. Under this system, foreign workers are required to have a local sponsor, usually their employer, who is responsible for their visa and legal status in the country. It's been widely criticized for its restrictive nature and its potential to enable exploitation and abuse of migrant workers. For example, a worker loses their documented status if they flee from their employer, even in the case of abuse. And abuse is... rampant; so rampant that the European Union Parliament passed a resolution in 2020 condemning exactly this.

Interesting fact about Ethiopian women, written by ChatGPT
"Throughout history, Ethiopia has seen several influential female leaders, such as Empress Taytu Betul, who played a critical role in the Ethiopian victory at the Battle of Adwa in 1896, and President Sahle-Work Zewde, the first female president of Ethiopia." I did some more research on Ethiopian women. For this newsletter's own Spotify playlist, I dove deep into Ethiopian hits by female singers. Do you have a favorite? Ethiopia's "Aretha Franklin" is known as Aster Aweke. Joy Crookes' cooking playlist introduced me to her.

India's militant Hindu nationalist women are breaking the glass ceiling

What happened
"Across India, an army of militantly oriented, fiercely independent, yet socially conservative women leaders is fast emerging in Hindu nationalist circles", writes New Delhi-based journalist Sanya Dhingra for New Lines Magazine. In other words: There are more and more Hindu women who are girl-bossing a little too close to the sun.

Why this matters
Right-wing politics in India has been on the rise. Many media outlets associate this development with (male) Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling BJP. But: India's militant Hindu nationalist leaders are not male only. It's time we 'diversify' that narrative and paint a more nuanced picture of the who's who of supporters of Hindutva, an ideology that espouses the vision of India as a Hindu nation and promotes a conservative and exclusionary vision of gender and sexuality.

Tell me more
Female Hindutva supporters, like thousands of other Hindu nationalist leaders, believe that "it is the divine duty of Hindu women to not only give birth to children, who will go on to serve the Hindu rashtra (nation), but also give them the 'samskar' or 'social values' that will allow them to contribute to the process of nation-building." These women are ambitious, educated and often economically independent, writes Dhingra. They're also louder, more militant, in order to justify their presence in the male-dominated political space.

Did you know that Hindu nationalist organizations have tried to appeal to more women over the last few years? For example, the BJP has launched several campaigns aimed at women, such as the "Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao" (Save the Girl Child, Educate the Girl Child) initiative, which seeks to promote education and empowerment for girls and women. In the 2019 national election, the BJP, led by Modi, recognized women as a vital support base and received the highest number of female votes among all parties. The BJP also had the highest number of female candidates contesting the election and appointed more female ministers than any previous government after winning the election.

Recommended: Indian-Canadian film-maker Nisha Pahuja spent years trying to get inside Durga Vahini, an Indian camp for radical Hindu women. She was finally granted permission and made the documentary "The World Before Her". You can stream it in some placesHere, she describes what she saw in that camp. 
  • Quote: "They are trained to be warriors and wives – they must be strong enough to break the bones of the enemy but docile enough to never question their husbands."
What do feminists in India say?
A lot of 'we don't agree with them'. "What they stand for cannot be seen as feminism," Dhingra talks to the feminist activist Kavita Krishnan. "Merely organizing and mobilizing women does not qualify as feminism — the goal towards which they are organizing is equally important," she says. "They mobilize for what are obviously regressive, Islamophobic goals. … At most, one can concede that the right wing appeals to certain feminist impulses (like the quest for political participation) that young women may have, but then channelizes them for exclusionary, Islamophobic goals, including against Muslim women."

Follow the work of feminists in India such as Vrinda Grover, Nivedita Menon, Kavita Krishnan, Kamla Bhasin, Uma Chakravarti and Shilpa Phadke if you're looking for voices who are critical of the Hindu nationalist movement and its impact on women's rights and freedoms. I also love, love, love the social media accounts of "Feminism in India".

Fun fact about Hindu women, written by ChatGPT
"Hindu women have been actively involved in the field of astronomy since ancient times. In fact, the earliest known female astronomer, named Gārgī Vāchaknavī, was a renowned scholar of the Vedic period and is believed to have lived around 600 BCE." 
Latin America

Around 3,000 migrants demanded the end of detention centers in Mexico

What happened
Around 3,000 migrants from Central America, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, and Cuba took to the streets in Mexico to demand the end of detention centers like the one that caught fire last month, killing 40 migrants in Ciudad Juárez, near the border with El Paso, United States.

Why this matters
Migrants everywhere have the right to life, non-discrimination, due process and fair trial, protection from torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, freedom of movement, right to health, etc.

Tell me more
They began their march in Tapachula, near the Mexico-Guatemala border, and ended in Mexico City. Migrants, mainly from Central America, Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia, demand changes to the way they are treated in the country. "It could well have been any of us," Salvadoran migrant Miriam Argueta said of those killed in the fire. "In fact, a lot of our countrymen died. The only thing we are asking for is justice, and to be treated like anyone else. Organizer Irineo Mújica said the migrants are demanding the dissolving of the country’s immigration agency, calling the immigration detention centers "jails."

Tell me more about the fire
The fire in Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, began after a migrant allegedly set fire to foam mattresses to protest a supposed transfer. The fire quickly filled the facility with smoke, but migrants were not allowed to exit. Six National Immigration Institute officials, a detention center guard, and the Venezuelan migrant believed to have ignited the fire are currently facing homicide charges.

Who's responsible?
Mexican prosecutors have said they will press charges against the immigration agency’s top national official, Francisco Garduño. Federal prosecutors have said Garduño neglected to prevent the Ciudad Juárez disaster despite prior knowledge of issues within the agency's detention centers. Government audits revealed a "pattern of irresponsibility and repeated omissions" in the immigration institute.

Did you know that most media outlets call these journeys "migrant caravan phenomenon"? Migrants, especially poorer ones who cannot afford to pay migrant smugglers, have often seen such mass walks, or caravans, as a way to reach the U.S. border.

Interesting fact about Ciudad Juárez, written by ChatGPT
"Ciudad Juárez was formerly known as El Paso del Norte (The Pass of the North) because it served as a critical transportation and trade route between Mexico and the United States. The name was changed to honor Benito Juárez, a Mexican president and national hero."

what else happened

Haiti: Thirteen suspected gang members were lynched and set on fire by residents in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Al Jazeera)
El Salvador: El Salvador opened a trial against former president Mauricio Funes for initiating a truce with street gangs during his presidency. Funes, who is currently living in Nicaragua, will not attend the trial. (AP)
Honduras: NGOs ask Honduras to declare an educational emergency. Out of about 3 million young people, only around 1.7 million kids aged 3 to 17 go to school. (La Prensa, Spanish)
We'll see
Saudi Arabia: The Ministry of Defense of Saudi Arabia begins the recruitment of women for the military, allowing both genders to join for the first time. (Al Arabiya)
South Africa / Russia: South Africa is frantically working on a plan to dissuade Russian President Vladimir Putin from attending an upcoming summit, to avoid having to decide whether to fulfill an International Criminal court arrest warrant against him. (Semafor)
El Salvador: El Salvador's politicians made a new rule to stop charging taxes for 15 years on businesses that work on AI stuff. They won't have to pay income tax or other local taxes. (Telecom)
Panama: Higher water is making the Guna Yala tribe move from their island near Panama's Atlantic coast. Panama's government is helping them move to land they own on the mainland. (CBS)
Brazil: A Brazilian judge orders a temporary shutdown of social media app Telegram over its failure to provide information on Neo-Nazi chat groups to the Federal Police of Brazil. (AP)
India: India’s Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a landmark case on whether to legalize same-sex marriage in the South Asian country, a right given by only about 34 countries so far. (VOA News)
Senegal: Senegal could become the first African country to host the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) next year. The Dakar Arena, 19 miles outside Senegal's capital city has a capacity of 15,000, making it a strong contender for the UFC event. (BBC)
Guinea: Writers, readers and publishers from across the continent gathered last week in Guinea’s capital Conakry for the 15th edition of the "72 Hours of the Book" festival. The annual three-day event, which was held from April 23 to 26, celebrates the country’s literary heritage. (Reuters)
Japan: Japan approved the abortion pill for the first time. (The Guardian)


Watch... Movie: "Animalia", a sci-fi film about apocalypse by French-Moroccan director Sofia Alaoui. "Animalia" is about Itto (played by Oumaima Barid), a pregnant woman who is alone when aliens come to Morocco. She needs to find her husband, Amine (Mehdi Dehbi), and gets help from a driver named Fouad (Fouad Oughaou). "In its 91-minute runtime, “Animalia” explores themes of class, faith, human relations with nature and animals, and how these notions assert themselves when aliens threaten to turn everything on its face," writes George Iskander for New Lines Magazine. Watch the trailer here.

Listen to... Video: "Alessandra Korap Munduruku, 2023 Goldman Environmental Prize winner from Brazil". Alessandra Korap Munduruku, 39, has been awarded this year's Goldman Prize, which recognizes grassroots activism. Munduruku is a leader from Brazil's indigenous Munduruku community. She has been recognized for her successful fight against mining in the Amazon rainforest, helping to stop 27 mining projects in Indigenous areas, including the Sawré Muybu Indigenous Territory with over 400,000 acres of rainforest.

Read... Article: "Technology is transforming the deadly voyage from Cuba to Florida" by Lidia Hernández-Tapia for rest of world. 100,000 people are said to have died risking the 90-mile stretch of sea between Cuba and the U.S. between 1959 and 1994 (because there are no legal pathways for migration). Balseros (rafters) have been crossing this stretch for decades, but now there are a few apps like OsmAnd and Navionics Boating that are making that seaborne migration slightly less dangerous. "Apps like these have been around since at least 2007, but until recently, internet restrictions had prevented Cubans from downloading them. Now, thanks to the increased availability of mobile internet, would-be migrants are not only gaining access to these apps but also using online resources to learn how to use them and train for the journey."

video of the week

Did you know that the first teacher in Zambia was the mother of the country's first president Kenneth Kaunda? Last Friday, in 1924, Kaunda, a leading figure in Zambia’s independence movement, was born. He died in 2021. Today, Kaunda is remembered for a lot of good governance by many (and for his jog at Nelson Mandela's funeral, too). However, out of the 27 years of Kaunda's rule, 18 were under one-party rule, during which political opposition was proscribed. He was also a fashion influencer, aka the man who inspired the Kaunda suit, and an outspoken vegetarian.

on a funny note

Single people should be honored as much as couples and families, the Church of England has said, pointing to Jesus’ own single status.

Thanks, I guess.
That's it from me. This issue has been written in a competition with time. 

For the maps, say thanks to Wikimedia Commons.
Hey, I'm Sham, the person behind this newsletter. Since 2014, I email a bunch of strangers once a week, curating news headlines from Asia, Africa and Latin America. I work under the assumption that, here in the West (I live in Berlin, Germany), we don't read or know much about the global majority, aka the rest of the world. 

My goal is to help you burst your Western-centric bubble.

If you want to know more about me, visit my
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