Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Africa is not fair

Almeida worked for Phil for a couple years when the house and driveway were in process. He learned a lot as a cement worker and had an affinity for it. So Phil helped him with a few tools and advice and showed him how to be a DIY guy so he could put cement floors in for his neighbors. He and Phil also dug a well in his yard and lined it with blocks he made, then covered it with cement. (A hand-dug well with cement walls and a good lid lasts many years longer than a quickly drilled well brought in by hi-tech, money-powered organizations.) Almeida has the knowledge to help many neighbors in the slums with his minimal expertise and should be able to feed his family.

But he can't. People don't save to put in a well or cement floor. So Almeida went to the marketplace to find work. He found it. He works 10 and 1/2 hours a day, seven days a week and makes less than 1/2 minimum wage. His take-home is about $1/day. He has four children and a wife who cannot keep an at-home business functioning.

Phil challenged him to tell his boss he needed Sunday mornings off for church. Not attending was affecting his family-life. So he told his boss who told him that he could stay home Sundays, and would be discounted $3 for every Sunday missed. (Do the math.)

There is a Ministry of Work. Someone somewhere is supposed to be making sure that workers are treated fairly and the laws are followed. If Almeida were working for a foreigner, in a few minutes he would have his rights defended, clarified, and the foreigner would have to pay massive fines for this mistreatment. But Almeida works for a Mozambican. If he complains to the powers that be, he will merely lose the job and the dollar a day that he does have.

This is the kind of thing that just needles inside my head. And the Almeidas of Mozambique will just sit quietly and lament the mistreatment by their own kind.

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