Beyond Trafficking and Slavery: Feature

‘Men can say ‘This is a worthless woman,’ but I need to bring bread home’

Nine women lay bare why they went to Brazil and what they experienced once they got there. Not all migration stories are the same.

18 March 2021, 5.30am
Provided by author. All rights reserved.

I am a mother of five kids and grandmother of a granddaughter. When thinking about freedom, my concern is that – as a migrant and a mother – I go have to through several difficulties, including financially. People will say, ‘you just need to get a formal job’, but when you have kids and there is no care for them, the difficulty goes beyond having a formal job or not. My children are very young, and I have teenagers too. I want to take good care of them, but I can’t do it if I leave early in the morning and come back late in the night. There is no one to look after them. That is why I often have to work as self-employed – it gives me time to be able to look after my family. My life has been very difficult in Brazil, because I don’t always get financial support here.

The situation is also much more critical and burdensome for us Africans. I will be honest to you, there is a differentiation here regarding the way they treat immigrants here. For example, when I see Venezuelan or Syrian families, they receive much more support here. Some may even say that this is because, historically, Syrians have larger communities in Brazil and that they help each other. But no! I have Syrian friends and I talk to them. It is not always because they have larger communities – they receive help from Brazilians who accept them, who ‘adopt’ them, saying, ‘I will be your godmother,’ or ‘I will be your godfather’. I'm not saying that I want people to be godparents to Africans too. But I think that the way of treating people should be the same, for everyone.

In my culture, I am not supposed to expose myself – dancing for work, as I do. Men can say: ‘This is a worthless woman,’ but I have to do this. I need to bring bread home. Those who don't know me, they will criticise me. But that's how it is. You need to do everything to be able to raise your children. And there is a lot of hypocrisy with some Brazilians, who say they are fighting and working for immigrants’ rights, who say they are there for immigrants. When it comes to African families and women, we don’t receive that much support. There is a difference in the way they treat us. You see yourself alone, just you and your kids, and think ‘my God, I don’t believe it.’

Those who don't know me, they will criticise me.

I'm managing to make ends meet, pay my bills, but it is difficult. I'm working with an NGO, but the contract with them will finish in December. I'm making videos talking about racism, about sexual violence. What they pay me, I use to pay my rent. There are times when I get some money, but I find myself with nothing left very quickly afterwards. I am not saying that people have to pick me up and be my godmothers, but to give me opportunities, to support a family mother. Because I sometimes need to break myself into ten pieces to get the basics. Even the Bible says that whoever asks shall receive. But I need opportunities. I need people to respect my work. I do a lot of work where people pay nothing afterwards.

I live in a mess. I get a debt here in order to pay a debt there. Then, I pay this debt here and I get another debt there. I live in this mess, but I manage to keep up. I can't send money to my family back home. I managed to do that just a couple of times, when I sent money to my dad because he was very, very sick. My brother called me and said. ‘Papa is in bed, he is not getting up, why are you not sending money? We see you on social media videos.’ They don't know, they don't believe that I don’t have any money. It is difficult because my image is of a showing off person. But financially, it is not like that. Right now, for example, I need to send money to buy food for my father, and I don't even have the money to buy enough food for my children. How am I going to buy food for my father? My aunt also sent messages recently. She calls me a lot these days. She worries about me and asks why I'm not responding but, in the end, she is also asking for support. And it hurts me.

I am thinking of bringing my mum to Brazil, so I can go to work without depending on other people to look after my kids. Then I can go to work and work for the whole day, I know there will be an adult at home. My girl is 19 years old. She looks after her siblings for me, but there are days that she wants to leave and go out. And if she leaves, the 12-year-old sister will be the one taking care of the others. What would people say? That I am a mother who leaves and abandons her children. I’ve seen in the media that some migrants have received help to bring their parents to Brazil. Those migrants have been single, and they received help and managed to bring their families. I want to have this help as well. I need this support because my situation is very difficult. I have no freedom here.

I sent money to an NGO in Congo, which helped me make my mother's passport. The NGO helped me to get her a passport, but they said the Brazilian consulate was complicating things for people who were requesting a family reunion visa. Her visa was denied. The person there didn’t even look at her in the face, they just denied it. We paid everything and followed the system, but it was denied. I’m really sad. Everyone that you talk here says that Congo is having internal problems – they don't know what it is but they are not giving visas. I want to know. Why is it difficult for Congolese people to get something that is their right, like a family reunion visa?

What does the world want? They want you to go on television and make at video saying, ‘I'm having difficulties.’ Then they will come with 10 cameras to demonstrate how you are suffering – how you are sleeping on the floor in your little house. I don't want to have to do that to receive support. I have my difficulties, but I don't want to have go through this humiliation on TV, where they will say, ‘She was living here, in this horrible place, and now we helped her...’

No! I want to show that I am a human being like everyone else. Everyone has their difficulties and everyone should receive support. I don’t want to have to go knocking on the doors of the media to show the whole world that I’m having difficulties so that they will help me.

P. K., Twelve years in Brazil

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