Understanding the impact of CVD in descendants of Girmityas

 ‘Girmit Dil Ke Baat’ on October 29, 2022, at the Totara Hospice Conference Centre

 

Ireen Rahiman-Manuel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ireen Rahiman-Manuel
Auckland, September 28, 2022

Standfirst: Every year, on May 14, the word quietly adds another year to the Girmit Period that rocked the lives of more than 60,000 men and women from India for 41 years, immersing them into a subjugated state of slavery and deception.

The story of the Indo-Fijians (from 1879 to 1920) as indentured labourers is one of betrayal, torture, sacrifice and death. Successive generations have heard how their ancestors suffered the brutality of their colonial masters, whipped like animals and pushed towards suicide- many of them ended their lives either hanging at home or falling into the nearby river; many others simply perished as a natural outcome of physical and mental abuse.

There are undoubtedly a number of success stories of people who have established their presence commercially and lifted Fiji’s economy in later years, especially after the country gained independence in 1970.

Trials and tribulations

But they did not achieve success overnight; they too struggled, alongside their compatriots, risked their fortunes and promoted businesses. It is said that without Indo-Fijian enterprise, the country’s economy would be far more impoverished and regressive than it is today.

The reason for the massive abuse of Indians by the Colonial Sugar Research (CSR) Company is not known but it is assumed that they practised subjugation through terror was far more effective in gaining control over the migrant workers than letting them live and work in dignity.

The first shipload of Girmityas aboard Leonidas (the first group of indentured labourers) accounted for 522 men and women, who were taken from various parts of India on false pretences. If those people sported a dream of making it in Fiji through hard work followed by happiness and prosperity, they only got the former.

Indo-Fijians are among the most hardworking and enterprising people in the world.

We salute them as we continue this article by Ireen Rahiman-Manuel, Founder-Director of Impactdev360, a specialist team of Ethnic, Pacific and other development policy and planning leads based in New Zealand and abroad.

The Girmit period in Fiji was from 1879-1920. It was the longest era of famine in a controlled environment. We have undertaken an investigation of the genetic underpinnings of premature cardiovascular disease among Girmit-descendants living in Aotearoa

The cardiovascular disease burden has long been a concern for South Asian populations. However, the genetic heterogeneity of people within this group poses a considerable challenge for understanding genetic predisposition.

About Fiji Indians

Fijian Indians are a South Asian diasporic group, of whom a vast majority descend from Indentured (Girmit) labourers, trafficked to Fiji between 1879-1920 to work on the British sugar plantations. Emerging analysis of the Girmit legislation reveals that Girmit-labourers endured 41 years of famine, causing a potential famine-induced genetic bottleneck.

Every infant born during the Girmit underwent severe prenatal famine exposure. High rates of consanguinity have also contributed to the potential reduction in genetic diversity among Girmit-descendants. Despite forming only 2% of Aotearoa’s population, Girmit-descendants potentially account for 20% of heart attacks that occur under 40 years of age. This burden of premature heart disease in the Girmit population living in Aotearoa demonstrates a significant and urgent unmet need and health inequity.

This group also offers a taonga, as a relatively homogenous and isolated ethnic minority group with immense potential for genetics studies to reveal unique gene variants that contribute to disease aetiology.

About the Paper

This paper will present an overview of the proposed genetic study of premature heart disease in Girmit descendants. It will describe Girmit-community consultation regarding the proposed genetics study and weaving of the Girmit-communities preferences into custodianship and management of the genomic data. This will ensure that the study addresses the greatest unmet needs and interests of the Girmit community, to stop this health inequity.

About the Conference

A conference titled, ‘Beyond the Health Migrant Effect: Asian and Ethnic Minority Health in Aotearoa’ was held on Friday, September 2 2022 at FMHS, University of Auckland.

The theme of the Conference was ‘Genetics and Ethnicity’ and its authors were Pritika Narayan, Ireen Rahiman-Manuel, Ashley Raju, Tara Satyanand, Rahul Gandhi, Gisela Kristono, Allamanda Faatoese, Robert Didham, Conor Watene O’Sullivan, Klaus Lehnert, Peter Larsen, Russell Snell. Academic and Professional Affiliations included The University of Auckland, The University of Otago, the University of Waikato, Capital and Coast DHB, Impactdev360, Kaise Hai Aotearoa, Cure Kids Fiji and The Moko Foundation.

About Free Event on October 29, 2022

We would like to invite you on the journey to understand what heart health for our future Girmit descendants could look like. Given we live in the largest locality of Manukau, it is vital that we collectively understand the health needs of our Fiji Indian population here in Aotearoa.

Titled, ‘Girmit Dil Ke Baat’ (Heart to Heart talk about Girmit Health), a family-friendly event will be held from 2 pm to 4 pm on Saturday, October 29, 2022, at the Totara Hospice Conference Centre, located at 140 Charles Prevost Drive, The Gardens, Manurewa, Auckland.

Dr Pritika Narayan and Associate Professor Rita Krishnamurthi will speak about Girmit Heart Health and Stroke Risk, respectively. The event organised by Impactdev360 and Fiji Girmit Foundation New Zealand will include free health checks and refreshments. Entry is by registration at Eventbrite.

https://www.eventbrite.co.nz/e/girmit-dil-ke-baat-lets-talk-about-heart-health-tickets-425045872647
Website: www.ganna-nz.org

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share this story

Related Stories

Indian Newslink

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement