A Mother’s Appeal to the African Union at the G20. Global North Stop Taking Global South Children

Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, Excellency President Bola Ahmad Tinubu of Nigeria, Excellency President Azali Assoumani of Comoros and current current Chair of the African Union, Members of the African Union,

Welcome to India for the G20 Summit. I hope you have a pleasant stay here. I and mothers across the world from New Delhi to Ahmedabad to London to Philadelphia have been campaigning since September 8th, Friday yesterday the G20 Summit to take up the issue of the totally unjustified removal of children from loving parents by the Western countries of the world, many of whom sit with you on the G20.

I have been on hunger strike since September 8th along with my sister and fellow mother Dhara Shah from Ahmedabad whose baby has been taken by German Child Services.

The countries in which this is happening include the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia and all the countries of North and West Europe that are connected with the G20 either directly through the European Union or indirectly through the European Economic Area.

For the last ten years I have been working with Indian families who go to these countries to work for a few years and whose children are snatched from them by the so-called child welfare agencies of these Western countries.

Most of these families are young couples, and it is their first newborn that is cruelly confiscated from them. There is no fair process. The system is cruel and racist. Most of the mothers that have come to me have had their breastfed infants torn from their arms.

This is a matter that directly concerns the G20 as this is a forum for international economic and commercial co-operation and these cases of child snatching occur to the main participants in such co-operation – our skilled professionals and labour force that find work in these countries.

When these children are taken by the Western child services they are placed in families with which they have no common culture or race. They are given minimal contact with their parents – one hour every few weeks. The children are completely isolated and have no future in these countries. When we ask for the children to be returned to their extended families in India or their other home countries, it is refused. These Western countries seem to believe that life as an orphan with paid foster carers who will throw you out of their homes at 16 or 18 is better than life with your own family and your own people in your home country.

And this is not happening only with Indian families over the years I have received calls of distraught families from all over the Global South – Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and I have read and heard of cases concerning African families in Norway and Germany.

In fact, from what my fellow activists in these countries tell me, the prejudice that exists against foreigners is extremely sharp against African immigrants. The local case workers are completely unaware of any culture outside of the small districts and villages from which they hail, let alone a completely different country on a different continent and particularly when it concerns a coloured country.

There is an obsession, especially in Germany, with what Westerners choose to call female genital mutilation. I believe that this is a traditional  practice that exists in some small communities in Africa. It exists in some small communities elsewhere in the world as well. Male genital mutilation, circumcision, is a mainstream practice all over the world.

I am not going to comment here on female genital mutilation, except to say that this, as an issue concerning hygiene or concerning the cultural attitudes towards men and women  has been taken up robustly by Africans and has been engaged with in Africa with understanding and compassion.

Understanding and compassion, and engagement are required in an y kind of social intervention. This is entirely lacking in the arrogant, condescending and stigmatising attitude to a clitorectomy in the West, especially among case workers in the child welfare services.

In a case [of an Indian family] that came to me – I help these families entirely for free – and have been doing so from the start as I see this as a great humanitarian crisis that affects all of us as mothers. So there was this family that came to me from Germany. They showed me papers that led me to learn for the first time that if there is a suspicion of female genital mutilation then the German doctors and social workers make a noting that the parents should be assessed according to a “culturally sensitive” psychological assessment. When I first read the expression “culturally sensitive” I thought that I am looking at some attempt in the German system to actually be culturally sensitive.

But further research showed me that this is merely a word that is used to flag off to other professionals that are engaged in assessing these families that there is something weird going on with these parents because they are foreigners. And there is an obsession about clitorectomy. And if there is any kind of injury or other problem associated with the female genitalia, the doctors seem to jump to this as conclusion.

I think this is something that the Africa Union should take up as an issue.

The other thing which I noticed in the questioning by the so-called forensic specialists and psychologists in the hospitals and in the social services in Germany is that the line of questioning is extremely prejudicial. It reminds me of the critique of the ‘Heart of Darkness’ – “Oh, the horror, the horror…. – this attitude is very much alive in Europe and must be taken up at all international fora by all coloured peoples.

The mother of the child was constantly asked what the purity practices in her religion were. What her beliefs were about menstruation, and even whether she had intimate relations with her husband during that time.

I would have been embarrassed to speak of such things but I thought it was necessary for me to bring our just how absurd and how irretrievably racist and ignorant the people that are implementing this system are.


The suffering of the parents, especially the mothers is indescribable. I am appealing to you to take up this issue as a woman and a mother. My appeal is especially for you because unlike these cold Western countries, I believe that chivalry is not dead in your countries.

I believe that unlike these Western countries you respect motherhood. I believe that unlike these Western countries you have not become so spiritually lost and emotionally cold as to have forgotten the magnificence of motherhood and the unparalleled nature of a mother’s love and sacrifice for her children.

These Western countries keep lecturing the world about women’s rights but the cruel and senseless snatching of children from the arms of their mothers is an atrocity that has no parallel in history. I appeal to you as a woman and a mother to please take up this issue at the African Union and the G20 Summit. May god bless you and keep you in good health.