Sandy was 15 years old when she arrived in Chile in January 2017. The reason was to be reunited with her mother, who was working in the country, and also to finish her final year of school to facilitate her entry to university.

“I was a stateless child, even though I am Haitian, I was born and lived in the Dominican Republic all my life and in that country they do not give nationality to children by birth. I lived my whole life without nationality, without the right to anything. I came to know what basic rights were when I arrived in Chile.

During the first months of school in Chile, Sandy experienced discrimination on public transport and street harassment. She experienced this as a teenager, but says it is a reality that women of African descent live with on a daily basis.

“One day, when I was going to school, a woman started to swear at me and told me to leave the country. I was a child at the time and I didn’t understand these acts of racism. Outside the school there was a building where I was always harassed when I went alone, they took advantage of a girl, a black migrant”.

These events motivated Sandy to study law. “She was determined to learn more about human rights, but especially how to demand them, not only for herself, but also for other Afro-descendants. ”

I have always liked law, when I finished school, I was very sure that what I wanted was this, to defend the migrant community and myself, to know the laws of the country in which I live so as not to allow them to continue committing this type of injustice and to know where to go, where to complain and where to denounce”.

One of the biggest challenges for migrant Women of African Descent is access to education, especially for those with irregular migration status.

“I couldn’t go to university straight away because I didn’t have money, and I didn’t have residency, so I wasn’t eligible for free education. I had to wait a year to start. My mother is the happiest. She is grateful, I am in a foreign country and I am studying a professional career. A lot of young migrants don’t have this possibility.

The activism of women of African descent in Chile

Women of African descent represent one of the most vulnerable groups in terms of education, health and work, a situation that is exacerbated in contexts of human mobility, such as migration. In the case of Haitian women, due to the language barrier, or the lack of adequate information channels, they do not assume themselves to be subjects of rights and find it more difficult to demand the fulfilment of these rights. This is what motivated Sandy Josep to promote Diosa Haitiana, a space on social networks where she disseminates information of interest to the Haitian community, which serves as a channel for denouncing and promoting the human rights of people of African descent.

“Whenever I went out on the street, I always met a Haitian person who didn’t know how to get on the metro or how to deal with the issue of free university entrance. Many young women don’t know how to apply. So, I got information for it to help them to apply, to do the calculations and look for the information on the pages of the appropriate ministries. That’s when I thought that I could amplify that knowledge through social networks to support the community in a massive way. That’s how Diosa Haitiana was born.

“There was a case of a Haitian sister who made a complaint of sexual abuse. She told her story, but in Creole. We made the platform available to her to disseminate her case in Spanish so that it would not remain within the community. In addition to disseminating it, in coordination with various migrant organisations, we looked for ways to support her emotionally and financially”.

The cooperation and articulated work between various organisations and collectives of women of African descent is also one of the initiatives led by the young Haitian activist, promoting spaces for emotional support, accompaniment and campaigns to raise money to support the community of African descent, especially women.

Challenges for Women of African Descent in Chile

“The biggest challenge for migrant Women of African Descent in Chile is the regularisation process. Without this, it is impossible to promote any measures to be able to live, work and study. Without this, any other initiative is null and void because we cannot participate fully or demand the recognition of our rights as citizens”.

Another challenge that the activist highlights is the fear of Haitian women to attend public health institutions.

“Cases have been reported of many Haitian women who have suffered obstetric violence, in which their children have been born with illnesses and disabilities as a result of the violence experienced during childbirth. Venezuelan women have also reported this. Another case is that of forced sterilisations, which happen when women are made to sign a written consent form in Spanish just after giving birth. The women, without understanding what they are signing, agree because they are clearly in a vulnerable situation, which is why many Haitian women who live in the camps prefer not to go to the hospital because they are afraid”.

Sandy believes that the work of women’s collectives and their increased participation in different social spaces contributes to eradicating discrimination and racism, opening spaces for new generations of black Chilean children.

“I dream of a 25J in which all women of African descent know that it is their day and have the freedom to commemorate it collectively. I dream of a world in which black women and girls no longer suffer any violence, and especially those living in towns and camps in Chile, longing to be included and heard by society. To all the black women of Latin America, thank you for your courage and bravery in your struggles. We all have different ways of activism and different ways of resisting. I call for unity because when black women, regardless of nationality, are united, we achieve great things”.

*Article originally published in UN Women Latin America and the Caribbean

The original article can be found here