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Domestic Workers Face 'Modern Slavery...
Hong Kong
By Miguel Candela
01 Mar 2015

320,000 migrant women are exposed to all kinds of physical and psychological abuse in the domestic service sector of Hong Kong. This story is a testimony of their experiences and struggles.

After being repeatedly abused and realizing that her situation would not improve, in a desperate attempt, Kamsiah ran away from her employer's house without money or documentation. Subsequently she was accused of stealing her employer's wallet which was said to contain around 900 US Dollars. Unfortunately, false accusations are a common practice to pressure migrant workers and avoid paying the wages owed to them. Barefooted, without money nor documentation, she sought refuge in a 24-hour fast food restaurant and waited until another compatriot helped her and took her to a shelter.

Esther C. Bangkawayan is the director of Bethune House shelter, where foreign domestic helpers who suffer abuse find shelter, food, and legal advice. They now house about a dozen women in trouble, but at times they even have to squeeze around 20 people in the small house nestled beside a church in Kowloon. A domestic helper herself, Esther is campaigning the government to scrap two rules she deems unfair: one which forbids employees from changing their employers more than three times a year, and another one which doesn’t allow them from changing to work at another sector of the economy.

42 year old filipino domestic helper Grace signed a misleading labour contract to work in Hong Kong but she instead ended up in Dalian, a northeast Chinese city 1,979 km far from Hong Kong. After confronting her employer about the situation, Grace was put into a return flight to Hong Kong without her pending salary and with only 200 RMB in her wallet. Grace has made now a formal complaint against the recruitment agency which made her labour contract. However, she is not very optimistic regarding her chances of recovering the debt of 40,000 pesos she currently has in the Philippines.

Eni Lestari, Indonesian, is the spokesperson for the Justice for Erwiana Committee. A domestic helper herself, she hopes to get justice for one of her compatriots, Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, who came to Hong Kong seeking for a better life and future but instead found a form of modern slavery. Erwiana’€™s employers hit her so severely that her brain has sustained irreversible injuries. As a result, she is unable to walk properly and has blurred vision. Her employer punched Erwiana so violently that her teeth cracked. She was sent to Indonesia with her body full of bruises and 8 US dollars in her pocket. Outraged immigrants like Lestari demand now justice and prison for her attackers. The Court has already declared them guilty and sentence is pending.

On Sundays thousands of Indonesian women gather in the streets and public spaces around Hong Kong to take advantage of their only day off. Most take their own food and an umbrella and talk to their friends all day long.

“€œWe barely have any money, so we have to take our lunch from our employer's house and sit in any public space that we can so we can enjoy our leisure time with our friends,”€ said Kamsiah.

To enjoy their free time and to get to know other immigrant workers in Hong Kong, immigrant groups organize activities for the women, such as beauty contests and self-defense classes in Victoria Park.  Persaudaraan Setia Hati Terate Fight Club teaches women to protect themselves from abusive employers.

Not only helping the women get away from the world of domestic work for the little time they have off or boosting their ability to defend themselves, such activities are the only social contact many have; and friends made during Sundays can be of great importance when difficulties arise.

FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE ON REQUEST

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Muslim and German: Safyah's Story
Berlin, Germany
By luigi serenelli
24 Jan 2015

Safyah Hassan-Yavuz, a 28 years old German Muslim, feels constantly pressured to justify herself for being a Muslim in Germany. She believes that conditions for Muslims in Germany worsened in the wake of Paris attacks. The political movement PEGIDA, or Patriotic European Against the Islamization of the West, has also triggered divisions in German society. This story focuses on a slice of Safyah's life as a Muslim woman with both German and Muslim heritage and her experience in a country going through an identity crisis that has both united people and torn them apart.

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Martin Luther King Day March in New Y...
New York, USA
By Rodrigo Jardon
18 Jan 2015

Hundreds of New Yorkers marched to commemorate Martin Luther King Day in the streets of Manhattan.

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Call On Faith: Valarie Kaur (Odyssey ...
Harford, Connecticut
By AlisonFast
30 Dec 2014

A positive story about the response of faith leaders and communities to hate crimes in America.

Sikh activist and filmmaker Valarie Kaur, who raised awareness of hate crimes nationally in the wake of 9-11, points to the mentor behind her faith. This piece was produced for Odyssey Networks / Women of Spirit and Faith.

Valarie Kaur is the founder of Groundswell Movement, the nation’s largest multifaith online organizing community of 100,000+. She has led campaigns on hate crimes, racial profiling, immigration detention, marriage equality, solitary confinement, and the open Internet. She currently serves as Media and Strategy Fellow at Stanford Law School. She believes “the way we make change is just as important as the change we make.”

A young, inspiring public figure, she is frequent guest on FOX, CNN and popular news outlets. She advocates compassion and unity in response to the culture of violence-plaguing America- from school shootings to LGBT issues. She is a voice for her generation and considered to be a spokesperson for the Sikh community. Her position breaks stereotypes of women within the Sikh community.

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Racing buffaloes in Thailand_001
Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

Thai farmers guard their buffaloes before the race. They will pay tribute to their hard working animals after a thriving year of farming.

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Racing buffaloes in Thailand_002
Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A Thai rider looks after his buffalo before the race. The races are spread throughout the day in intense heat.

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Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A thai farmer is seen before the race. Hundreds of farmers descend on Chonburi for the yearly festival.

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Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A Thai farmer carries his buffaloes to the race field before the race.

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Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A thai farmer guards his buffalo in a promotional stand for fertiliser during the festival.

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Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A group of young girls promotes a fertiliser under the watchful eye of a Thai farmer and his buffalo.

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Racing buffaloes in Thailand_009
Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A thai young girl wearing a traditional thai dress takes a break during a parade within the 'Buffalo race festival'.

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Racing buffaloes in Thailand_010
Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A Thai young kid rides a buffalo with his body painted in black during a parade prior the traditional buffalo race.

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Racing buffaloes in Thailand_011
Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A Thai woman rides a decorated buffalo during the parade. The weeklong festival offers a wide range of activities - but the main attraction is the buffalo race.

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Racing buffaloes in Thailand_012
Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A Thai young kid rides a buffalo with his body painted in black during a parade prior the traditional buffalo race.

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Racing buffaloes in Thailand_013
Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A thai girl dressed up shows a flower during the parade. Local people wear different costumes (both regional and international) during such event.

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Racing buffaloes in Thailand_014
Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A painted buffalo is seen during a parade before the traditional race. The annual event is held to show gratitude to the buffaloes for helping out on the farm.

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Racing buffaloes in Thailand_015
Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A Thai farmer carries his buffalo during the parade prior the race. The parade, which takes around 2 hours, goes round around the city to share the spectacle with locals.

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Racing buffaloes in Thailand_016
Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A Thai woman rides a decorated buffalo during the parade. The weeklong festival offers a wide range of activities - but the main attraction is the buffalo race.

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Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A Thai young kid wears tribal costume during the parade.

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Racing buffaloes in Thailand_018
Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A Thai farmer is seen in the stables nearby the race field.

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Racing buffaloes in Thailand_019
Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

Thai children wear tribal costumes during the parade.

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Racing buffaloes in Thailand_020
Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A Thai young kid helps to carry some buffaloes during the parade. Thai children enjoy the Festival. Some of them dream to become jockeys.

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Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A Thai farmer helps a jockey on his sprint during the training prior the official race.

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Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A rider pulls his buffalo to the start line during the warm up races.

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Racing buffaloes in Thailand
Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A Thai jockey takes a break between races. They need to be quite focused, since races require a lot of technique and strength.

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Racing buffaloes in Thailand_024
Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A jockey covers his head of the rain during a break between races. The Thai riders eagerly wait this annual event, where they will compete to have the fastest buffalo.

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Racing buffaloes in Thailand_025
Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A jockey assistant takes care of a buffalo before a race. Riders are usually assisted by a team to help them focus exclusively on the races.

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Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A jockey uses bandage to cover his injured ankle after being kicked off his buffalo.

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Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

Riders speed up with their buffaloes. The races have taken place in Chonburi province for more than 140 years.

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Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A Thai rider looks after his buffalo before the race. Competition is spread throughout the day in the intense heat.

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Racing buffaloes in Thailand_029
Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

Thai farmers ride on buffaloes during the traditional buffalo race. The races test not only the speed of the buffaloes, also their agility, balance and strength.

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Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

Jockeys try to stop their buffaloes. Thai riders must jump off their buffaloes in order to stop them.

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Racing buffaloes in Thailand_033
Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A rider falls off his buffalo. Races require a lot of technique and strength, and getting kicked off could result in serious injury.

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Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

The big beasts stampede on the 100-metre track guided by jockeys during the traditional buffalo race.

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Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A jockey jumps off his buffalo to stop it at the finish line.

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Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A Thai rider try to slow down their buffaloes as they arrive to the finish line. The thai jockeys should jump out of their buffaloes without release them in order to stop them.

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Racing buffaloes in Thailand_026
Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
07 Oct 2014

A Thai farmer ride on buffaloes during the traditional buffalo race. The races test not only the speed of the buffaloes, also their agility, balance and strength.

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Racing buffaloes in Thailand
Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
06 Oct 2014

Chonburi, Thailand

Spectators eagerly await the race as enthusiastic emcees cheer over loudspeakers. Meanwhile, jockeys prepare their powerful water buffaloes to run the 100-meter soil track ahead.
Clouds of dust erupt as the large animals and their riders stampede towards the finishing line, while the crowd roars in support of their favorites. For the jockeys, controlling a water buffalo requires great skill and strength; getting thrown off the back of the buffalo could cause serious bodily harm.

Every year, hundreds of farmers travel with their large beasts from different parts of Thailand to Chonburi province, 90 kilometers away from the capital Bangkok, to take part in the traditional "Buffalo Racing Festival". This cultural event pays tribute to the hard working farm animals, which are greatly valued in this Southeast Asian country.

The contest, one of the best-known festivals in Thailand, has been celebrated for 140 years. Legend has it that Thai farmers from the countryside descended to Chonburi city to trade their agricultural products, and the event originated to settle an argument over who had the fastest buffalo in town.