Beyonce, Jay-Z dazzle South Africa at Mandela tribute

US TV personality Oprah Winfrey poses on the red carpet next to a banner depecting late former South African president Nelson Mandela, as she arrives to attend an event to mark 100 years since the birth of Nelson Mandela, at the University of Johannesburg, Soweto Campus, in Johannesburg on November 29, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 03 December 2018
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Beyonce, Jay-Z dazzle South Africa at Mandela tribute

  • Thousands of music fans, many of whom had received free tickets to reward their activism and campaigning work, flocked to the stadium hours before the concert began
  • The Global Citizen initiative aims to help eradicate extreme poverty by 2030 and has staged events in other world cities including London, Brussels, and New York

JOHANNESBURG: Beyonce led an all-star line-up including Ed Sheeran, Jay-Z and Usher in Johannesburg at a concert to honor the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela on Sunday.
The concert was the climax of a year of events celebrating the centennial of Mandela’s birth in 1918, and part of a campaign to tackle poverty, child malnutrition and boost gender equality.
This year’s Global Citizen Festival was held at Johannesburg’s 94,736-capacity FNB staium and saw Beyonce perform several of her hits as well as a duet with Sheeran.
Thousands of music fans, many of whom had received free tickets to reward their activism and campaigning work, flocked to the stadium hours before the concert began.
“I’m proud to be part of the global citizen movement because they are trying to make a positive impact on people’s lives — especially women’s and children’s issues,” said Nokthula Khuzwayo, 23, from Soweto.
“I loved Dbanj’s performance and of course Queen B and Jay-Z, even though it was a brief one.”
As well as a constellation of global stars that also included Pharrell Williams and Coldplay’s Chris Martin, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa hosted fellow heads of state from Ghana, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.
“We are here to act in one voice,” said Ramaphosa.
Beyonce’s performance of her smash hit XO, during which she wore a flowing pink-red dress and paid tribute to Mandela, drew an outpouring of emotion from the crowd.

South African stars Trevor Noah, who was the host, and Bonang Matheba also made appearances, as the largely local crowd braved heavy downpours to attend.
Ahead of the concert co-host Oprah Winfrey hailed Mandela’s “goodness and integrity,” describing him as her “favorite mentor.”
Mandela was imprisoned for decades under South Africa’s apartheid regime. After being released in 1990, he led the country’s transformation into a multi-racial democracy and was elected its first president. He died on December 5, 2013, aged 95.
Earlier on Sunday, Mandela’s widow Graca Machel, draped in a bright yellow and blue dress, took to the stage to honor her late husband in front of the near-capacity crowd.
And Mandela’s grandson Ndaba Mandela told festival-goers: “Today it is a privilege and choice for us to take action on behalf of the hundreds of millions of people trapped in the cycle of poverty.
“So I plead with you, don’t think of this as just a music festival, this is a call to the hearts and minds of humanity all across the world.”
The Global Citizen initiative aims to help eradicate extreme poverty by 2030 and has staged events in other world cities including London, Brussels, and New York.
According to the initiative’s founder Hugh Evans, more than $2 billion have been pledged to good causes following the Johannesburg gig, beating the $1 billion goal.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted ahead of the event pledging $50 million to women’s and girl’s education projects.
Event organizers earlier paid tribute to a rigger who died following a fall while helping to prepare the stage on Saturday.
“The circumstances surrounding the incident are being investigated,” Global Citizen said in a statement.


Wedded to debt: Fathers of Indian child brides trapped in bondage

Brides sit during a mass wedding event in Mumbai, India, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019. (AP)
Updated 20 January 2019
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Wedded to debt: Fathers of Indian child brides trapped in bondage

  • Villagers take loans for major expenses, which in most cases are related to health care and or their daughters’ marriages

BUXWAHA, INDIA: For his 16-year-old daughter’s wedding last year, Makhanlal Ahirwal bought Bhawani saris, bangles and anklets, got her in-laws a water cooler, a bed, and utensils as dowry and threw a feast for 500 people in his village in central India.
The celebrations added 200,000 rupees ($2,800) to an unpaid debt of about 100,000 rupees that he’d already taken on for the wedding of another daughter.
To repay the original debt he had traveled 800 kilometers (497 miles) to Delhi the previous year, where he was lured by a promise of good pay at a construction site.
Instead, he was held against his will and denied wages and food for three months before he was rescued.
His experience is not uncommon in India, which is home to 8 million of a global estimated total of 40 million slaves — and where many poor families take out loans to cover marriages and then fall into modern slavery while trying to repay the money.
“I worked over 12 hours and lived in a tent, but wasn’t paid a penny,” Ahirwal said, sitting outside his clay hut in Dharampura village in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.
“I had taken that loan to get my elder daughter married. She was 14 then. But I did not get paid. I had another four daughters to marry, so I took one more loan last year,” he said.
“There is no way I can repay the loan if I don’t migrate and look for work again.”
Landless, and at the bottom in the hierarchy of the Indian caste system, the Ahirwals in Dharampura lean on local landlords who lend money at 4 percent interest.
Villagers take loans for major expenses, which in most cases are related to health care and or their daughters’ marriages.
With no work in villages, many migrate to cities and send earnings home to repay the money lenders, campaigners say.
But in many cases, unscrupulous employers dupe them into working long hours with the promise of good money, knowing they have debts to repay.
Bosses sometimes withhold pay — a practice that can trap villagers for years and is widely seen as a form of slavery.
Makhanlal Ahirwal was among the 22 people from Dharampura who were rescued from bondage two years ago and are entitled to government benefits such as cash compensation and housing.
Each of them had outstanding loans when they migrated.
“Most of us had taken loans for weddings of our children. One daughter’s marriage means four years of debt,” said Nirmal Ahirwal, who was trapped in bondage along with Makhanlal.

UNDERAGE AND OVERLEVERAGED
Many parents in Dharampura plan debt cycles around their daughters’ ages, ensuring the older ones are married before the younger ones attain puberty to avoid clustering wedding loans.
Despite being illegal, nearly 27 percent of girls get married before they turn 18 in India, accounting for the highest rates of child marriages across South Asia.
The practice is especially prevalent among the poorest and the most marginalized and officials said they lean on awareness drives to enforce the law as action against the parents would further victimize families.
Madhya Pradesh is among India’s poorest states and in Chattarpur district — home to Dharampura village — more than half the women were married before 18, government data shows.
Weddings cost up to 200,000 rupees and in many cases push entire families into modern slavery even as young girls are pulled out of schools and pushed into adulthood.
“Both parents and their daughters are victims in these cases ... they are both bonded in different forms of slavery,” said Nirmal Gorana, convener of the National Campaign Committee for Eradication of Bonded Labour.
“Workers we rescue from bondage often cite loans they took for their child’s marriage for taking up the work,” he added.

VOICELESS
Bhawani, Makhanlal’s 16-year-old daughter, comes across as a coy new bride as she walks into her parents’ home, dressed in a pink sari and faux gold bangles, a streak of red vermillion along the parting of her hair and her eyes lined with kohl.
“I never liked dressing up. But now I do what they (her in-laws) like,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“I wanted to study. I never said I wanted to get married. But people start talking of even 15-year-olds as 20.”
Teenage girls in the village fetch water, cook, and clean and roll “beedis” (traditional cigarettes) to supplement family income. Most drop out of school young and are wed soon after.
Child marriage without consent is a form of slavery as it pushes children into sexual and domestic servitude, experts say.
“We don’t ask our parents anything. We do as they say,” said Rekha Ahirwal, 14, who dropped out after the ninth grade.

A MOMENT OF PRIDE
Many parents do not see a future for their young daughters so take loans to marry them off, said Bhuwan Ribhu, an activist with the non-profit Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation.
“Besides, the girl’s marriage is a moment of pride for the family in the village as they discuss with the community what all they did, what they gave her,” he said.
Awareness drives have checked the practice, but only to some extent, according to activists and officials.
“We explain there are cash incentives if they get their daughters married after 18, but parents believe the right age ... is 12,” said Ramesh Bhandari, Chattarpur district head.
Bhawani recalls feeling crushed when her father returned exhausted and penniless from Delhi after he was rescued.
“His debt has only increased after my marriage,” she said.
But she has another loan to worry about — that of her in-laws. She will take the risk of migrating “to some city wherever there is work” with her husband to repay the 150,000 rupees they borrowed for their son’s own wedding festivities.
“This is not a big amount,” her husband Paras, 22, said.
“Weddings cost as much. We will find work soon to repay the loan.”