Human Trafficking in Belize
Within a short distance of the Caribbean sea sits Belize, a small country with dense jungles, ancient ruins and tourist resorts. But recently, the coastal country has received classification on the Tier 2 Watch List for human trafficking. However, the country is paying attention to human trafficking in Belize amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. Its government is actively employing new strategies to relinquish this human rights violation.

The main targets of human trafficking in Belize are women and children. Traffickers often lure them into trafficking with promises of gainful employment. According to Human Rights Watch, an estimated 50,000-100,000 women and children become trafficking victims annually.

The Human Trafficking Institute

Belize is on the Tier 2 Watch List according to the U.S. Department of State, meaning it does not meet the necessary requirements to prevent human trafficking. The minimum requirements for a Tier 1 ranking include meeting all standards that the Trafficking Victims Protection Act sets. These standards include decreasing the population of trafficking victims from the previous year, reporting all trafficked victims to appropriate officials and following the judicial system.

Seeking to eliminate Human Trafficking in Belize are the staff at the Human Trafficking Institute (HTI). The institute first emerged in 2015 and has been working toward implementing anti-trafficking laws and prosecuting traffickers to the fullest extent. The institute has made long strides to improve the overall safety in the community. On March 10, 2020, the country celebrated its second conviction, which found Rosa Anita Garcia Julian guilty of two counts of human trafficking. This proved to be a major milestone for the country, as it was the first conviction since 2016.

Most recently, HTI has partnered with Uganda to fight human trafficking. Over 2020, it helped rescue over 130 victims. Its new CEO, Victor Boutros, says changes need to occur in the way government addresses human trafficking. Through international diplomacy, governments could start contracts that commit to the overall safety and protection of victims of human traffickers. Government involvement is crucial in stopping human trafficking.

Importance of Biometrics

Higher conviction rates often lead to lower criminal activity. Technology is helping to prevent further injustices: an example of this technology in action is personal biometric data. Personal biometric data is any unique physical characteristic, like fingerprints, which can lead to convictions.

This data is also stored for future use. A prosecutor can use a fingerprint from 1990 to secure a conviction in a current case. Statistics can help pinpoint problem areas. Statistics track and monitor problem areas and also help to identify victims of human trafficking. Computers can recreate a single photograph of a child at age 10 to show what the child would look like 5 years later. This use of data and biometrics helps to identify and help victims.

Belize’s TIP Ranking

A yearly report tracks progress in lowering human trafficking rates. The TIP, or Trafficking in Persons Report, tracks each country’s progress ranking them in either Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 3 categories. Belize remained in the Tier 2 Watch List category for 2020 but is making fast progress to reach Tier 1 status to end human trafficking in Belize. Together, with the help of its government and police officials, it should be able to achieve this goal.

– Nancy Taguiam
Photo: Flickr

5 Nonprofit Organizations Founded By Celebrities
Movie stars, singers, athletes and comedians spend a large portion of their time entertaining people, giving interviews and writing autographs. On top of that, many celebrities participate in charity events like fundraisers or benefit concerts, some even going as far as to create their own organizations to give back to those in need. Here are some nonprofit organizations that celebrities founded to benefit the world’s most vulnerable.

Charlize Theron – The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project

Charlize Theron is a famous Hollywood actress and U.N. messenger of peace who cares about charity. She has especially been working hard to fight AIDS in Africa. While the disease continues to be an immense issue throughout the entire continent, it remains the most prevalent in South Africa, which is Theron’s home country. She established The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP) in 2007. The organization aims to raise awareness of the disease and contribute to its prevention. CTAOP especially focuses on younger people and collaborates with local programs to inform and support the youth in Africa. Furthermore, CTAOP partners with several companies and nonprofit organizations to successfully provide preventative means and guidance to South Africans.

Shakira – The Barefoot Foundation

The Barefoot Foundation is one of many nonprofit organizations that celebrities founded. Famous pop star Shakira has shown the impact nonprofit organizations can have. As such, she created the Barefoot Foundation in 1997. The organization acknowledges the importance of education and provides organizational and financial support to assure that children can go to school. In addition, the Barefoot Foundation also partners with the Pies Descalzos Foundation, an organization from Colombia that shares the same mission.

The Pies Descalzos Foundation opened its fifth Colombian school in 2009 to provide education, advice and general support in life to 1,800 students in the country. In 2010, Shakira promised that the Barefoot Foundation would build a school in Haiti and assured that the children attending the school would be able to obtain their academic and basic life needs.

Rihanna – The Clara Lionel Foundation

Rihanna founded the Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF) in 2012. Its name is a homage to her grandparents Clara and Lionel. The organization’s goal is to provide education and guidance to children and teenagers all over the world. The approach of Rihanna’s nonprofit organization is to tackle problems on both a local and global level. She wishes to raise awareness of several kinds of issues that the world’s youth is facing. Moreover, CLF is working closely with government organizations and companies to be more efficient and help as many people as possible. The organization has successfully established programs to provide basic education in places like Malawi, Senegal and Barbados. Furthermore, it provides a scholarship program to support students in their pursuit of higher education.

Bono – ONE and RED

ONE and RED are two nonprofit organizations that Bono created. The lead singer of the Irish band U2 has put a lot of effort into his charity work over the years. He has specifically focused on tackling important issues in Africa. ONE’s mission is to completely eradicate extreme global poverty and improve the lives of the poor. Bono’s lobbying efforts and the organization’s financial support have established programs. These programs aim to prevent the deaths of millions of people.

RED is a sister organization to ONE. It aims to spread awareness about AIDS and has successfully raised around $650 million to treat the disease in Africa. On top of that, Bono also co-founded The Rise Fund, a financial program that focuses on supporting progress for social and environmental matters.

Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore – Thorn

Actress Demi Moore and actor Ashton Kutcher founded Thorn together in 2012. The couple’s goal was to fight against child sex trafficking. A documentary about the issue in Cambodia motivated them to create Thorn. Thorn’s approach is to develop technologies for free and share them with law enforcement and federal agencies in order to save children. The use of technology against child sex traffickers has proven to be very successful since the organization’s establishment. Moreover, Thorn’s technologies helped identify 5,894 kids who were victims of the crime in 2017. Moreover, Thorn rescued more than 10,000 children rescued one year later.

These organizations that celebrities founded have shown vigor in countering numerous challenges from AIDS to providing child sex trafficking. The endeavors of the prominent celebrities above have led to improvements in the lives of many across the globe.

– Bianca Adelman
Photo: Flickr

Child Trafficking in Kenya Kenya has the highest level of child trafficking in the African region. Kenya received the Tier 2 designation for human trafficking. This ranking refers to countries that are not fully compliant with the standards for eliminating human trafficking but are making efforts toward compliance, as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a federal bill the U.S Congress passed into law in 2000, defines.

Child Trafficking in Kenya

The cities of  Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa are where trafficking occurs the most. Traffickers traffic children for domestic servitude and sexual exploitation as well as forced labor, forced begging and forced marriage.

The African child trafficking market has become a refined system and it is difficult for authorities to keep up with the scale of the problem. Awareness Against Human Trafficking (HAART) reports that at best, only 2% of trafficked Kenyan children ever make it back home.

With these concerning statistics, it is crucial to bring awareness to these issues and create a judicious plan to put an end to child trafficking in Kenya.

The Vulnerability of Migrants and Refugees

The U.N. Economic Development in Africa Report 2018 notes that migrants, both legal and illegal, from bordering countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan are passing through Kenya in pursuit of better lives in southern Africa as well as Europe and the Americas. Many of these hopeful migrants become victims of exploitation. In Kenya, illegal recruiters make fraudulent offers of employment in the Middle East and Asia to deceive migrants, thus entrapping them, and oftentimes their children, in the trafficking web.

Kenya hosts approximately 470,000 refugees and asylum seekers. These refugees live in camps with limited access to education and livelihood opportunities which makes them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

The Abduction and Sale of Babies

In November 2020, BBC’s Africa Eye investigative journalism program exposed Nairobi’s flourishing black market trade in stolen babies. Children of vulnerable mothers are disappearing and being sold for profit and other mothers are selling their babies for mere survival. This form of illegal child trafficking happens at street clinics and even in plain sight at a major government-run hospital in Nairobi. Many impoverished Kenyans resort to stealing babies in order to sell them for lucrative prices — roughly $460 for a girl and $725 for a boy.

Many young women face challenges such as teen pregnancy. Kenya has one of the highest rates in Africa as 20,828 girls between 10 and 14 years old have become mothers while 24,106 older girls between 15 and 19 years old are either pregnant or mothers already. Some girls are entering sex work to survive which takes them away from school. In Kenya, abortion is illegal except in emergencies. With a lack of reproductive education and awareness of legal options, women may resort to selling their children on the black market.

Lacking Government Response

BBC’s Africa Eye reported that the government has no reports or accurate national surveys on child trafficking in Kenya and agencies are too under-resourced and under-staffed for success in tracking missing children in the black market. The U.S. Department of State’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report on Kenya noted that NGOs have affiliated with Kenyan authorities to assist with providing services to victims such as medical care, psycho-social counseling, rehabilitation and reintegration support, basic needs, legal aid and transportation. In some cases, NGOs acted alone when the government’s commitments became unresponsive or stagnant.

NGOs and international organizations have also worked with the government to implement regular training for prosecutorial and judicial officials, border guards, police officers and immigration agents on detecting and properly managing child trafficking in Kenya. This project is in response to the Kenyan authority’s tendency to treat victims as criminals and to label trafficking cases as immigration or labor law violations rather than crimes under the anti-trafficking law, thus leading to less stringent sentences for traffickers.

Organizations Addressing Child Trafficking in Kenya

Activist groups and NGOs alike are taking action in combatting the growing black market. From its inception in 2016 to December 2020, Missing Child Kenya has found and reunited 496 children with their families, committed 73 children to government homes for safe care and custody, documented 21 as deceased and is still searching for another 190. This is a total of 780 children in its case files.

Additionally, a Kenyan-based NGO, HAART Kenya has been engaged in anti-human trafficking efforts for 10 years. It has conducted more than 1,500 workshops on trafficking to educate and raise awareness of the issue and has assisted 585 survivors of human trafficking.

Efforts from organizations such as these ensure that child trafficking in Kenya is eradicated once and for all.

Alyssa McGrail
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Afghanistan Afghanistan currently faces a large-scale human trafficking crisis that is rooted in centuries of abuse. Children and women are sold or kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery or armed forces. With the Afghani Government failing to properly protect victims and prosecute perpetrators, the U.S. Department of State and a network of NGOs are working to alleviate the problem.

The Systemic Issues

One of the major issues contributing to the human trafficking crisis within Afghanistan is the continued practice of bacha bazi, or “dancing boys”, in which sexual abuse against children is performed by adult men. Although technically illegal, the centuries-old custom has been proven hard to get rid of, with many government and security officials being complicit with its continuation.

The U.S. Department of State has declared Afghanistan Tier 3, the highest threat level, meaning that it does not meet the minimum requirements for combatting human trafficking and is not making a significant effort to do so.

This has a significant impact on Afghanistan because according to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the United States will not provide nonhumanitarian, nontrade-related foreign assistance to a country that is ranked on Tier 3. According to the June 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report, the use of child soldiers and bacha bazi has continued. Although there have been investigations and arrests made in an attempt to end bacha bazi, no police officers involved were prosecuted.

Addressing Human Trafficking in Afghanistan

The Afghani Government has shown efforts to end human trafficking within its borders. In 2019, it joined the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on a global initiative to stop human trafficking. This initiative aims to allocate resources to countries in the Middle East and Asia that need assistance in the battle against human trafficking.

USAID reported that in 2019,  Afghanistan increased the number of Child Protection Units within national police precincts, preventing the recruitment of 357 child soldiers. Furthermore, the National Child Protection Committee (NCPC) was created to respond to the practice of bacha bazi.

USAID has worked to assist the Afghani by training government officials to prosecute human traffickers and abusers as well as giving assistance to shelter workers that give legal and social resources to victims. It assisted in the creation of the Afghanistan Network in Combating Trafficking in Persons (ANCTIP), a network of Afghan NGOs that work with victims of human trafficking.

NGOs within the country have provided most of the assistance to victims of human trafficking. Approximately 27 women’s shelters in 20 provinces provided protection and care for female victims of trafficking. NGOs also operated two shelters for male victims under the age of 18.

Eradicating Human Trafficking

In order for Afghanistan to efficiently combat its human trafficking crisis and move to a lower tier level, Afghanistan needs to increase criminal investigations and prosecutions of suspected traffickers, especially in law enforcement and the military. Furthermore, traffickers must be convicted and adequately sentenced. This can be done by increasing the influence and powers of the NCPC and allowing the committee to remove public servants found practicing bacha bazi. Additional support from the country’s government must also be given to survivors of human trafficking. Only by rooting out the systemic abuse within the top institutions of the country can Afghanistan effectively address its human trafficking crisis.

– Christopher McLean
Photo: Flickr

Labor Exploitation in Coffee
Around 500 billion cups of coffee are consumed around the world in a typical year, an equivalent of 2.25 billion cups per day. The global coffee market was worth $83 billion USD in 2017 and was projected to rise steadily. Despite coffee’s popularity in modern life, few coffee drinkers realize the human cost to their caffeine fix. From inhumane working conditions to child labor and human trafficking, labor exploitation in coffee production is a bitter reality unbeknownst to consumers.

Global Trouble

The majority of coffee consumption happens in industrialized nations, with the United States, Germany and France as the largest importers. Conversely, more than 90% of coffee exports come from developing countries such as Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia and Mexico. Evidence suggests the presence of child labor and/or labor exploitation in coffee production in all of the above countries, in addition to many others like Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic and Uganda, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Labor.

From beans to brewing, coffee production is a multipart process that involves many intermediary stages before the final products reach retail stores. This laborious process means that it is extremely difficult for coffee retailers to track the origins of their coffee and ensure ethical labor practices at the source. It also means that only a small fraction – often 7% to 10%, but sometimes as low as 1% to 3% – of the retail price reaches the hands of coffee farmers. Fluctuations in coffee prices often result in farmers not earning a living wage, which jeopardizes the survival and health of their families.

Farmers’ Reality

Growing coffee requires intensive manual work such as picking, sorting, pruning, weeding, spraying, fertilizing and transporting products. Plantation workers often toil under intense heat for up to 10 hours a day, and many face debt bondage and serious health risks due to exposure to dangerous agrochemicals. In Guatemala, coffee pickers often receive a daily quota of 45 kilograms just to earn the minimum wage: $3 a day. To meet this minimum demand, parents often pull their children out of school to work with them. This pattern of behavior jeopardizes children’s health and education in underdeveloped rural areas, where they already experience significant barriers and setbacks.

Forced labor is widely reported in coffee-growing regions in Guatemala and Côte d’Ivoire. Workers suffer physical violence as well as threats of loss of work, wages, or food if they fail to perform at a certain – often unreasonable – standard. Many work without a contract, timely payment, protective gear, or appropriate medical care. Migrants are especially vulnerable since many cannot afford to return home and have to rely on plantation work to survive.

Child Labor and Exploitation

About 20% of children in coffee-growing countries fall victim to labor exploitation in coffee cultivation. Facing demanding quotas, workers often bring their children to help in the field in order to earn a living wage. The U.S. Department of Labor reports an estimated 34,131 children laborers growing coffee in Vietnam, 12,526 of which are under the age of 15. The same report finds almost 5,000 children under 14 working on coffee plantations in Brazil, often without a contract or protective equipment. In Côte d’Ivoire, children are subject to human trafficking and forced labor. Children are forcibly transported to coffee plantations from nearby countries including Benin, Mali, Togo and Burkina Faso and recruited to work for little or no pay, often for three or four years until they could return home. Threats of violence and withheld payments prevent them from leaving the farms, and many suffer from denial of food and sick leave.

Many South American countries have launched extensive and effective social programs and policies to address child labor and labor exploitation in coffee farms. In 2018, Colombia made significant advancements in efforts to tackle child labor through its campaign Working is Not a Child’s Task, the National Policy on Childhood and Adolescence, and the Center for the Crime of Trafficking in Persons. The Brazilian government funded and participated in programs that target child labor, such as the #StopChildLabor (#ChegaDeTrabalhoInfantil) Campaign and the Living Together and Strengthening Links Program (Serviço de Convivência e Fortalecimento de Vínculo).

The Fair Trade Movement

In the past decade, labor exploitation in coffee cultivation has garnered attention worldwide. As a result, many socially aware businesses have committed to a fair trade approach that promotes better profits for farmers and more sustainability in farming practices. Among other objectives, the fair trade movement works to give farmers a higher price for their coffee under conditions that strictly prohibit the use of exploitative practices. Ethically certified coffee brands such as Equal Exchange and Cafedirect have risen in popularity as consumers become more aware of labor exploitation issues. Certification schemes such as Fairtrade International, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ Certified bring value to socially conscious businesses and encourage trading practices that empower smallholder farmers.

– Alice Nguyen
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Nepal
Millions of Nepalese citizens are at risk of becoming victims of the human trafficking trade every year. However, one can only estimate the statistically correct percentage of victims. Captivating International, a nonprofit based in Nepal, founded My Business-My Freedom in the hopes of fighting human trafficking in Nepal.

My Business-My Freedom

My Business-My Freedom is a micro-finance and education program helping Nepalese women achieve business success, self-sustainability and freedom. Beneficiaries include both women who are most at risk of becoming victims of trafficking and current rescued survivors of human trafficking in Nepal.

The organization estimates that a loan of $200 will help one woman start her business and that when she repays it, it will go to the next prospective business owner. Currently, 240 women living in Pokhara and Chitwan are immersed in the program with room to grow. The initiative plans to continue expanding into other regions and aiding around 1,000 women per year.

How does My Business-My Freedom Work?

The program leads each woman through the process of starting a business including ensuring that it is successful, well-funded and sustainable. The My Business-My Freedom program involves the following steps for prospective business owners:

  • Providing training about entrepreneurship and business opportunity.
  • Mentoring on money management, savings, budgeting and other basic business skills.
  • Connecting with other women in similar circumstances in order to create a sense of belonging and community.
  • A low-interest loan to start up the business: when it is paid, the owner is eligible to take future loans until it is no longer necessary.

Captivating International and COVID-19 Relief

In recent news, My Business-My Freedom partnered with 3 Angels Nepal to combat food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. The partnership accomplished this through checking in on women and families over the phone. If the women and their families were in need, the partnership made and delivered food relief packages to them. These packages included rice, dal, cooking oil, salt, soybeans and lentils.

The efforts of Captivating International and 3 Angels Nepal found that 30 women were in need, and provided them and their families with food. The latter organization also works on the ground by suspending loan payments and providing both phone support and food assistance.

Lowering Vulnerability Through Funding Successful Entrepreneurs

According to the Report of Armed Police Force of India, the number of Nepalese girls working in sex trafficking in India increased quite steadily from 2012 to 2017. Child trafficking is incredibly high as well. Captivating International, through My Business-My Freedom, is just one of the organizations working to eradicate human trafficking in Nepal. In covering a widening area of influence and contributing to building the economy, Captivating International is creating sustainability by increasing security and income for women. This, in turn, should help to alleviate the vulnerable populations that traffickers prey upon in Nepal.

Savannah Gardner
Photo: Flickr

Homelessnesss in Romania
Research determines that there are 14,000 homeless people in Romania. Bucharest, the capital of Romania, has around 5,000. However, the country’s residents lack awareness of the very large and still growing homeless population that surrounds them. Eradicating social exclusion could help contribute to a reduction of homelessness in Romania.

Street Children

Romania has an estimated 1,000 children living on the streets. This high number is a result of the country’s economic inability to afford adequate housing for these children. In fact, one might find a 7-year-old child finding shelter in underground tunnels of the city or public places, hiding from danger and trying to stay warm. Social workers are working together in an effort to become involved in every community. Their ultimate goal is to use their knowledge, skills and resources to help children register as citizens so they can obtain access to education and healthcare.

Protecting children through adoption processes is critical in order to prevent intervention from birth parents who may later come back for the children they had abandoned with ulterior motives. In response, the Hague Convention emerged to prevent child trafficking and is becoming a widespread private law treaty to protect homeless children from exposure to trafficking.

Living Conditions

Communities in Romania reject considering the homeless equal human beings. To that extent, the conditions of the homeless involve living in sewer canals and spending their days gathering around semi-public spaces begging.

Strategies for Improvement

The European Social Policy Network (ESPN) supports the European Commission in monitoring social policy issues in the E.U., its neighboring countries and developing countries. It provides an overview of policies addressing key challenges in areas of social inclusion and protection. The 2019 ESPN Thematic Report on National Strategies to fight Homelessness and Housing Exclusion focuses on homelessness in Romania and recognizes the need for more resources. These resources and services include:

  • Assistance and Social reintegration.

  • Residential centers for homeless, at-risk people such as victims of domestic violence and young people in difficult situations.

  • Day shelters and night shelters to provide psychological support.

The World Bank works to develop projects that take into consideration Romania’s need for equality in education, employment and access to public services. All of these three services all target aiding the homeless population. Currently, the World Bank has created a partnership strategy with Romania that includes building a 21st-century government, supporting growth and job creation and supporting greater social inclusion.

Recently, the Romanian government passed an anti-poverty package that consists of 47 measures to combat poverty. This package includes increasing the employment rate, reducing the early school drop-out rate and scaling-up national health programs.

The World Bank has plans to help the homeless in Romania using anti-poverty legislative measures that are up for debate in the Romanian Parliament. The new policies aim to consolidate existing programs such as the Heating Benefit, Family Benefit and Guaranteed Minimum Income, all of which are costly and do not always go to the people who need them most.

Social Exclusion

The fall of communism in 1989 left many Romanian families in unsafe houses. In recent years, there has been a controversy over the reason for these evictions. Many of the evictions pushed families out with little warning and left them homeless or relocated to unsafe and undesirable locations near main garbage dumps or old chemical factories.

Social Inclusion

Estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) determined that neuropsychiatric disorders contribute to 19.9% of the global burden of disease. Around 1% of the Romania population suffers from mental disorders. Out of the 166,594 people who suffer from mental disorders, 28,895 are children. Changing the way people perceive homelessness in Romania could also change how the homeless view themselves.

The lack of nutrition and stability in the lives of the homeless only worsens how they see themselves psychologically. Their negative view of self makes it impossible for them to believe in a positive change for the future. The higher the value people regard homeless individuals with, the better chance the entire community will come together to not only provide housing and shelter but also to equip the homeless with the ability to envision a better future for themselves.

Zoe Schlagel
Photo: Pixabay

enslaved children in GhanaTouch A Life is a nonprofit organization located in Dallas, Texas that rescues enslaved children in Ghana. Randy and Pam Cope co-founded the Touch A Life Foundation in November 1999. After reading about child labor trafficking on Lake Volta in 2006, the couple decided to focus their organization’s contributions to Ghana. Touch A Life seeks to further expand its accomplishments, by liberating as many slaves as possible and providing rehabilitation services.

Enslaved Children in Ghana

The International Labour Organization reports that an estimated 20,000 children are currently enslaved on Lake Volta, working for fishermen who are considered their “masters.” Typically, the traffickers trick families into selling their children for roughly $250, promising the families that the children will receive an education. Most children, some as young as 5 years old, come to the lake from Ghanian villages hundreds of miles away.

Working in partnership with a devoted team of Ghanaians and the Ghanian Department of Social Welfare, the Touch A Life Foundation has rescued hundreds of trafficked children. The organization does not reunite the children with their families due to fears that the cycle of trafficking will persist. Instead, Touch A Life provides housing for rescued children.

A Holistic Approach

Through the housing programs Touch A Life offers, the organization administers holistic and customized child care. Their procedures include regular medical and mental assessments, rehabilitation arrangements and educational and vocational empowerment. By offering these services through their housing accommodations, Touch A Life provides hope to the children in order to help in restoring their lives.

In 2012, Touch A Life manufactured its first long-term rehabilitative care center for trafficked children. Located in Kumasi, Ghana, the Touch A Life Care Center is home to more than 100 rescued children. At the Care Center, the children receive the education that was promised by traffickers but resulted in enslavement. In 2015, the organization constructed an all-girls children’s dorm called Zachary’s House in Kumasi, Ghana. The home now fosters 14 young girls who were rescued in the fall of the same year.

Later in 2016, Life Academy Center launched in Accra, Ghana, helping transition the children from the Care Center to independent adulthood. The Academy currently serves eight students in their mid-20s. The students are offered professional skills education related to banking, health awareness, public speaking and goal development. They are also a part of the Ghana Sewing Collective, which is led by the Life Academy Mentor, Eunice. The Ghana Sewing Collective teaches the students the basics of sewing to make products, introducing the students to working for a small business owner and working with a team towards a shared goal.

Furthermore, all of the housing campuses include rehabilitative art centers. In 2016, Kim Lewis Designs and the team from Art Feeds aided Touch A Life in crafting a therapeutic space where the children can express their emotions creatively. Kwame Ayensu is the current Art Director for the center and engages the children in art healing practices.

Beyond Ghana

Touch A Life also offers rehabilitation centers in Vietnam and Cambodia. In Vietnam, the organization operates a house in Saigon in order to protect vulnerable children from trafficking in Southeast Asia. The home currently supports 30 abandoned children. The identities of the children are withheld due to safety concerns. Rapha House in Cambodia works to rescue and heal AIDs orphans and sexually exploited children. Rapha House is home to 220 children, 25 adult women and has two art centers on its campus, including the Selah Art Center and Lilly’s Art Center.

Touch A Life in Ghana has educated hundreds of rescued children who have moved on to Ghanian boarding schools and even university. The organization enables and equips rescued children with opportunities to pursue a new life filled with freedom and hope. Touch A Life continues to rescue children in the Lake Volta region and plans to advance their ambitions to end child exploitation. Touch A Life’s website provides multiple options for those interested in getting involved with the cause.

Kacie Frederick
Photo: @touchalife

Child Labor in Nigeria
Child labor is one of the most monumental issues in Nigeria, a country with a developing economy, affecting a large portion of the country’s children up to age 17. Forgoing a normal care-free childhood, many children living on the front lines of poverty must maintain a job and sustain a regular income. The unethical use of child labor is an issue that has been prevalent throughout human history impacting health, wellbeing and quality of life. Below are 10 facts about child labor in Nigeria.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Nigeria

  1. Several different industries employ children. The jobs available to children are limited to unskilled and physical, labor-intensive tasks. The most common industries that employ children in Nigeria are cocoa farming, gold mining, sediment sifting, street peddling and domestic servitude.
  2. Conditions are hazardous. Although there are labor laws in place, Nigeria does not actively enforce safety regulations or preventative measures in the workplace. This type of neglect leads to an extremely dangerous environment that often results in bodily harm, severe trauma and even death. Children who work on the streets often make easy targets for violence and kidnapping. If a child suffers harm on the job, help or compensation does not extend to the family, leaving them to face the repercussions alone.
  3. Children often support their families. Much of child labor is a direct result of Nigeria’s extreme poverty, which accounts for around 70% of the nation’s population living below the poverty line, according to the CIA World Factbook. Families struggling to make ends meet often enlist the help of their children to bring in additional income. Without an effective welfare system, many families have no other option for survival. In an even more dire situation, some laborers who are orphans shoulder the entire burden of providing for younger siblings. Recent findings by Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development found that about 17.5 million children become orphans or enter similarly vulnerable situations throughout the country.
  4. Child labor is on the rise. Estimates determine that the current number of child workers in Nigeria is 15 million according to the International Labor Organization (ILO). At a staggering 43% of the total population of minors, it is the highest recorded rate of child labor in Western Africa. The poverty rates have risen almost 20% — up from 53% in 2003 — in the span of 7 years, according to the World Bank and CIA World Factbook. This environment of financial strife causes more and more families to expect their children to go out to work and contribute an income.
  5. Children often drop out of school. Due to the rigid demands of a long workday, school often becomes less of a priority. Education is not legally mandatory in Nigeria so there is no required attendance. The lack of a proper education ensures they will remain unskilled laborers into adulthood, making it nearly impossible to escape the cycle of poverty. The Bureau of International Labor Affairs reports only 76% of children in total go to school, and about 27% of child laborers attend school in addition to work. Some reports have stated that certain schools exploit their students and make them work or beg during school hours to earn money for teachers.
  6. Many children experience trafficking. Children who are especially vulnerable, such as orphans, are more at risk for human trafficking and forced labor than adults, with their rate being estimated at 58%. Enticed by fictitious stories of better jobs located in more economically rich areas, they agree to leave their homes in hopes of making money. However, the traffickers never deliver the promise and the victims find themselves in even worse situations and unable to go home. Upon arrival, traffickers often claim that the child has accrued debt from transport. To maintain control and prevent runaways, traffickers use coercion in the form of threats against the child or their families back home to motivate them to pay off their debt. Unfortunately, these children find themselves in a ruse, where ballooned charges that continuously compound prevent them from ever making their final payment.
  7. Slavery is common. Around 30% of child workers do not receive compensation and must work against their will. Child slavery is very common in cases of trafficking or when there is no one to advocate for the child. In trafficking cases, traffickers tell the child that their salaries are going towards paying off their “debt.” In some live-in situations, their room and board charges absorb their pay. Those who do receive actual payment usually only take home pennies on the dollar.
  8. Girls are at higher risk for sexual exploitation, resulting from trafficking within the sex industry. A former government official, Martin Uhomoibhi, revealed to the U.N. that there were 602,000 known victims who made the dangerous journey across the continent in 2016. However, the total number of victims is widely unknown, since traffickers covertly smuggle many of the girls and women smuggled across Nigeria’s border, but experts believe that these numbers are some of the highest in the world. Traffickers often bring girls to brothels and restrain and force them to service clients in deplorable conditions despite any physical health ailments, according to horrifying testimonies that the Human Rights Watch recorded. The outlook for these girls is grim, as many die in captivity or move back to the streets due to critical conditions that render them unable to work, and therefore no longer profitable to their captors.
  9. There are unofficial wartime drafts. Regional conflicts and war cause armies to form as a way of resistance and protection against outside threats. Many know Africa for this sort of violence, with brutal wars routinely escalating. People often pull boys as young as 10 years old from their homes, give them a deadly weapon and order them to kill an unknown enemy. UNICEF estimates that around 3,500 Nigerian child soldiers have enlisted between 2013-2017. Many children die in active combat or from a lack of supplies.
  10. The government response has been underwhelming. New hope for relief on the child labor front occurred when the government signed the Child Rights Act into effect in 2003. Unfortunately, the government has put little effort forth toward ending the practice since its ratification. Many experts believe there will be no true resolution until the government steps in with not only stricter regulations, but absolute enforcement.

Children are society’s most vulnerable people. With no voice to advocate for their rights, they are in a poor position to influence political policy. A child’s place is in school where they can receive a proper education and use it to build a promising future, not just for themselves but for the society in which they live as well. It is the task and moral responsibility of adults and officials in power to prioritize basic human rights over the gilded benefits of cheap labor and end this practice permanently.

– Samantha Decker
Photo: Flickr

10 Accomplishments Made By ThornIn 2012, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore founded Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children. Thorn is an organization that works globally to fight sex trafficking and the exploitation of children. A documentary on the sex slavery of children in Cambodia inspired Moore to create the organization. Thorn created technology to help identify victims of sexual abuse and protect children from online sexual abuse material. Since its foundation, Thorn has made a large impact in eliminating one of the most common and overlooked crimes in the world. Additionally, Thorn gained traction as a very well-known and respected organization. Below are eight accomplishments made by Thorn.

Top 8 Accomplishments Made by Thorn

  1. In 2017, Thorn created Spotlight. Spotlight is software that helps law enforcement save time by identifying predators and victims quicker. In addition, more than 1,200 law enforcement agencies across the United States and Canada use Spotlight. Spotlight has helped reduce critical search time for victims by 60 percent. To date, it has identified a total of 16,927 traffickers and 14,874 children.
  2. In February 2017, Ashton Kutcher gave a 15-minute testimony in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the importance of ending modern-day slavery around the globe. He told a story about when the Department of Homeland Security reached out to his team at Thorn. The Department of Homeland Security needed help to identify the perpetrator of a 7-year-old-girl being abused and watched on the dark web for three years.
  3. In addition to Spotlight, Thorn creates a Technology Task Force. This made up of more than 25 technology companies. Google, Facebook, Microsoft and so forth work together to create even more software to prevent the sexual exploitation of children. Thorn has partnered with a variety of organizations, ranging from government to non-profits. Some other notable partners include Amazon, Twitter, Flickr and Verizon.
  4. In 2018, Thorn surveyed 260 sex trafficking survivors in order to understand the needs of survivors. This survey was able to give insight on average ages of victims, how victims know their traffickers and advertising.
  5. In the 2018 Thorn impact report, it reported that Thorn assisted law enforcement in identifying more than 10,000 victims of child sex trafficking in 38 countries around the world.
  6. In 2018, Thorn educated more than 2,000 teens on Sextortion. Sextortion is a form of blackmail that uses sexual content. Since creating its Stop Sextortion campaign, Thorn has educated more than 3.5 million teens about online sexual extortion.
  7. In 2019, The Audacious Project by TED gave a $280 million grant to eight recipients, Thorn was one of them. Thorn is using grant to launch new software called Safer. Safer helps companies, especially image-hosting websites, identify and eliminate sexual abuse content on their platforms.
  8. With a combination of the software that Thorn has created, the organization is currently able to identify an average of 10 kids per day.

Being less than 10 years old, Thorn has accomplished many things is a short period of time. Though the organization has fewer than 40 employees, Thorn is still able to continuously create and evolve its technology. Thorn already benefits thousands of children worldwide. It will continue to fight child sexual exploitation and trafficking for years to come.

Alyson Kaufman
Photo: Flickr