Category: Human Rights

Human Rights

We All Need Encouragement

“Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you.”    William Arthur Ward

Mother and Child at Ellis Island Immigration Station–early 20th century.

Photo Credit: Library of Congress

 

This quote is just what I needed to read today!

peace~henry

 

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Human Rights

Privilege and Responsibility

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), in 2016 there were an estimated 152 million children world-wide who were working to help support their families instead of attending school.

These young girls in Luxor, Egypt were rowing across the Nile in search of tips.

As a teacher, I find such statistics both saddening and alarming since it means these children won’t have a chance to break out of the cycle of poverty. Even though education is highly prized in many parts of the developing world, particularly in India, dire financial circumstances sometimes dictate that children must work during the day in order to have enough rice for the family to eat at night.

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CultureHuman Rights

Labor in the Arabian Gulf–Part 3

The future of the citizen workforce

As teachers charged with preparing young adults to become productive members of their society, it was important for my colleagues and I to first understand the peculiarities of the Gulf labor market. We were informed by periodic seminars and workshops, conversations with industry representatives and recent graduates as well as through personal research projects.

While Oman’s wise Sultan’s plan has long been to train Omanis for white-collar jobs in education, business management and the STEM industries, the reality was that in many instances this was a long-range goal. Maintaining expat labor in supervisory and management positions was key to keeping the economy humming in the near-term. What I clearly heard from my students was that they weren’t interested in being part of the blue-collar workforce. They wanted a job, preferably with the government, that came complete with their own desk, computer and a sufficient salary.

Students taking an exam at one of Oman’s major universities. The percentage of females studying is considerably higher than males at many of the Sultanate’s universities.

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Human Rights

Video–90 Seconds of Migrant Labor in the Gulf

 

IMAGINE…

You’re recruited to live and work in a foreign country

You work from sun up to sundown 6 days each week 

You’re herded onto the back of trucks like cattle and dropped off at a work

location before dawn each day, then picked up after sunset

You’re paid very low wages for your hard manual labor

You have to work for months to pay the recruitment agency fees

You send all you make back to feed your extended family and often go without

Your labor is arduous and you’re working outside in extreme heat and humidity

You only get to return to your country to visit your family every 2 years

You live in extremely crowded substandard housing

You live this way for years because you have no other way to feed your family

You will never be allowed to become a citizen of the country you’re developing

You have very few rights under your host country’s legal system

You may have to put up with mistreatment by your employer

You’re often lonely, depressed and sick due to neglecting your health

Your employer will only pay for medical care that involves your ability to do your job-

injury to arms, legs or back are covered…eye infections, no way

You will be sent home if you get sick and can no longer work

IMAGINE…this is your life…

peace~henry

CultureHuman Rights

Labor in the Arabian Gulf–Part 2

But, things are SO cheap here!

The Gulf was one of the few places I’ve lived where many of my teaching colleagues hired help each week, especially for house cleaning and car washing. For less than US $10, a teacher could hire the services of a cleaner for an entire weekend afternoon. Call me crazy, but I like doing my own cooking and cleaning so I never went the way of many other expats while I was living there.

During my first two years in Oman, college administration officials allowed faculty to have their cars washed on campus. This practice gave some of the college-sponsored laborers the opportunity to add to monthly salaries as low as RO 40, or a little over US $100. I was accused more than once by co-workers of ‘spoiling’ the system because it was difficult for me to pay one of these laborers the equivalent of US $1.00 for hand-washing the exterior and cleaning the interior of my car in temps that would bring on heatstroke for an average person. In reality, I wasn’t alone in paying more than the standard rate for such services.

Another example of low-tech construction methods–workers routinely dug trenches by hand before burying water pipes or electrical cables.

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CultureHuman Rights

Labor in the Arabian Gulf-Part 1

Here, as in many of my posts, I’ll be walking along a precipitous slope while making cultural comparisons based on my personal experiences and research while living and working in different regions of the world where cultural norms and practices may contrast starkly. My aim is not to find fault or present one culture as being superior to another. As I’ve stated repeatedly in this blog, it’s my belief that all cultures hold valuable lessons for others to learn. These posts are simply meant to be a starting point for discussion on topics I feel are important, not an indictment of any specific people, religion or way of life.

Understanding that we’re all products of our own cultural upbringing and accumulated life experiences, I’ve admitted repeatedly that it’s challenging for me to maintain an objective cultural perspective, especially while living and actively participating in life within a given country and culture. I’ve found it’s much easier to see all sides of an issue once you’ve put a bit of distance between yourself and the major challenges of the moment. With all our shared human flaws, we’re more likely to achieve a balanced point of view by reflecting on experiences over a period of time.

So, with that in mind, I’d like to share some thoughts I had this week while visiting one of the huge building supply stores here in the USA. While searching aisle to aisle for just the right type of lumber, hardware and screws to complete a small project, I was reminded of the differing perspectives on physical labor and the concept of self-sufficiency that are evident from one culture to another.

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Human RightsPolitics

Standing Up for Palestinians

This is not an article arguing the pros and cons of the State of Israel’s right to defend itself against outside enemies that might want to do it or its people harm. Nor am I writing this to plead for or against the US Government’s decision to recognize the whole city of Jerusalem as the legitimate capital of Israel. And, I’m certainly not going to pontificate that I have a solution to problems of coexistence in that region of the Middle East that date back millennia.

This is, however, a plea for the American people to speak out and demand that the US Government continue providing humanitarian aid for the neediest Palestinians at a time when the world is definitely paying attention and questioning almost every aspect of American leadership.

In case you haven’t heard or read about it, here’s what I’m referring to:

The US Government is withholding humanitarian aid to more than 5 million Palestinians across the Middle East as leverage to force the Palestinian Authority into a new round of peace talks.

The aid money–$355 million in 2017—is for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), one of the largest organizations providing funds for services and infrastructure to Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

While sitting opposite Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week, US President Trump proclaimed, “That money is on the table and that money’s not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace.”

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