Opinion

Double Reason To Celebrate Mother’s Day

Despite the confusion of dates to celebrate Mother’s Day this year, mothers were treated with more love and warm wishes yesterday. Churches and faith groups, community and youth groups and
15 May 2017 10:50
Double Reason To Celebrate Mother’s Day

Despite the confusion of dates to celebrate Mother’s Day this year, mothers were treated with more love and warm wishes yesterday.

Churches and faith groups, community and youth groups and family gatherings at lunch and dinner showed how people cared for their mothers.

Simply wishing your mother ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ means a lot. It shows a mother how much you appreciate them.

With this being celebrated, let us not forget that yesterday May, 14 also marked the 138th Commemoration of the arrival of Girmitiyas to our island nation.

Yesterday, the Girmit committee gathered to remember their ancestral mothers who toiled six days a week working long hours to help bring their future generations to where they are today.

History tells us that it was the ship ‘Leonidas’ that arrived in Fiji on May 14, 1879 that first brought in indentured labourers from different parts of India.

The indentured labourers received a specific agreement to work for certain period in Fiji.

It was after five years of Girmit, the labourers were allowed to return to India at their own expense. But many stayed back because of the cost.

Girmitiyas suffered a lot as labourers, they were treated unfairly, had improper nourishment, and were whipped on their back if they did not work up to the expectation of the colonial “masters”.

Fiji very much depended on the Sugar Industry those days and the colonial government needed to keep the labourers in Fiji.

Hence, if they wished to return to India they would have to manage the cost on their own or remain in Fiji.

Many remained as they could not afford their fare and soon after their agreements expired they struggled and worked hard to build their lives in Fiji.

Looking at the history and listening to the stories, one would know a lot has been sacrificed to see the future Girmitiyas, this generation to be successful and have a proper life.

According to the Girmit organisation it was in 1834 that the Indenture system was seen as an alternate source of labour for the British Empire. It first started with the labourers being sent to work in Mauritius, Uganda and Nigeria for five years. This system became widely known as ‘Girmit’ – a mispronunciation of the word “agreement” by the non-English speaking Indian labourers.

After Fiji’s Deed of Cession to Britain in 1874, it was in 1875 that Fiji’s first Governor Sir Arthur Gordon arrived. He was a Governor in Mauritius and Trinidad and encountered indentured labourers.

In 1879 the first indentured labourers arrived in Fiji and in 1884 the fifth emigrant ship to Fiji, Syria was wrecked on the Nasilai reef, off Nausori on May 11 killing 56 of those coming under the Girmit scheme and three lascars (Indian sailors).

The first lot of labourers completed their five-year contract. Sixty per cent remained in Fiji largely because of the cost of returning home.

Families grew with caring, hard working mothers always at the heart of them.

Fitting therefore that on Mother’s Day the pioneering mothers of the Girmit era were also given special recognition.

 

Feedback: losirene.lacanivalu@fijisun.com.fj



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