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Invisible Trauma: Rwandans 20 Years After 1994 Genocide | Lauren Wolfe

Pictures of genocide victims in the Gisozi memorial in Kigali. (© Radu Sigheti/Reuters)

Pictures of genocide victims in the Gisozi memorial in Kigali. (© Radu Sigheti/Reuters)

Consolee Nishimwe has an easy giggle and repeatedly uses certain phrases when we talk: “pain,” “painful,” “it wasn’t easy at all,” “I was only 14 years old.” Bearing in mind what she endured in 1994 during Rwanda’s genocide, some of these are possibly understatements. Now 34 and living in New York City, Nishimwe said she can describe the events that brought her here, but not without difficulty.

“In our culture, we don’t talk a lot about experiences,” said Nishimwe, who is a public speaker on the conflict. “It takes a long time to express how we feel. I am trying to show the other survivors that we need to express that pain we have.”

Today, 20 years after an ethnically motivated genocide in which nearly 1 million Rwandans died and up to half a million women were raped, the government forbids certain kinds of public discussion about Hutus and Tutsis. When I visited the country in February, I heard a lot of chatter about something called “Vision 2020,” which is supposed to transform the country into a thriving state marked by good governance and a healthy economy. Construction is booming in the capital, Kigali, and President Paul Kagame has expressed a desire to make his country more like Singapore—a sort of authoritarian democracy. There is a robust effort, in other words, to deliberately “move on” from the tragedy—a determination to never lose control again.

But what Rwandans endured is so extraordinarily horrifying—in terms of how many people experienced or witnessed brutal acts, and the sheer scale and speed of the killing—that the more time I spent in the country and talking to Nishimwe and others, the more I wondered how such a place could possibly go on after what happened in those horrible 100 days from April to July. How did each person survive? How does a whole country thrust into a hideous nightmare of people hacked to death and raped and tortured survive? What is it like to live in a society in which nearly everyone over the age of 20 has memories of such inhumane deeds?

Consider that 15 percent of Rwandan children were forced to hide under dead bodies to survive.

Consider that 90 percent of those children believed they would die.

Consider that Nishimwe still won’t wear a skirt because she doesn’t want to show the scars a man etched onto her legs with a sword as he raped her—or the marks the HIV he gave her has left on her body.

Consider that her three brothers—Philbert, 9; Pascal, 7; and Bon-Fils, 18 months—were hacked up and thrown in the septic tank of their burned-down house while Nishimwe was with her mother nearby on May 9, 1994. Her father had already been killed in the first weeks of the genocide, on April 15.

And then consider the response Nishimwe gave when I asked her how she survived: “There are others who really had it worse,” she said.

This phrase, “others had it worse”—I heard it time and again from other Rwandan survivors. It is hard to understand how someone who has experienced multiple traumatic events in a short period can think their experiences are not as bad as what others have gone through.

“We’re going to be breathless in realizing that they have the capacity to come out of atrocity with this very modest sense that others had it worse,” said Frank Ochberg, a psychiatrist at Michigan State University and a pioneer in the field of trauma therapy. “The Rwandan example is one of endurance.”

But just because Rwandans have endured doesn’t meant they’re living lives free of pain.

Excerpt, read How Rwandans Cope With the Horror of 1994 -By Lauren Wolfe | The Atlantic

 

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The Female Face of Poverty in America –By Maria Shriver| The Atlantic

Photo credit:  Barbara Ries

Photo credit: Barbara Ries

Let me state the obvious: I have never lived on the brink. I’ve never been in foreclosure, never applied for food stamps, never had to choose between feeding my children or paying the rent, and never feared I’d lose my paycheck when I had to take time off to care for a sick child or parent. I’m not thrown into crisis mode if I have to pay a parking ticket, or if the rent goes up. If my car breaks down, my life doesn’t descend into chaos.

But the fact is, one in three people in the United States do live with this kind of stress, struggle, and anxiety every day. More than 100 million Americans either live near the brink of poverty or churn in and out of it, and nearly 70 percent of these Americans are women and children.

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson envisioned the Great Society and called for a War on Poverty, naming my father, Sargent Shriver, the architect of that endeavor. The program worked: Over the next decade, the poverty rate fell by 43 percent.

In those days, the phrase “poverty in America” came with images of poor children in Appalachian shacks and inner-city alleys. Fifty years later, the lines separating the middle class from the working poor and the working poor from those in absolute poverty have blurred. The new iconic image of the economically insecure American is a working mother dashing around getting ready in the morning, brushing her kid’s hair with one hand and doling out medication to her own aging mother with the other.

For the millions of American women who live this way, the dream of “having it all” has morphed into “just hanging on.” Everywhere they look, every magazine cover and talk show and website tells them women are supposed to be feeling more “empowered” than ever, but they don’t feel empowered. They feel exhausted.

Many of these women feel they are just a single incident—one broken bone, one broken-down car, one missed paycheck—away from the brink. And they’re not crazy to feel that way:

  • Women are nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage workers in the country.
  • More than 70 percent of low-wage workers get no paid sick days at all.
  • Forty percent of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income.
  • The median earnings of full-time female workers are still just 77 percent of the median earnings of their male counterparts.

For this year’s Shriver Report, A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink, we polled more than 3,000 adults to determine how Americans feel about the economy, gender, marriage, education, and the future. Here are some highlights from the poll respondents who are low-income women:

  • Seventy-five percent of them wish they had put a higher priority on their education and career, compared to 58 percent of the general population
  • Seventy-three percent wish they had made better financial choices (as did 65 percent of all those we polled)
  • They were less likely to be married (37 percent, compared to 49 percent of all the men and women we polled) …
  • And more likely than men to regret marrying when they did (52 percent, compared to 33 percent of low-income men)
  • Nearly a third of those with children wished they had delayed having kids or had fewer of them

Overwhelmingly they favor changes that will help balance work and family responsibilities. Eighty-seven percent of low-income women—and 96 percent of single moms—identify paid sick leave as something that would be very useful to their lives.

What’s more, the opinion of the general public is on their side: 73 percent of Americans said that in order to raise the incomes of working women and families, the government should ensure that women get equal pay for equal work. And 78 percent said the government should expand access to high-quality, affordable childcare for working families.

The typical American family isn’t what it used to be. Only a fifth of our families have a male breadwinner and a female homemaker. The solutions we need today are also different. We don’t need a new New Deal, because the New Deal was an all-government solution, and that’s not enough anymore. And my father’s War on Poverty isn’t enough anymore either.

Our government programs, business practices, educational system, and media messages don’t take into account a fundamental truth: This nation cannot have sustained economic prosperity and well-being until women’s central role is recognized and women’s economic health is used as a measure to shape policy.

Caitlin Bell fixes her daughter's hair in the morning in Chattanooga, Tenn. (Image: Barbara Kinney)

Caitlin Bell fixes her daughter’s hair in the morning in Chattanooga, Tenn. (Image: Barbara Kinney)

In other words, leave out the women, and you don’t have a full and robust economy. Lead with the women, and you do. It’s that simple, and Americans know it.

Women have enormous power. Politicians knock themselves out wooing us because we’re the majority of voters in this country. Every corporate marketer and advertiser is after us because we make as much as 70 percent of this country’s consumer decisions and more than 80 percent of the healthcare decisions.

With this power, we women can exert real pressure on our government to change course on many of the issues we care about and deliver on what women need now. Isn’t it strange, for instance, that the United States is the only industrialized nation without mandatory paid maternity leave?

And how about those of us who aren’t in jeopardy? Do we pay the women we hire a living wage—not because it’s the law, but because it’s fair? Do we give them flexibility when they need to take time for caregiving? If we run businesses, do we educate our workers about public policies and programs that can help them?

But the truth is that for so long, America’s women have been divided: women who are mothers versus women who are not, women who work at home versus women who work outside the home, those who are married versus those who aren’t, pro-life women versus pro-choice, white women versus women of color, Democrat versus Republican, gay versus straight, and young versus old. It feels like the last issue where women came together was fighting for the right to vote.

It’s time to come together again. By pushing back and putting into practice the solutions we’re proposing in The Shriver Report, we can re-ignite the American Dream—for ourselves, for our daughters and sons, for our mothers and fathers, for our nation. We have the power—not just to launch a new War on Poverty, but a new campaign for equity, for visibility, for fairness, for worth, for care.

Reprint: The Female Face of Poverty –By Maria Shriver| The Atlantic

Women in Poverty: An American Crisis –By Maria Shriver| The Atlantic

THE SHRIVER REPORT | MARIA SHRIVER


Maria Owings Shriver is an American journalist and author of six best-selling books. She has received a Peabody Award, and was co-anchor for NBC’s Emmy-winning coverage of the 1988 Summer Olympics. As executive producer of The Alzheimer’s Project, Shriver earned two Emmy Awards and an Academy of Television Arts & Sciences award for developing a “television show with a conscience”. She was formerly First Lady of California as the wife of actor and then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, from whom she is now separated. She is a member of the Kennedy family (her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver was a sister of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Edward “Ted” Kennedy). She is currently a special anchor and correspondent for NBC News.

 

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FBI Rescues 105 Sex Trafficking Victims in Nationwide Operation | Christian Science Monitor

Backpage Ad 11 15 10 v10Federal agents recovered 105 juveniles involved in prostitution and arrested 150 adults allegedly acting as pimps during a three-day nationwide crackdown against child sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of children, the FBI announced on Monday, July 29.

Arrests were made in 76 cities in a massive operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in concert with 230 local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The enforcement action marked the seventh version of Operation Cross Country designed to identify and free children forced into the sex industry.

“Child prostitution remains a persistent threat to children across America,” Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, said in a statement.

“This operation serves as a reminder that these abhorrent crimes can happen anywhere,” he said.

Federal statistics show the most active operation in San Francisco where 12 juveniles were found and 17 alleged pimps arrested. Detroit was the next most active with 10 children found and 18 pimps charged.

In Milwaukee, agents found 10 juveniles but arrested no pimps, according to the statistics.

In New Orleans, six juveniles were located and six pimps were arrested.

The crackdown focused on areas such as truck stops, casinos, street “tracks,” and websites that advertise dating and escort services.

There are 13 separate federal crimes outlawing the sexual exploitation of children. They include selling or buy of children, sexual trafficking of children by force, fraud, or coercion, and the creation of obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children.

Excerpt, read: FBI Rescues 105 Sex Trafficking Victims in Nationwide Operation (+Video) –By Warren Richey | Christian Science Monitor

FBI_Bulletin

 

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Video

Sister: A Documentary by Brenda Davis

 

Filmmaker Brenda Davis’ new documentary, Sister gives a breathtaking and often heartbreaking look into the complications of pregnancy and child birth — powerfully revealing the brutal reality that exists behind the statistics and safely diluted medical terminology. Sister also calls attention to the incredible work being done by health workers in the area who work tirelessly to save lives, deliver babies, and provide health education in their communities.

The film is made uniquely powerful in that it is the story of the health workers, their experiences, and their patients, rather than the story of a narrator. There is no “white knight” lamenting the conditions of poverty or universal conditions for women, rather it is a beautiful, painful and honest film, allowing the viewer to draw her or his own conclusions.

Sisters, A Documentary by Brenda Davis (Official website)

Meet Brenda Davis, Director of a Gut-Wrenching Film on Maternal Mortality -By Caitlyn Mattil Documentary | Policymic (Interview)

 

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Civilian Death Toll Soars in the Gaza Strip | AP

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Israeli aircraft struck crowded areas in the Gaza Strip and killed a senior militant with a missile strike on a media center Monday, driving up the Palestinian death toll to 100, as Israel broadened its targets in the 6-day-old offensive.

Despite being the initial aggressor, the Israeli military insists its strikes target only militants — with surgical precision — and they say they’re hitting those targets. But reports coming out of the the Gaza Strip tell a completely different story. The Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on the planet, and civilian casualties are inevitably mounting.

Escalating its bombing campaign over the weekend, Israel began attacking homes of activists in Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza. These attacks have led to a sharp spike in civilian casualties, killing 24 civilians in just under two days and doubling the number of civilians killed in the conflict, a Gaza health official said.

On Monday Israel dropped two bombs on the police headquarters, completely destroying the building. According to Israel, the police headquarters was a legitimate target; considered part of the Hamas security apparatus, and it was a surgical strike, but the Israeli missiles blew out all the windows of homes nearby. There’s a reason the Isreali military attacks at night. With such a ferocious explosion, anybody on the street would likely have been killed.

Israeli military sources said the IDF caused severe damage to dozens of targets Monday, including underground rocket launchers, a training facility, a police station and an ammunition storage facility. They said Israel also targeted and hit a vehicle used for carrying weapons as well as 50 smuggling tunnels.

Hamas fighters have fired hundreds of rockets into Israel in the current round of fighting, including 95 on Monday, among them one that hit an empty school. Schools in southern Israel have been closed since the start of the offensive Wednesday. Twenty-nine (29) rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile battery, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Rockets landed in open areas of Beersheva, Ashdod, Asheklon.

The rising toll came as Egyptian-led efforts to mediate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas got into gear.

Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi has said repeatedly that he’s hopeful a ceasefire agreement can be reached quickly, but a source close to the Hamas delegation in Cairo told CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward on Monday morning that, thus far, the talks had hit a brick wall.

Ward says part of the reason for the impasse may be that Hamas is making some big demands in exchange for stopping its rocket attacks on Israel — it wants an end to Israel’s five year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which Israel is unlikely to budge on due to fears that it would lead to an influx of weapons to militants inside Gaza.

While Israel and Hamas were far apart in their demands, both sides said they were open to a diplomatic solution — and prepared for further escalation if that failed.

The leader of Hamas took a tough stance, rejecting Israel’s demands that the militant group stop its rocket fire. Instead, Khaled Mashaal said, Israel must meet Hamas’ demands for a lifting of the blockade of Gaza.

“We don’t accept Israeli conditions because it is the aggressor,” he told reporters in Egypt. “We want a cease-fire along with meeting our demands.”

An Israeli official said Israel hoped to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis as well and signaled Egypt was likely to play a key role in enforcing any truce.

“We prefer the diplomatic solution if it’s possible. If we see it’s not going to bear fruit, we can escalate,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive diplomatic efforts underway.

The official said Israel doesn’t want a “quick fix” that will result in renewed fighting months down the road. Instead, Israel wants “international guarantees” that Hamas will not rearm or use Egypt’s neighboring Sinai peninsula for militant activity.

A poll published in the Haaretz daily on Monday showed widespread support in Israel for the offensive. It said that 84 percent of the public supports the operation, with 12 percent opposed. At the same time, it said just 30 percent of the public supports a ground invasion of Gaza. The poll, conducted by the Dialog agency, surveyed 520 people and had a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

Overall, the offensive that began Wednesday killed 100 Palestinians, including 53 civilians, and wounded some 840 people, Gaza heath official Ashraf al-Kidra said. Among the wounded were 225 children, he said.

On the Israeli side, three civilians have died from Palestinian rocket fire and dozens have been wounded. The rocket-defense system has intercepted hundreds of rockets bound for populated areas.

In Monday’s violence, an Israeli air strike on a high-rise building in Gaza City killed Ramez Harb, a senior figure in Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the Al Quds Brigades, the group said in a text message to reporters. A number of foreign and local news organizations have offices in the building, which was also struck on Sunday. A passer-by was also killed, medics said.

Thick black smoke rose from the building. Paramedics said several people were wounded.

Islamic Jihad, a smaller sister group to Hamas, said it believed Harb was the target of the strike.

Israel has killed dozens of wanted militants in surgical strikes throughout the operation, the result, officials say, of intelligence gathered from its collection of high-flying drones overhead and a network of informants.

Before dawn Monday, a missile struck a three-story home in the Gaza City’s Zeitoun area, flattening the building and badly damaging several nearby homes. Shell-shocked residents searching for belongings climbed over debris of twisted metal and cement blocks in the street.

Egypt is trying to broker a cease-fire with the help of Turkey and Qatar. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and a delegation of Arab foreign ministers were expected in Gaza on Tuesday.

A senior Egyptian official told The Associated Press that Hamas and Israel were each presenting Egypt with their conditions for a cease-fire.

“I hope that by the end of the day we will receive a final signal of what can be achieved,” said the official, who is familiar with the indirect negotiations. He said Israel and Hamas are both looking for guarantees to ensure a long-term stop to hostilities. The official says Egypt’s aim is to stop the fighting and “find a direct way to lift the siege of Gaza.”

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the indirect negotiations.

The rising toll was likely to intensify pressure on Israel to end the fighting. Hundreds of civilian casualties in an Israeli offensive in Gaza four years ago led to fierce international condemnation of Israel.

But Mashaal said Gazans were prepared to keep fighting.

“Gaza’s demand is not a halt to war. Its demand is for its legitimate rights,” including a stop to Israeli attacks, assassinations and a lifting of the blockade, Mashaal said.

Reprint Source: Israel Airstrike Hits Al Aqsa, Hamas TV Station, In High-Rise In Downtown Gaza City -By Hamza Hendawi, Maggie Michael (Cairo) & Zeina Karam (Beiruit) | HuffPost/AP

Related: Israel Targets Gaza Militants Homes, Sending Civilian Death Toll Soaring Amid Frantic Diplomacy | CBS/AP

Hamas Kills 6 Suspected Israeli Collaborators -By Karin Laub & Ian Deitch | HuffPost/AP

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*The author of this blog made few minor, but necessary, changes to the article to reflect the most recent data available. She also removed language that was factually dubious or words that suggest a western media bias towards its allies.

 

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Another Day, Another Massacre In Syria (Video)

Activists say another massacre has taken place in Syria just days after nearly 100 people were killed in Houla.

This time, at least 86 people are said to have been killed by pro-Assad militias in and around al-Qubayr in Marzaf district in Hama province.

Al Jazeera’s Tarek Bazley reports.

 

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Child Actors Shame Mexico’s Politicians with Mockumentary| MSNBC (Video)

MEXICO CITY — A video “mockumentary” that shows children as kidnappers, corrupt cops and drug traffickers has sparked a fierce debate in violence-torn Mexico, with some people calling it a needed wake-up call while others described it as political manipulation or even child abuse.

Kids playing the role of businessmen, criminals and corrupt officials are seen robbing, paying bribes and shooting it out in a mock Mexico made up entirely of children, all to the deceptively laid-back tune of the 1970s ballad “Una Manana,” or “One Morning.”

Produced by a foundation supported by private companies and universities and distributed over the Internet,the video ends with a direct message to the candidates in the Mexico’s July 1 presidential race

A little girl faces the camera and says: “If this is the future that awaits me, I don’t want it. Enough of working for your political parties instead of for us. Enough of cosmetic changes.”

 

‘Discomforting Kids’
Dubbed “Ninos Incomodos,” roughly “Discomforting Kids,” the four-minute video opens with a pudgy kid-businessman waking up in the morning dragging on a cigarette, and closes with a kiddie-version of alleged drug lord Edgar Valdez, aka “La Barbie,” being dragged off to an overcrowded jail full of children by junior cops.

Little girls carrying purses scream and scurry for cover as boys their own age spray machine guns from huge SUVs and assault-rifle toting little cops run to detain them at gunpoint.

Despite the video’s grim images of knife-wielding, migrant-smuggling, gun-toting kids, all the major candidates had praise for it. Leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called it “well done, it’s tough but it’s the truth.”

Earlier, the candidate of the former governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, Enrique Pena Nieto, wrote in his Twitter account: “I support the message of Discomforting Kids. I hear it all the time on the campaign trail; that ‘time is running out.’ It’s time to renew hope and change Mexico.”

Josefina Vazquez Mota, the candidate of President Felipe Calderon’s conservative National Action Party, tweeted that “the video of Discomforting Kids is a call that can’t be ignored. I accept the challenge, I want to join you.”

Excerpt, read:  Money, Drugs, Guns & Gangs: Child Actors Shame Mexico’s Politicians with Mockumentary | MSNBC

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2012 in Human Rights

 

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Incarcerated Childhood: US Kids Prosecuted as Adults | RT News

America’s prisons are overflowing, but many who are kept behind bars, are just children. Thousands of youths are tried as adults in the U.S. every year – and some are given life sentences in the country’s harshest jails. Many then find themselves becoming victims of sexual violence, and suicide.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2012 in Current events, Law, News, Poverty, Race, Rape

 

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Killing of Syrian Children Provokes Outrage | Al-Jazeera

The United Nations says hundreds of Syrian children have been tortured and killed since anti-government protests began in March.

Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh met one family whose teenage boy went missing after attending a rally. The family has since fled across the border to al-Mafraq, in Jordan, where they are seeking justice for the brutal killing of their son.

 

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Children Gold Mining in Mali | HRW

(Bamako)– At least 20,000 children work in Malian artisanal gold mines under extremely harsh and dangerous conditions, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The Malian government and international donors should take action to end child labor in artisanal mines, Human Rights Watch said. Artisanal miners rely on low-tech methods and often organize informally.

The 108-page report, “A Poisonous Mix: Child Labor, Mercury, and Artisanal Gold Mining in Mali,” reveals that children as young as six dig mining shafts, work underground, pull up heavy weights of ore, and carry, crush, and pan ore. Many children also work with mercury, a toxic substance, to separate the gold from the ore. Mercury attacks the central nervous system and is particularly harmful to children.

“These children literally risk life and limb”, said Juliane Kippenberg, senior children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “They carry loads heavier than their own weight, climb into unstable shafts, and touch and inhale mercury, one of the most toxic substances on earth.”

Of 33 child laborers interviewed by Human Rights Watch, 21 said that they suffered from regular pain in the back, head, neck, arms, or joints. Children also suffer from coughing and respiratory disease. One boy about six years old described the pain he felt when digging shafts with a pickaxe for hours on end. Another boy said that “everything hurts” when he comes home after a day’s work underground.

Most children work alongside their parents to supplement the little income adult miners get from selling gold to local traders. Other children migrate to the mines by themselves, and end up being exploited and abused by relatives or strangers who take their pay. Some girls are sexually abused or engage in sex work to survive. Children come to the mines from other parts of Mali, as well as from Guinea, Burkina Faso, and other neighboring countries.

Mali’s government adopted a National Action Plan for the Elimination of Child Labor in June 2011. The plan was an important step, but implementation has been delayed and the government has taken little action on the ground, Human Rights Watch said. There are no regular labor inspections in artisanal mines, and a ban on hazardous child labor, considered a worst form of child labor, has not been enforced. Under both Malian and international law, hazardous labor, which would include working in mines and with mercury, is prohibited for anyone under age 18.

The government has also largely failed to make education accessible and available for child laborers in mines, many of whom never go to school. Schools are often far away, charge fees, and do not encourage children who have migrated from elsewhere to attend. When child laborers do attend school, they often struggle to keep up.

“Mali has strong laws on child labor and on compulsory and free education, but unfortunately, the government has not fully enforced them,” Kippenberg said. “Local officials often benefit from artisanal gold mining and have little interest in addressing child labor.”

The government has done nothing to stop the use of mercury by child laborers and should immediately develop a strategy to address the health effects of mercury on child and adult miners, Human Rights Watch said. Mercury poisoning results in a range of neurological conditions, including tremors, coordination problems, vision impairment, headaches, memory loss, and concentration problems. The toxic effects of mercury are not immediately noticeable, but develop over time. Most artisanal miners are unaware of mercury’s health effects.

Children work in an artisanal gold mine, Kéniéba cercle, Mali. © 2010 International Labour Organization/IPEC

 

Much of the gold from Mali’s artisanal mines is bought by small traders who supply middle men and trading houses in Bamako, the country’s capital. Most of the 12 Malian traders interviewed by Human Rights Watch showed little concern about child labor and health risks from mercury use. One trader said that “our idea is that we just earn money.” The president of the Mali Mining Chamber, a representative body for the mining sector, even denied there was any child labor in artisanal gold mines.

Figures obtained by Human Rights Watch from the Malian Ministry of Mines put the amount of artisanally mined gold exported per year at around four metric tons, worth around US$218 million at November 2011 prices. Most of this gold is exported to Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates, Dubai in particular.

Human Rights Watch has been able to contact three international companies that have bought gold from Mali’s artisanal mines. Kaloti Jewellery International, based in Dubai, and a Belgian company, Tony Goetz, shared with Human Rights Watch the due diligence procedures they use to make sure the gold they buy comes from legitimate sources. Kaloti stopped buying gold from Mali’s artisanal mines after learning about Human Rights Watch’s findings. Decafin, a Swiss company, said it acts at the end of a supply chain composed of at least four intermediaries and has no contact whatsoever with the producing companies or the Malian government. However, the company said that it questions suppliers about the origin of the gold and work conditions and that it would seek further information from the Mali Mining Chamber.

“If businesses have not done so yet, they need to put in place procedures to ensure their gold has not been mined by children,” Kippenberg said. “They should also work with the government and international agencies to eliminate child labor in the mines. Boycott is not the answer.”

Child labor in artisanal gold mining is common in many countries worldwide, particularly within West Africa’s gold belt, which spans Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal. Mali is Africa’s third largest gold producer.

There are currently no simple alternatives to the use of mercury in artisanal gold mining, but its quantities can be greatly reduced, and its effects much better controlled, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). For example, containers called retorts should be used to capture the mercury vapor, and amalgamation in residential areas should be halted. Industrial gold mines rely on more costly and complex technology without mercury, but use cyanide.

Learn more: Children Gold Mining in Mali | HRW

Video Courtesy NBC Rock Center

 

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