Beyond Trafficking and Slavery: Feature

‘There is everything in my country, but there was war there’

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 was born in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. I was born in a large family – I am the second daughter of my family and I am a twin. I left the DRC to join my husband, who had already come to live in Brazil. We were experiencing financial problems and there was war in my country. We thought it was better to come here to Brazil, so we could have more freedom. My husband has been living in Brazil for six years. I arrived two years ago.

Unfortunately, life is not that easy here. I am not working at the moment, but I studied in Congo and always worked with my family. I worked in the family supermarket as a cashier. Here in Brazil it is very difficult for foreigners to have a job, so we struggle a lot.

I joined a group called ‘Woman of Brazil’. In this group we had the opportunity to do some internships. We wrote up our resumes and distributed them to companies, but the companies almost never called back. Only Carrefour, the supermarket, offered us a job. It was my first job here in Brazil. I was very happy to get it, but in the end only worked there for a week. In the contract it was written that I should work from 8 am until 5 pm, and my wage was 700 Reais. I was working at the register, but unfortunately they made me work like a slave. They did not respect the contract – I was working from 8 am until 11:30 pm. As a married woman, this was very difficult, because I also had the obligation to take care of my husband. It was also very dangerous to be out at that time. I was getting home at 1 am, and there is a lot of violence in Brazil. A bad thing could have happened to me. I decided it was best to leave this job because it was not safe for me. After that I didn’t find work again.

Companies don’t know that you are a black person when you first send them your CV. That gives you a chance to be called for an interview. But once they see that you are a black person they don’t give you the job. They say that they have no more vacancies, but we know that it is not true. This happened to me with three different companies. This is a great difficulty that I found here in Brazil.

It is complicated to survive and to feel free.

When you are black and African, at work, everyone asks you where you are from, or if there are supermarkets in my country. I need to teach them. I need to say that there is everything in my country, but there was war there and we were in financial trouble, and we thought it was better to get out. But my country is not a forest as they think it is. It is very sad because I left my family there and am alone here with my husband. The only family I have here is the Brazilian people, but they don't treat us well. We get frustrated and very sad.

I haven't had a proper job for two years. Only my husband is working, and it is very difficult for a marriage when just one has work. He has to pay the rent, energy, the shopping, so it is very complicated to survive and to feel free. Language is also a problem. It is difficult to feel free when you have a language barrier. I took Portuguese classes and today my Portuguese is better, but still, living in a country where you don’t master the language, you live full of constraints.

But, it's important to say that many Brazilian women are very kind and friendly to me. Also, Brazilian women work in offices, they have good jobs, while in my country it is very difficult for a woman to get a job – most women stay at home after the wedding, they will have children and look after the house. In Brazil, you see that even women who are pregnant work. In my country it’s not like that. And that’s what pushed me to revolt when I think about my country. I think, if they can do all of this here, I can do it too. As a woman, I can also bring something to society. I am useful. This is a difference that I saw between Congolese and Brazilian women, when you think about freedom.

I do think about leaving Brazil though, because having children here will be very complicated for us. As only my husband is working, it will be difficult to survive because he has to pay rent, the children's school, water, groceries – all of this will be very heavy for my husband. And, I don't want to have children to make them suffer. This is why we think of leaving. In other countries, when you have a child and don’t have a job, the government will help you to take care of your child, so you can buy milk, sugar, rice, clothing, and educate them.

A. K., Two years in Brazil

This series has been financially supported by Humanity United.


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