Villijoali, September 23, 2016

Volunteers in the Kids’ Corner at the Humanitarian Festival 2016, organized by the Maldivian Red Crescent, Male’ Branch

Today — September 23rd, the Male’ branch of Maldivian Red Cresctrent (MRC) held a humanitarian festival at the Football Grounds of Villimale’.

As part of the festival a Haveeree Maizaan (meaning: a place of casual discourse, in the late afternoon) was organized and the Villijoali team did the honors with other volunteers.

The topic for the day was “Stereotyping”. We had 8 expatriates and 1 local who participated in the Haveeree Maizaan today. This was the 3rd Haveeree Maizan event organized by MRC Male’ Branch.

The first group of participants were from Bangladesh — comprising of four people who live in Villimale and work in Villimale or Male’ island. One person has worked here for eight year and the others for about two years or more. They said that they were happy and that they spent their only holiday — Friday visiting public parks in Male’. They would go around 3 or 4 pm and come back by 7 or 8 pm. They would go to a tea shop to have a cup of tea before coming back, and usually would spend 12–15 Rufiyaa per person at the tea shop.

The Bangadeshi workers that we spoke to said they did not face any harassment or prejudice because of their nationality or class of work they do. However the conversation with them did highlight the amount of high stress and frustration that they went through due to long years of being away from family and everything that they live behind. We will be documenting this in details later.

We also heard from a father of an 11 year old daughter who was apparently in a custody battle, and exposed to several things including a mother who the father claims to be a drug addict. Parents have been separated long now. Our conversation also made us realize the fact that social protection mechanisms are bureaucratic and not victim friendly.

I did think of referring the case to a competent authority, but thought otherwise, as my last experience was similar to the plight of many rightful recipients of social protection; the path to social security seems to require an expansive mechanism at your disposal.

The third conversation of the day was with a group of three Indians living and working in Male’ — one of who has been here for over 21 years now. He said that things are much better now in terms of how foreign workers are treated in this county. He said he alone has taken more than 100 people to the authorities, for not being paid their salaries. They also highlighted the fact that most live in appalling conditions which could mean having to share the same living space or room for up to 12 or 16 people and having one toilet to use.

Some of the other concerns they raised include staff being paid the same salary for ten years or more without any increment and also that the salary is paid in Maldivian Rufiyaa at bank rates. But that, when they send money home they have to buy dollars at much higher rates.

We will be publishing more details of this in our future posts to come.