Today I gave a little presentation to my class peers in order to rehearsal for the presentation’s exam. Yesterday it was The Women’s Day, so I would like to dedicate my presentation to a woman, whose name is Fariha and, through her, I’d like to pay a little homage to all oppressed women in the world.
I knew about Fariha when I visited Ceuta last year, in January 2016. Ceuta is one the two Spanish towns in northern Africa. Before going there, I had been told about sub-Saharan immigrants coming from Africa and trying to enter in Europe across this border between Morocco and Spain. In fact, I was visiting a friend of mine who works in a charity helping the immigrants who succeed in crossing the fence by climbing it.
The fence is impressive. A double row of 8 km. length and 6 meters high made by barbed wire and blades, and equipped with high technology surveillance systems. The fence has only a gate called ‘El Tarajal’. It was there, in ‘El Tarajal, where I knew Fariha’s story.
Fariha was a single young mother with 3 kids living in Morocco in the other side of the fence, in the border town of Castillejos. For surviving and make ends meet for her family she worked carrying enormous bundles and crossing the customs from Ceuta to Morocco as many times in a day as she could. Since dawn, she waited and queued with those heavy bales of 70 kilos on her back. Such an incredible toil just for 10 € a day! Fariha didn’t know what she was carrying and sometimes it caused trouble to her and had to bribe customs officers. They call them ‘mule’ women. Fariha was a mule woman. This was her job. Do you think that we can consider this a ‘job’?
Between 5.000 and 8.000 women cross the border daily. I was really shocked by this unexpected activity in Ceuta. It exists because of the peculiar situation of Ceuta, geographically and politically. As Spanish enclave, freight transport doesn’t pay duties. Clothes, electrical and electronic devices, food, and all kind of commodities arrive to Ceuta from the Peninsula without paying taxes because there’s no border. From Ceuta to Morocco there is a border, but Moroccan government doesn’t recognize it. This brings about this minor permitted contraband, in which companies and businessmen get money using women as if they were animals.
However, when I visited El Tarajal, the border and customs were peaceful and completely empty. There were no women, no bundles, no bales, no mess, no pushes, no cries… Because few days before had taken place a turmoil and a human avalanche in which Fariha died. Since then the stairs where she fall and died suffocated are called ‘The death stairs’. Despite her name means happiness, Fariha’s life was not happy at all and her death was tragic and useless.
I’m talking about Fariha with a double purpose. On one hand, I just want to let you know this reality because I’m convinced that being conscious, being aware, of injustices is the first step to fight against them. On the other hand, just a little reflection. Are we better than them? Women here, in Europe, in Catalonia, here in our classroom, are we better than them? No, absolutely not. We are just luckier because we were born one thousand kilometers northerly.
To Fariha! She was so brave!