end child slaveryKailash Satyarthi has devoted his life’s work to one goal: to end child slavery. In 1980, Satyarthi quit his job as a teacher and founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan, which translates to Save the Childhood Movement. Bachpan Bachao Andolan is an organization that has freed over 87,000 children from slavery to date.

Achievements

In 2014, Satyarthi won the Nobel Peace Prize for the “struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.” Additionally, he has been working at the United Nations to push governments to prioritize goals focusing on children and their needs, as part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Satyarthi also founded the Global March Against Child Labor in 1998. It is “the largest civil society network for the most exploited children.” The march stretches across 103 countries. Moreover, it resulted in “the unanimous adoption of the [International Labor Organization] Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor.”

Fight for Freedom

Alongside his team, Satyarthi works in the field on dangerous missions. These missions involve physically going into factories where children are forced to work and attempting to liberate them. The team regularly faces a large amount of backlash from factory owners who want to exploit children for increased profits. At times, clashes have turned violent. In these cases, those on Satyarthi’s team suffer injuries, with Satyarthi himself having ended up in the hospital on occasion. However, the team believes this risk is worth it to end child slavery.

Once liberated, Satyarthi and his team bring the children to the Bal Ashram, where the children are cleaned and fed. The children’s parents are then contacted. Parents are only able to take their child home upon providing documentation to prove their relationship to their child.

If they choose to, children can also return to the Bal Ashram to receive a proper education. In offering this, Satyarthi ensures children have the opportunity to get a well-paying career and not return to child labor.

Mobilization

On top of his work in the field, Satyarthi began a letter-writing campaign. His campaign involved over 15,000 people writing to the top 100 American retailers and asking them not to sell products created by child labor. Unfortunately, retailers in Western countries continue to exploit child slavery in developing nations to maintain lower prices. However, these retailers hold the power to fight child slavery should they demand their manufacturers to stop child labor.

In 2016, Satyarthi started the 100 Million campaign, an initiative that pushes for 100 million children around the globe “to speak out for the world’s more than 100 million child workers.” Satyarthi hopes that an empowered youth can enact positive change. As such, empowered youth can raise awareness of and fight to end child slavery in their respective nations.

Kailash Satyarthi has not only devoted his life to an incredibly noble cause but has actually enacted the positive change that he desires to see in the world. While there are still millions of children in slavery, the number has been steadily declining. With the efforts of the brave men, women and, most importantly, children who are helping Satyarthi in his goals, child slavery may one day become a thing of the past.

– Anish Kelkar
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Burkina Faso
Since gaining its independence from France in 1960, Burkina Faso has trodden down a rather tumultuous path. Through political instability in the 1960s and 70s to frequent terrorist attacks in the 2010s (with over 100 confirmed extremist attacks in the first quarter of 2019), Burkina Faso has been plagued by constant insecurity.

Currently, Burkina Faso has a 77 percent unemployment rate, despite the country’s slight growth in gross domestic product (GDP) over the last three years. These high unemployment rates, combined with the tumultuous economic and political fields, fuse to create poor living and working conditions, paving the way for human trafficking, which seemingly envelops every facet of life. From agriculture to mining, human trafficking in Burkina Faso is an issue that must be addressed.

Human Trafficking in Burkina Faso

The U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking Persons has established a four-tier ranking to describe a country’s status regarding the presence of and efforts to eradicate human trafficking. These ranks range from tier one, which details countries that comply with 2008’s Anti-Trafficking Laws, to tier two, tier two (watchlist), and tier three, which denotes countries that both do not comply with these laws and have made very little effort in meeting the standards set forth by these laws.

Burkina Faso is currently designated as a tier two nation. The U.S. Department of State emphasizes that the country, as a whole, has not met the standards set forth in 2008, though progress has been made in attempts to combat the issue of human trafficking through awareness campaigns and the steady increase of investigations in trafficking cases.

Burkina Faso is a current source, throughway and destination for human and sex trafficking. According to the Department of State’s 2019 report on human trafficking, the Burkinabe government has identified at least 851 victims of trafficking, and 2,844 potential victims of trafficking (including an estimated 1,350 homeless children, according to Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Women). However, these numbers are still estimates from incomplete data from somewhere between 30 and 45 of Burkina Faso’s 45 provinces.

Despite the lack of concrete data, the Burkinabe government has been able to identify more at-risk populations during 2018 than in previous years due to a stark rise in awareness and attentiveness. Currently, however, Burkina Faso’s government still lacks the resources to totally dismantle the seemingly institutionalized trade.

Current Governmental Measures

Burkina Faso’s government has made efforts to support those that it has identified as potential trafficking victims, as well as those who are subjected to harsh working conditions in general, by creating shelters to provide food, clothing and security. However, these shelters are rarely found outside of large metropolitan areas and are only able to house a certain number of victims at once. Furthermore, while this support is essential, it does not solve human trafficking in Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso lacks the tools necessary to fully abolish human trafficking. While funding and staffing-power are certainly absent, lack of information and data appear to be the largest obstacles standing in the way of progress.

Missing police reports and insufficient data blur the complete picture of human trafficking in Burkina Faso. It has been reported that 61 traffickers were convicted in 2018, though it is unclear how significant these prosecutions have been in combatting the industry as a whole. Furthermore, the sentences doled out to these traffickers did not meet the standards of 2008’s anti-trafficking law, another contributing factor to Burkina Faso’s tier two status.

To prevent future human trafficking, the Ministry of Women and the Burkinabe government have assembled a committee designed to oversee the reduction and eventual eradication of human trafficking in Burkina Faso, though, this committee did not convene during the U.S. Department of State’s reporting period, and failed to produce any full-fledged intervention due to insufficient resources.

Furthermore, additional measures have been made to ensure that children are kept out of poor labor conditions. Even without sufficient funding, the Burkinabe government was able to free 20,000 child workers from mines between the years of 2015 and 2019.

Current Non-Governmental Measures

Collaborative work and interventions between Burkina Faso’s government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have yielded more promising results than those spearheaded solely by the government. While these coalitions still lack the resources for a more chronic, wide-spread response to human trafficking, they have disseminated information about human trafficking, hopefully preventing certain populations from getting enveloped in the trade. This increase in awareness of human trafficking among the general Burkinabe population helps facilitate change. The more citizens are mindful of human trafficking, the higher chance that more might be done about the issue.

NGOs have also played an important role in advocating for greater police training to combat and limit stigma around certain occupations, such as prostitution. UNAids recently partnered with REVS PLUS, a French NGO, to assist in the training of the police forces in Burkina Faso to help provide adequate medical care to sex workers.

Moving Forward

Burkina Faso has made strides in combatting and preventing human trafficking through heightened awareness. That said, there is still work to be done in the area. The creation of subcommittees to form a more “boots-on-the-ground” approach has gained enough ground to educate a significant portion of the population on the issue at hand (over 500,000, with about four percent of this number being children).

Advocacy and awareness are only the first steps to improving conditions for those at-risk for trafficking, those currently being trafficked and for all Burkinabe people in general. Action steps, such as the continuation of prosecuting and convicting human traffickers, appear to be trending upward, though improvement can be seen in this area. It is also important to address the other issues plaguing Burkina Faso; continuing economic growth and maintaining political stability will go a long way in abolishing human trafficking in Burkina Faso.

– Colin Petersdorf
Photo: Flickr

Child Labor in MyanmarChild labor in Myanmar continues to be a concern for one of the poorest nations in Asia. It is estimated that 1.13 million children, ages 5 through 17 work as laborers in Myanmar. This amounts to 9.3 percent of the child population. Said conditions are a violation of human rights and deprivation of well being.

Impact of Poverty

The prime factor of involvement of children in the workforce is poverty. With more than 32 percent of the nation living below the national poverty line, children work to supplement low household incomes.

However, employers exploit children and pay extremely low rates. In some cases, children as young as 14, working in garment-producing factories, make as little as 17  cents per hour; Yet, the nation’s minimum wage is $3.60.

Government Involvement in Child Trafficking

In August 2017, it was estimated 690,000 people fled from Myanmar due to acts of violence caused by the Myanmar government. Of those, nearly 400,000 were children.

In Myanmar, there is an abundance of trafficking, with little to no intervention. Frequently, the displacement of young girls to China is due to trafficking, for work, or marriage to Chinese men as child brides.

Additionally, Myanmar also has the highest number of child soldiers globally. In these cases, young boys against their will have to comply with captor commands. These commands are in sync with militarization goals and tactics.

Impact of Child Labor

One prominent consequence of child labor in Myanmar is the lack of education among children. One in five children drops out of school in order to work. In Myanmar culture, it is socially acceptable and common to see children working, rather than in school. Also, children who are in the workforce usually have little awareness, nor education about their safety and health rights in the workplace, leading to a high risk of fatal injuries.

The agricultural industry employs 60.5 percent of children in the workforce. Construction and fellow small-scale industries also have a significant role in employing child laborers. Just over half of these children perform potentially hazardous work that is likely to harm their physical or psychological health. Children as young as 15 to 17 make up 74.6 percent of the child workforce exposed to hazardous jobs.

The Intervention of Child Trafficking in Myanmar

Although child labor in Myanmar is widespread, the government of Myanmar is addressing this issue with the support of the International Labor Organization (ILO). The Myanmar Program on the Elimination of Child Labor Project was a four-year program (2013-2017) funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, overseen by the ILO. The goals of this project were to increase awareness of children in the workforce while improving the legal and institutional laws concerning child labor.

The Myanmar government ratified the ILO Convention No.182 which prohibits the worst forms of childhood labor and is in the process of finalizing the country’s first National Action Plan. This proposal outlines ways to reduce child labor in Myanmar while improving the lives of the children all together.

Child labor in Myanmar is a prominent issue as it affects millions of lives. There is, however, a reason to be optimistic, as the Myanmar government and fellow organizations have begun prevention protocols, ensuring a better future for the children of Myanmar.

– Marissa Pekular

 

Photo: Flickr

2018’s Worst Countries for Child Soldiers
Every year, the U.S. Department of State issues its Trafficking in Persons Report. This report gives an overview of each country’s progress against trafficking and what the United States is doing to eliminate human trafficking across the globe. One form of human trafficking is the use of child soldiers. Child soldiers are individuals under the age of 18 used for any military purpose, whether that be for acts of violence and killing, or even as cooks, messengers, spies or porters. Since 2016, over 18 different military conflicts around the world involved child soldiers.

The 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report includes a list of governments implicit in the use of child soldiers, and under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 (CSPA), the United States restricts military support for countries listed. This article will provide an overview of child recruitment and use in each country on the Child Soldiers Prevention Act List.

10 Countries That Use Child Soldiers

  1. Myanmar – Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, has a long history of using child soldiers in warfare. The highest rate of child recruitment took place from 1990 to 2005. However, in 2012, the country signed an Action Plan with the U.N. to end the use of child soldiers. Since then, 849 children and young adults have been released. Though Myanmar has a long way to go to completely eradicate child soldiers in the country, the government is working to align tribal groups and the Tatmadaw with the U.N.’s Action Plan.

  2. The Democratic Republic of the Congo – The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) also signed an Action Plan with the U.N. in 2012 and the government has since stopped recruiting child soldiers into its military. Before 2012, children ages 8 to 16-years-old made up about 60 percent of the military. Now, the main problem with child recruitment in the DRC is girls who are used as “wives” and “escorts” for the soldiers. At least one-third of all child soldiers in the DRC are girls, though only 7 percent have been released since the signing of the Action Plan. In 2019, Child Soldiers International helped 245 of these girls go back to school, including Neema, who said, “if we could go to school, the community would be nicer to us, we would get some consideration, that would help a lot.” Organizations, such as the National Action Group, conduct outreach work to help child soldiers in the DRC appropriate back into their communities. With their support, child soldiers and military “wives” can avoid the stigmatization and persecution that comes with being a child soldier.

  3. Iran – Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, spoke out against the use of child soldiers in Iran, saying, “The use of child soldiers is a moral outrage that every civilized nation rejects while Iran celebrates it. Iran’s economy is increasingly devoted to funding Iranian repression at home and aggression abroad. Iranian big business and finance are funding the war crime of using child soldiers.” Her comments came in the midst of the United States’ political maneuvering against Iran’s use of child soldiers. The Iranian military, especially the Basij Resistance Force, has had a long history of using child soldiers. During the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, the Basij used child soldiers to clear minefields ahead of the military. With the U.S. hard on their heels, Iranian rights activists hope that this will be a wake-up call and end the use of child soldiers in Iran.

  4. Iraq – In 2017, there were 109 confirmed cases of child soldier recruitment in Iraq, 59 of which were attributed to ISIL or ISIS. Children were used as suicide bombers, combatants, bomb manufactures and “wives” for soldiers. Many different military organizations in Iraq use “volunteer” child soldiers, but under international law, non-state armed groups cannot recruit children under 18 under any circumstances. Children’s Rights Director at Human Rights Watch, Zama Coursen-Neff, said, “The PKK [the Kurdistan Workers’ Party] should categorically denounce the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and commanders in affiliated armed groups should know that the recruitment and use of children under age 15 constitute war crimes. Boys and girls should be with their families and going to school, not used as means to military ends.” The U.N. is ready to provide support to the Iraqi government as they develop and implement reintegration services for children formally used as child soldiers.

  5. Mali – Stephane Dujarric, a U.N. spokesperson, proclaimed good news for a few child soldiers in Mali, saying, “Nine child combatants were handed over to the U.N. mission in Kidal this morning. The mission is… making arrangements for their care by child protection officials pending reunification with their family.” There were 159 documented cases of child soldier recruitment in 2017, but Mali is taking steps in the right direction. After signing an Action Plan with the U.N. in March of 2017, the military began screening their troops to identify children. However, the country failed to implement other aspects of the Action Plan. On Feb 1, 2018, Mali’s government endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, which protects the use of educational facilities in military training or conflict.

  6. Nigeria – Boko Haram is also a problem for child soldiers in Nigeria, accounting for 1,092 cases of child recruitment. However, this number has decreased by almost 50 percent in the past two years, due to the loss of territory by Boko Haram. In 2018, more than 900 children were freed from Boko Haram, some as young as 7-years-old. UNICEF spokesman, Christophe Boulierac, said, “This is a significant milestone in ending the recruitment and use of children, but many more children remain in the ranks of other armed groups in either combat or support roles. We call on all parties to stop recruiting children and let children be children.” Nigeria signed an Action Plan with the U.N. in September of 2017, and since then, more than 8,700 children have been rehabilitated back into their communities.

  7. Somalia – Warlord Al Shabaab is the biggest threat to child soldiers in Somalia, enlisting 70 percent of the 2,217 children recruited throughout the country. More than 50 percent of Al Shabaab’s army are children under the age of 18. Col. Bonny Bamwiseki, commander of Battle Group XXII of the Uganda contingent of the African Union Mission in Somalia, explained another problem of child soldiers: “Some of these boys are children of this struggle and so they become part of it.” With clan warfare and the threat of Al Shabaab all around them, many children “volunteer” to protect their families and their homes.

  8. South Sudan – South Sudan became the 168th country to sign a U.N. treaty to end the use of child soldiers.  On Sept 27, 2018, ambassadors from South Sudan met with U.N. officials to sign the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC). In the past five years, more than 19,000 children have been recruited by armed groups in South Sudan, but now the government is working to demobilize all child soldiers throughout the country and offer support for their recovery. Progress will be slow and difficult, but the U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba noted, “Today, the Government of South Sudan is making an important promise to its children that they will take all possible measures to protect them from recruitment and use by both its armed forces and armed groups active in the country.”

  9. Syria – The number of child soldiers has been increasing yearly in Syria, now reaching 851 verified cases of recruitment and use of children in the military. While Syria has not worked with the U.N. to implement an Action Plan or OPAC, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeast Syria, issued a military order banning the recruitment of children under 18. This military order requires SDF officers to transfer children to educational facilities, end salary payments to children, hear and receive complaints of child recruitment, and take measures against soldiers who fail to obey these orders. Though the number of cases of child soldiers in Syria has increased, these measures will help prevent fight the use of child soldiers in 2019.

  10. Yemen – According to the U.N., the Yemen civil war is one of the worst humanitarian crisis, killing more than 85,000 children. The war left families destitute, and many send their children off to fight in exchange for money. Children make up between 20 and 40 percent of Yemen military units, and since 2015, there have been 2,369 verified cases of child recruitment. There are currently more than 6,000 suspected child soldiers across the country, and more than 20,000 children who are in need of rehabilitation after the war. While many Yemeni officials deny the use of child soldiers or call the reports “exaggerated,” the U.N. is working to give people knowledge of this “child’s war” and reduce the number of child soldiers in Yemen.

The 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report hopes to raise awareness of the use of child soldiers around the world, and encourage people to respond and make a change. The information is overwhelmingly negative, but there have been many positives since 2017. For example is that Sudan has been removed from the Child Soldiers Prevention Act List, as the U.S. Department of State believes that they have improved in regulating the use of child soldiers.

– Natalie Dell
Photo: Flickr

Child Trafficking in Ghana
Ghana, as a country, represents an epicenter for a vicious cycle where many men, women and children are victims of trafficking. This topic is a huge challenge for the country. Countless of Ghana’s children are taken from their homes and brought to work in poor conditions, mostly in the fishing industry. These young children are then forced to work long hours and live in squalor.

It is more common for boys to be forced into hard labor that includes things as diving into the water to untangle the fishing nets, while girls are sent to the Middle East where they become domestic workers in households or prostitutes being obligated to sell their bodies. According to the Head of the Counter-Trafficking Department of the International Organization for Migration child trafficking in Ghana is actually a distortion of the old cultural practice of placement with relatives or townspeople.

Statistics of Child Trafficking

Three thousand children are victims of child trafficking each day worldwide. It is estimated that child trafficking is an industry that earns $10 million yearly, but what are the factors that can cause a child to be trafficked? One prominent factor is lack of education and this certainly is one of the causes of child trafficking in Ghana as 623,500 children in Ghana are not even enrolled in school.

Extreme poverty also plays an issue in child trafficking as families sometimes leave their children behind or give their children to the traffickers. There is a large number of street kids who are easy prey to the traffickers who offer them the allure of a better life. Over 40 million babies are born every year and fail to be identified. Invisible children or the absence of birth registration happens when a child is born and is never registered with the local government or council. These children are perfect victims for child traffickers.

Challenging Heights’ Work

One organization that is currently working as an advocate for the right to a safe and protected home for every child in Ghana is Challenging Heights. James Kofi Annan founded the organization in 2003 and advocates for children rights. Annan was a fishing slave himself and was forced to work for seven years before he escaped, got an education and became a bank manager.

Challenging Heights is an organization committed to ending child trafficking in Ghana, reducing child slavery and promoting children’s rights in the country. They are currently focused on child labor, especially in the fishing and cocoa industry. As many as 24,000 children are victims of worst forms of child labor annually in Ghana. Challenging Heights’ works on improving child rights through three types of agendas: rescuing, preventing and advocating.

Challenging Heights also works to economically empower the women of Ghana. One plan that this organization has implemented is opening a smokehouse where the women can preserve the fish caught by the fisherman. The women can use the smokehouses free of charge and then they are able to sell their fish within the community, helping them make an income for their families. Challenging Heights also offers youth empowerment Programs. These programs teach children a certain career skill and offer training programs to hopefully set the youth up on the right track towards obtaining an education or a job.

Lake Volta Actions

Many of Challenging Heights rescue missions take place at Lake Volta. The Lake was built in the 1960s and is one of the world’s largest man-made lakes. Lake Volta is a way of life for most fisherman and people in the country where about 40 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Children are most often exploited by fishermen desperate to feed their families and eke out a living along the banks of Lake Volta. With help from locals in the community, Challenging Heights makes several recuses a year. The liberated children are taken back to Challenging Heights rehabilitation house and offered care. This care can vary from medical, psychological or emotional. Each child stays with the organization for almost a year while their families are interviewed and assessed in hopes that this will deter them from falling back into child trafficking.

Thanks to Challenging Heights, more than 1,500 children have been rescued and 400 children have been given proper care in the organization’s rehabilitation center. The overall goal for this organization is to end child trafficking in Ghana by 2022. Currently, 103,300 people in Ghana are trapped in modern-day slavery. Challenging Heights hopes to combat this number by advocating for the victims, partnering with the government and nongovernmental organizations all while having the goal of ending child trafficking in Ghana in mind.

– Jennifer O’Brien

Photo: Pixabay