Adonis Diaries

Archive for September 15th, 2013

Mexico: The Yaqui Tribe Defend their Right to Water

“The Yaqui River is a structural part of our life and with this theft of our water, they are condemning us to death as a people,” said Mario Luna, secretary of the traditional authorities of the Yaqui tribe, warning that his people are facing the greatest ever threat to their existence: the dispossession of the waters that give them economic and cultural sustenance.

Jessica Davies published this Sept. 9, 2013 in Upside Down World

The ancestral home of the indigenous Yaqui People is the valley of the Yaqui River, in the State of Sonora in northern Mexico, and the river is their ancestral source of water for drinking, irrigation, and ceremonial purposes.

In 2010, the governor of Sonora, Guillermo Padres Elias, announced the construction of the “Independence Aqueduct”, which would extract 75 million cubic metres of water per year from the Yaqui River and carry it 108 miles to the Sonoran capital city of Hermosillo.

It is estimated that 40% of the drinking water in Hermosillo is currently wasted, and the water is destined for industries with high water demands, such as the recently installed Heineken, Ford and Big Cola plants.

The Yaqui people see themselves as the stewards and guardians of the river, but they were not consulted about this project, in clear violation of their rights to free, prior and informed consent, as well as their rights to autonomy and self-determination as indigenous peoples – all laid out in treaties and conventions signed by the Mexican government.

The tribe therefore went to court and on May 28, 2012 gained an injunction in the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation saying that the Sonoran government must stop the extraction of water. The Supreme Court ratified this decision on May 8, 2013 saying the rights of the Yaqui people to consultation had been violated.

Nevertheless, the work has not stopped, two of the five pumps which make up the aqueduct remain active, and the extraction (or theft) of water from the El Novillo dam on the Yaqui River continues.

The Yaqui say that there is now no water flowing in the river, and they have no water for human consumption, no means to survive in the desert. T

hey cannot grow their crops, because they have no water for irrigation.

Sea water is entering the river, causing salinization of farming lands and water supplies. People are becoming ill, the situation is extremely serious, and the whole future of the Yaqui nation is in jeopardy because their most basic and precious resource, the basis of life, is being taken from them.

Protests and Campaigns

Since May 28, 2013, the Yaqui have been maintaining a resistance camp and roadblock at Vicam, the tribe’s main headquarters, on the international highway from Arizona to Sinaloa.

As a result, the Mexican government issued criminal charges and arrest warrants against two of the Yaqui indigenous leaders, Mario Luna Romero and Tomás Rojo.

On August 7, this action was denounced by Amnesty International in an open letter stating that Amnesty is gravely concerned for the safety and freedom of the two leaders and fears the charges are a reprisal against their legitimate work on behalf of their people’s human rights.

The use of the Mexican justice system to silence those who defend human rights has been a recurrent abuse. Members of indigenous and campesino communities who defend their rights have frequently been victims of the illegitimate use of the justice system to repress those who seek to defend their rights.”(1)

On July 9, 2013, the Zapatista General Command (CCRI-CG of the EZLN), in conjunction with the Mexican Indigenous National Congress (CNI), issued a statement of solidarity and support for the Yaqui,

“We believe that the earth is our mother and that the water that runs through her veins is not for sale. The life it gives us is a right, not something that the bad government or the business owners have granted us. We demand the immediate cancellation of the arrest warrants and false accusations against members of the Yaqui Tribe, and we condemn the criminalization of their struggle.

To the political party-based bad governments we say that the Yaqui River is the historical carrier of the ancestral continuity of Yaqui culture and territory, and ….that a slight against any of us is a slight against all of us. We will respond accordingly to any attempt to repress this dignified struggle or any other….

We make a call to the international community and to our brothers and sisters of the International Sixth to be alert to the events in Yaqui territory and to join in solidarity with the Yaqui Tribe and its demands.”(2)

Following this, at the beginning of August, the Network for Solidarity and against Repression convoked the national and international campaign Namakasia: for the life of the Yaqui Nation, “with the objectives of supporting the fight to stop the theft of the water which belongs to the Yaqui tribe, strengthening the autonomous projects of the Yaqui nation, and spreading the word and the news coming from the traditional authority of the Yaqui Nation.”(3)

Namakasia is a Yaqui word representing the dignified struggle of now, and of the ancestors, and that the people should stay strong, living autonomy every day and defending it every moment. It brings all the Yaqui people together under one flag.

The campaign held a national and international day of solidarity with the Yaqui tribe on August 30, 2013, with forums and protests held in Mexico City.

The Effects of the Independence Aqueduct on the Yaqui Tribe

The indigenous Yaqui (meaning “one who speaks loudly”) or yoeme (“the true people”) were living in scattered communities in the Yaqui River basin when the invading Spaniards arrived around 500 years ago, so the area truly represents their ancestral land and territory.

They have throughout their history been interconnected with the Yaqui River, not only for their economic survival, but also for their cultural integrity upheld through their stewardship of the river and its waters.

The construction of the aqueduct has implications at all levels of their lives: environmental, economic, ecological, health, social, cultural, religious, and ultimately implications for their very survival.

The Yaqui currently live in 7 villages in 4 municipalities. They maintain their traditional social organisation and government through the Traditional Guard, traditional authorities, while decisions are made through consensus in the General Assembly.

They see their territory as one and indivisible and therefore the land is under common ownership. The backbone of their traditional land is the Yaqui River, which has a massive symbolic value. The loss of the river makes impossible further distribution of the communal land, because there is no water for irrigation.

The social fabric of the nation is thus ripped apart, and the result is destitution or migration. No Yaqui village has drinking water: “this is discrimination against indigenous peoples, specifically the Yaqui people, whose members are treated as second class citizens.”(4)

The Yaqui River also has huge significance in relation to the origin of the world, to the survival of the first people and animals, to the flood, and is an integral part of the mythology of the whole Yaqui worldview.

Many of their rituals are associated with their water source, for example private and collective baptism ceremonies. Because the River is so bound up with the Yaqui identity, it can be said that the state government of Sonora has, by violating the Yaqui people’s identity, also violated Article 2 of the Mexican constitution.

The same would apply to their rights to autonomy and self-determination, also laid down in the same Article 2, and in other conventions signed and ratified by the Mexican government, such as ILO 169.

When Yaqui representatives met with the officers of the United Nations Commissioner on Human Rights, they stated “They have built the Independence Aqueduct without consulting the Yaqui people, in clear violation of ILO 169.”

The Struggle Continues

The Yaqui remain firm and alert, and the roadblock continues. The joint actions to defend their water have served to help unite them: “In the fight to save their water, the Yaquis are achieving what years of government intervention has sought to avoid: the unity of the ‘Eight Traditional Peoples’.

The Yaqui authorities of Guamúchil Loma who have been pro-government in recent years have now joined the blockades.”(5)  At the roadblock, a young Yaqui affirms: “The smell of rebellion fills the air here in Vícam. In the faces of my fellow brigade members, you can see the signs of our future victory. Namakasia.”

But the situation is extremely serious. As the call to protest from the “Defence Brigades of the Yaqui River” says: “All members of the Yaqui tribe …are called to defend your right to a dignified life, and to participate in the protest on the road at Vícam as Guillermo Padres Elias illegally connects a pipe to the Novillo dam, stealing the water that belongs to us.  This is the water that is lacking in our territory, which is needed to irrigate our lands, and for us to consume to stop us getting sick. It is very, very important for us to revive the Yaqui River that is completely dry now.”







C189: “The work that makes all work possible” finally recognised by int’l law

Like what work? Nannies, housekeepers, care givers, house cleaners, domestic workers…

If you go in the streets and you ask a domestic worker, ‘what is Convention 189?’, do you think she is going to look at you and think you are crazy?

If you ask a domestic worker ‘what would make your life better?’ Do think that she will say ‘I want a decent wage, decent working hours, break periods…

Convention 189 is no use as a piece of paper. We need to make it a reality.

Associations and organizations have to disseminate these new international laws, and not by brochures and ads in dailies…and plain written articles…

It should start as a word of mouth.

The domestic workers have to “hear” about the laws.

They need to meet and listen to what are their rights, and more importantly, what are the procedures to claim and grab their rights

Tamara Gausi posted in Equal Times this Sept. 5, 2013

It’s probably the biggest social movement that you’ve never heard of.

Unless, of course, you are one of the millions of activists directly involved.

But the world’s “invisible workforce” is finally coming out of the shadows.

Domestic workers celebrate the adoption of Convention 189 at the International Labour Conference in Geneva in June 2011 (Photo/ILO)
Domestic workers celebrate the adoption of Convention 189 at the International Labour Conference in Geneva in June 2011. It finally came into force on 5 September, 2013 (Photo/ILO)

As of 5 September, the historic Convention Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers, also known as the Domestic Workers Convention, No. 189, comes into force.

“For too long, the value of our work wasn’t recognised,” says Myrtle Witbooi, a former domestic worker who is now General Secretary of the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU) and Chair of the International Domestic Worker Network (IDWN).

“Convention 189 (C189) is finally helping to change that because now domestic workers have the same international standards as all other workers,” she tells Equal Times.

“It’s an incredible achievement. I’ve been working in this sector for 46 years and I never thought I would see this happen in my lifetime.”

Domestic work, as Ai-jen Poo, Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) in the United States succinctly puts it, is “the work that makes all other work possible”.

And yet those who do it – most of them women, many of them migrants and too many of them children – face a barrage of human and labour rights violations.

This ranges from long hours, low pay and no benefits to physical and sexual abuse, forced labour and trafficking.

But because historically it has been considered lowly, ‘women’s’ work which takes place in private homes, nannies, housekeepers, care givers and cleaners have been excluded from the protection of almost all major labour legislation.

Convention 189

The Convention will ensure the provision of the same basic labour rights to workers who care for families and households as those available to other workers.

This includes a minimum wage, clear terms and conditions of employment, daily and weekly (at least 24-hours) rest time, restrictions on in-kind payments, and respect for the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

Uruguay became the first country to ratify C189 in April 2012, following adoption by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in June 2011.

Philippines ratified it soon after in August 2012, thereby ensuring its passage into binding, international law.

Since then, a coalition of domestic workers, trade unions, national centres, human rights groups and grassroots organisations have created a groundswell of international support for the Convention.

“What domestic workers, trade unions and their allies have achieved is remarkable,” says Marieke Koning, a policy advisor at the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) whose work on the 12 x 12 Campaign has helped bring together all those involved.

“From a local to global level, the domestic workers – and those who support them – built the alliances and created the momentum to make this happen. This is something that can inspire the whole labour movement.”

To date, seven other countries – Bolivia, Italy, Germany, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Paraguay and South Africa have ratified C189. (Not the USA? or any European States, except Belgium?)

Costa Rica has approved draft laws on its ratification and several other countries such as Belgium, Ecuador, Tanzania and Ireland have pledged their intent to do the same.

Other countries like Brazil, Philippines and Argentina, have passed significant new laws or regulations to improve the labour and social conditions of domestic workers.

In the US, for example, following a 4-year campaign by the NDWA, New York State passed the first-ever Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights in 2011. It was adopted by Hawaii this July, and should be ratified by California soon.

And in Philippines, Julius Cainglet of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW) says that ratification has had a direct impact on the lives of domestic workers.

“Wages have increased. All domestic workers now receive a minimum of 2,500 pesos per month [approximately 56 US dollars a month], which is an improvement as some workers used to be paid in-kind.”

100 million

The world over, domestic workers are on the frontline of a huge demographic shift.

“With more women in the paid workforce, they’re unable to provide the same level of family care giving work,” says Poo, who was named one of the World’s 100 Most Influential People for 2012 by Time Magazine for helping to put the domestic workers’ struggle firmly onto the US political agenda.

Add to that rapidly ageing populations, growing immigrant communities and an increase in precarious work in general, and you can see why the struggle for domestic worker rights can no longer be ignored.

The ILO estimates there are 53 million domestic workers worldwide.

However, because of the informal nature of much of the work, the true figure could be as high as 100 million.

This equates to approximately 3.6 per cent of the global workforce; in the Global South that figure rises to 12 per cent.

As many as 83% of domestic workers are women and an estimated 10.5 million are children, most of them under-aged.

C189 serves to protect the most vulnerable members of a previously unprotected workforce.

It requires that governments prevent child labour in domestic work, and provide assurances that those children over the minimum working age can continue their education or further training while engaging in domestic work.

For migrant domestic workers, a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) documented the routine abuses that many of them face such as the confiscation of passports, forced imprisonment in the workplace, beatings and in some cases, years of unpaid labour.

C189 aims to protect migrant domestic workers by ensuring the regulation of private employment agencies and an end to the practice of employer deductions to cover recruitment fees.

‘I have a dream’…for domestic workers?

The struggle for the recognition of the rights of domestic workers has been a long one.

The official launch of the 12 x 12 Campaign outside the European Parliament in April 2012 (Photo/ITUC)
The official launch of the 12 x 12 Campaign outside the European Parliament in April 2012 (Photo/ITUC)

The issue of ‘domestic servants’ was discussed at the ILO as early as 1936 when they were excluded from the Holidays with Pay Convention which established the right to six days paid leave for workers in manufacturing and other industries.

Even in August 1963, at the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, domestic work was on the agenda.

Before Martin Luther King Jnr made his “I Have a Dream” speech, John Lewis – then Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), now a Congressman – spoke of his own aspirations for the proposed US civil rights legislation:

“What is there in this bill to ensure the equality of a maid who earns five dollars a week in the home of a family whose income is 100,000 dollars a year?”

In the 1990s, domestic workers in Latin America began to organise by building grassroot movements and a regional network supported by trade unions and other civil society partners. Today, Latin America remains the movement’s leading light.

From there, the organising bug spread to Africa and Asia where national movements in countries like the Philippines, Italy and South Africa began to build a critical mass.

Then, in 2006, the idea for an international convention started to take shape; five years later it was adopted at the 100th session of the ILO’s International Labour Conference in Geneva.

To seize the momentum of adoption, in 2011 the ITUC launched the 12 x 12 Campaign in collaboration with the IDWN and the International Union of Food Workers’ Association (IUF).

It now has the support of 11 other international partners such as HRW and Amnesty International, and there are 12 x 12 action teams in more than 90 countries.

 “The idea was to give focus to the movement,” says Koning. “Our first priority, of course, was to see 12 countries ratify Convention 189,” and the completion of this goal is now imminent.

“But we have also been working on national labour law reforms and strengthening union participation in the domestic worker sector.”

The 12 x 12 Campaign also provides a one-stop-shop for information on the movement via the website, newsletter and Facebook page.

And now?

While the coming into force of C189 is a real cause for celebration, there is still plenty of work to be done. In the Middle East, for instance, not one country has ratified the Convention.

The violent, sometimes deadly, abuse of migrant domestic workers is also rampant in the region.

“It’s a major challenge,” admits Koning. “The ITUC recently sent a response to a proposed model contract for migrant domestic workers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries which falls short of C189.

“We will continue to hold GCC countries accountable for the fact that they need to adopt and implement decent national labour laws for domestic workers. There is no other way to go.”

To date, the domestic worker struggle may not have entered the public conscious in the same way that other contemporary social movements have, but it won’t stay that way for long, says Poo.

“The level on instability and insecurity facing working people globally is reaching an untenable scale.

“I think what has been the reality for domestic workers all along is increasingly becoming the reality for more and more of the global workforce.

“As a result, we are going to see the coming together of workers from all sectors, just like we’ve seen with the domestic workers.”

Elsewhere, there is a commitment to ensure that as many domestic workers as possible benefit from C189.

There are meetings, planning sessions and events taking place internationally to keep the issue in the spotlight.

At the UN High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development in New York on 3 and 4 October, for example, there will be side events on migrant domestic workers.

And from 26 to 28 October, the IDWN will hold its Founding Congress in Uruguay, which marks the second phase of the domestic worker movement.

According to Witbooi, phase two is all about consolidation, implementation and “education, education, education.




September 2013

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