FJA Shortlist 2021

Category: Contribution to Civil Rights

Authors: Hélène Seynaeve, Cole Stangler, Filippo Poltronieri, Maurizio Franco, François Greuez, Valentin Delaunoy

(Belgium/ France/ Italy)

Inequality Unmasked

Cafebabel, France - January 10, 2021

The original publication is available via the following link:

Online and Illiterate

By Hélène Seynaeve, Valentin Delaunoy

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 emergency our everyday lives have become even more dependent than usual on a constant flow of text based digital information. This makes things particularly difficult for the roughly 10% of people in French-speaking Belgium who are illiterate. In Brussels, several associations are looking for solutions to help these individuals find their place in the digital society– but many are worried that a serious social division is already emerging.

Carlos offers us a bottle of Guarana, a popular soda in his native Brazil, to accompany our croissants. He welcomes us on a Saturday morning, in his bright flat which is located at the corner of a quiet street in Etterbeek, a municipality in the region of Brussels. His living room is filled with homemade decorations that sit side by side with his writing exercises, which are neatly arranged in a glass cabinet.

Carlos settled in Belgium in the early 2000s and had to wait nine years to obtain regular immigration status. In 2015, following a brain tumor, and on the advice of the doctors, he began to pursue literacy lessons. “Right at the beginning the teacher asked us to write something down. What it was we wanted to do. I wondered what I was going to say. I found it difficult, but I needed that. I stayed in the class for five years.”

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Workers Want a Bigger Slice of Amazon's Surging Profits

By Cole Stangler, François Greuez

Amazon’s earnings have soared during the pandemic, along with the company’s share prices — but these gains haven’t yet trickled down to the company’s workforce. After toiling through the health crisis, pushing the company to improve safety conditions, and braving the country’s second national lockdown, warehouse employees in France say it’s time for a raise.

Emilien Williatte started working at Amazon in October 2016. Since then, the thirty-six-year old has done just about everything inside the company’s sprawling warehouse in the northern French town of Lauwin-Planque: retrieving goods in aisles (a job known as “picking”), wrapping them up (“packing”) and preparing them for shipment.

But it wasn’t until last summer that he joined the union. A young manager “fresh out of school” as Williatte puts it, was giving him headaches, talking down to him and his colleagues, and assigning him difficult picking duties three weeks in a row. Williatte also happens to be deaf in one ear, a disability that he believes added to the tensions.

“He should’ve taken this into account, but he didn’t want to,” Williatte says of his former boss, as he leans back in his chair inside the local headquarters of the General Confederation of Labour (CGT), one of France’s largest trade union confederations, in the city of Douai, about a ten-minute drive from the warehouse. “I felt the tension mounting, and at a certain point I took a leave for depression, because he’d pushed me to the edge. I wasn’t far from filing a lawsuit for harassment. I had a colleague at the time, who told me, ‘if you want, join the union, that way, you won’t have problems.’ I unionised to protect myself.”

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No One at School Speaks Romani

By Filippo Poltronieri, Maurizio Franco

Over the past year millions of Italian children have had to face up to a new reality of school closures and long-distance education. The consequences have been particularly severe for vulnerable groups, and above all for Roma pupils. In the camps and shanty towns of the Italian capital, where these people live, education has become a shadow of its former self.

Sitting in an armchair, Tiziano holds his father's smartphone in his hand. He is totally absorbed by the screen. Tiziano is ten years old. He has spent his life so far living in the Roma camp on Via Monachina, a fortress made of mud and sheet metal in the western suburbs of Rome. The sixth of seven children, he is a happy boy and very attached to his parents. Tiziano speaks a colloquial Roman-Italian, punctuated with words from the Romani dialect. It’s a rainy afternoon at the end of November. His father, Milos, looks at him smiling as he tries to start the electricity generator. Without it, the container in which he and his family live would remain in darkness until the next day.

In September Tiziano entered the fourth grade. He completed third grade last year, although he hasn't taken any courses since March, when Covid-19 transformed the world of teaching and learning. From the beginning of the spring lockdown until classes resumed Tiziano was confined to the 40 square metres of his house. For months on end he was unable to follow the school curriculum. Unlike his classmates he does not have a tablet or computer; tools that were indispensable for following online courses during the first wave of the pandemic. "I don't know how to use a computer, and even if I did, there's no connection, so what would I need it for?" says the child. "We tried to ask his school to lend us a computer, but they requested a deposit of 200 euros. It's impossible for us to pay such a sum," adds his father.

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