child labor facts
The act of using children for free or cheap labor has been around for centuries, and while it is not often brought up in conversation, this dirty little secret lives on in numerous countries, including the U.S.

Here are eight Child Labor facts from all over the world:

1.  Child labor is not just something that happens overseas
China, Asia and Africa are not the only nations that use children for cheap labor. Tobacco fields in the U.S. use young children to pick the plants. These children are exposed to dangerous pesticides and nicotine on a regular basis and sometimes get so sick they can hardly stand.

2. Child labor in tobacco fields is legal in the U.S.
The U.S. allows children as young as 11 to legally work in tobacco fields where they spray harmful chemicals so close to them they can hardly breathe. To put this in perspective: a child working in tobacco fields is illegal in countries like Russia and Kazakhstan, but is legal in the United States.

3.  Pakistan participates in selling children as slaves
Children in Pakistan can be sold by their parents or, more often, are abducted and sold into slavery to companies for profit. Companies that have utilized this backwards practice include Nike and the Punjub province, which is the largest seller of stitched rugs, musical instruments and sports equipment.

4.   Afghanistan gives away young girls to pay off debts
Another fact about child labor comes from Afghanistan where children make up roughly half of the population. Children often work in the textile industry, the poppy fields, cement and food processing. Parents may also sell their underage daughters into slavery in order to pay off a debt.

5.  Zimbabwe’s Learn as You Earn Program
The Learn as You Earn Program in Zimbabwe may not sound too bad at first glance, but it is another ploy to bring in children for cheap labor. The program brings children into the forestry and agricultural sectors so they can “learn” about those markets. Children often choose this in place of a formal education.

6.  Child Soldiers
Children who are displaced in war-torn countries like Afghanistan or Sudan are often put to work as child soldiers. These children are given guns and minor training and are told to defend their country. Some children may even be used as suicide bombers.

7.  Underage girls and sexual slavery
Young girls from all over the world who are either displaced by war, abducted while visiting foreign countries or even sold by their parents for money often find themselves in forced sexual slavery.  This problem is growing in Sudan, Somalia, Thailand, Japan, India and the United States.

8.  North Korea outlaws underage labor, continues to hire children
The government of North Korea officially outlawed child labor, but children still make up a large percentage of the people who work in factories. They also have labor camps where they send children to work in order to be re-educated for any type of political offenses.

These facts about child labor around the world can seem gruesome and a maybe a little far-fetched, but the point is that there are children who live these nightmares every single day.

– Cara Morgan

Sources: Business Insider, CNN, The Nation
Photo: Flickr

Over the past decade, Latin America’s economy has improved due to the rising quantity of exports. At the same time, rapid growth of urban centers has created socioeconomic problems like an increase in prostitution and sex trafficking. One of the consequences of the urbanization of Latin America is a rapid increase in population, which in turn results in a larger number of unemployment and homelessness. The high population outnumbers the amount of jobs available for people, especially women. The consequence is that more women living in these urban slums resorting to commercial sex work. These women then become vulnerable to diseases and to violent environments.​

In Brazil, over 40,000 women have murdered for simply being women in the past 10 years. And Honduras is labeled one of the most dangerous places to live for a woman. There, the violent killings of women there have tripled. Unfortunately, only 5 percent of these crimes have been investigated and the murderers prosecuted.

Columbia is facing significant gender-based violence because of military conflict within the country. Women are often attacked who take part in activism to encourage political and social reforms for more representation and rights.

The third most violent place in the world for women is Guatemala. The county ordered a new law to prevent violence against women in 2008, making it the first Latin American country to do so. Yet since the law was implemented, not much has been done to support the new reforms. Women continue to have problems finding prosecution for the culprits.

Not only does violence cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of women in Latin America, but it decreases the region’s social and economic development. The killings are preventing these women from contributing to the economic growth of the country. Seven Latin America countries rank in the top 10 countries in the world for most domestic violence against women.

One answer to this matter is the program U.N. Women, which helps to strengthen the representation of women in government and politics. New policies are developed for women’s economic development; particularly, women in isolated and rural regions in Latin America. These policies aim to create equal and fair workplaces for all women who are seeking or already have employment and to create job opportunities.

UN Women is helping to end gender based violence against women in Latin America by creating services for victims and survivors. This will help by implementing laws to protect women and provide justice for those in need.

— Rachel Cannon

Sources: CSIS, UN Women 1, UN Women 2
Photo: UN Women

This past week, Wake Forest University students opened their emails to the following message from the University:

“Today members of the Wake Forest University community mourn the loss of beloved poet, author, actress, civil rights activist and professor Dr. Maya Angelou.”

Angelou passed away in her North Carolina home on Wednesday, May 28, at the age of 86. She served as the University’s Reynolds Professor of American Studies since 1982 and published more than 30 books of fiction and poetry, including her autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

“Maya Angelou has been a towering figure — at Wake Forest and in American culture. She had a profound influence in civil rights and racial reconciliation. We will miss profoundly her lyrical voice and always keen insights,” said Nathan Hatch, President of Wake Forest University, in a press release.

As a Wake Forest student myself, I have had the honor to be an audience to her melodic voice on a few occasions, feeling as if each syllable shared with the room was a personal invitation to become a part of her world.

But these words were not merely pretty verses, but heartfelt, aching testaments to a life filled with obstacles, grit and determination. With her parents divorcing when she was only 3, Angelou continued to face tumultuous circumstances as she was later raped by her mother’s boyfriend around age 8. At age 17, she gave birth to son, Guy.

“I will always treasure “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” because by revealing the sexual abuse she suffered as a child, Angelou opened the door to emotional healing for a lot of girls,” wrote Mary Mitchell in the article “Young Black Mothers Can Learn A Lot from Maya Angelou’s Life,” in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Through her openness about her own mistakes, Angelou helps others find the courage to confront their own struggles and failings. Below you will find five small lessons, from among many, left behind from one of the most “phenomenal” women of our time.

  1. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Interview for Beautifully Said Magazine (2012)
  2. “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” — Excerpted from “Letter to My Daughter,” a book of essays (2009)
  3. “One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.” — Interview in USA TODAY (March 5, 1988)
  4. “Your destiny is to develop the courage to flesh out the great dreams, to dare to love, to dare to care, to dare to want to be significant and to admit it, not by the things you own or the positions you hold, but by the lives you live.” — 1985 Commencement Speech at Wake Forest University
  5. “I am a Woman Phenomenally, Phenomenal Woman, that’s me.” — “Phenomenal Woman,” poem (1978)

A remembrance website and guestbook for Maya Angelou can be found here.

— Blythe Riggan

Sources: Maya Angelou, WFU, Old Gold and Black, Sun Times, USA Today
Photo: Oprah

In light of the recent Santa Barbara massacre, Twitter users have taken the web by storm through the #YesAllWomen hashtag. The result has been incredible: voices around the world have given personal (yet all-too universal) recollections of misogyny as it exists in their professional, social and familial lives. An example of social media’s power to do good in the world, the campaign is only growing as more than a million posts (and counting) have been spreading around the web.

Elliot Rodger killed six students from the University of California-Santa Barbara last week, and wounded 13 others. Just before the massacre, Rodger wrote a 140-page “manifesto” crippled with misogynistic remarks, claiming that he would take “retribution” for the crimes against him and would punish the world for those women who refused to sleep with him. The media frenzy that followed proved unique: the massacre and its aftermath was about more than just one mentally disturbed man exacting revenge. It is about a culture of misogyny and the detriment it can cause.

Today, more than 311 million working-age women live in countries where sexual harassment is not outlawed in the workplace. In many less-developed countries, a third of women are married or in a union by only 18. Around 60 percent of women have experienced physical or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime, and 2.6 billion women live in countries where rape within marriage is not outlawed.

These statistics are what the campaign #YesAllWomen stands for: across the world and in varying degrees, women are still treated as lesser citizens. #YesAllWomen works to teach that we have remained all-too blind, and it is doing so in strides.

Accessible to most of the world at any time or place, the campaign has brought a unique, understandable perspective of feminism to the most-reached platform in the world: the Internet. Yet despite the campaign’s current popularity, many wonder if it will do any good to solve the problem in the long run, comparing the campaign to short-lived, social media frenzies like #BringBackOurGirls (which has died down in response to the now popular #YesAllWomen.)

These social media phenomenons, some argue, do little to prevent or change the actual circumstances of the problem. Yet it can be argued that their real success is by infiltrating and educating by providing a much-needed lesson as to why misogyny is a serious problem we must work to fix. #YesAllWomen attempts to bridge this problematic gap.

– Nick Magnati

Sources: CNN, Chicago Tribune, UN Women, Foreign Policy
Photo: The Province

sexual_assault_in_sri _anka
Sri Lankan Women’s Affairs and Child Development Minister Tissa Karaliyadda remarked that female victims should marry the males who sexually assaulted them to reduce the amount of rape in Sri Lanka. If the victim is underage, he suggests that the marriage be postponed until the victim reaches the age of eighteen, the legal age of consent in the country.

Karaliyadda explained to local media that, “the idea is to ensure the victim gets justice. If she feels the rapist must marry her for what he did to her, then she must have that option.”

But why would a girl wish to marry the person who sexually assaulted her? Is it because girls who have sex before their marriage will find it extremely difficult to find a husband in the future? Does their society mark them as unclean and force them to atone for the sexual assault? Is marriage the only solution to rid them of their dishonor?

Sri Lanka’s President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has a different viewpoint. He believes that underage female rape victims should not wait until age eighteen to be married. He is quoted saying “if under aged girls are statutorily raped and the sexual act was however with consent, it may be good to have legislation that allows the perpetrator to marry the victim with her consent.”

What is most unsettling about Rajapaksa’s quote is not the part about forcing attackers to marry their underage victims, but that sexual activity between a child and an adult can be consensual.

In Sri Lanka, eighteen marks the age of consent, maturity and adulthood. Eighteen-year-olds can legally drive, smoke, drink alcohol and provide consent for sexual activity. The age of consent varies across the globe from twelve in Angola to twenty-one years old in Bahrain.

Rajapaksa’s belief that sexual activity between a child and an adult can be consensual is incorrect. Not only are their brains and bodies not fully developed, most children lack the emotional maturity and awareness to make informed important decisions. This is why statutory rape laws exist. Statutory rape laws are designed to prevent adults from “exploiting the ignorance, the trust, the inexperience and the terror of children.”

Chamal Rajapaksa, current Speaker of the Parliament and also the elder brother of President Rajapaksa, believes that “nobody can make men responsible for the violence against women. Women are responsible for it.” It is exactly this kind of viewpoint that perpetuates gender inequality and sexual assault in societies where women have very little agency. Sexual assault in Sri Lanka and gender equality is not merely a women’s issue, as it affects men, women, boys and girls. Instead of focusing on finding remedies to sexual assault after it has already happened, perhaps officials should attempt to prevent sexual assault in Sri Lanka before they actually take place.

-Sarah Yan

Sources: First Post, Buzzfeed, Care 2, Sri Lanka Guardian

Sex trafficking exists in the United States. Sex traffickers target women and children with histories of addiction, abuse and even issues with debt and use manipulation to keep these victims trapped in the sex trafficking industry. The leaders in sex trafficking use violence and threats against the victims loved ones as means to force these victims to work against their own will. Accordingly, 83% of sex traffic victims are United States citizens. This issue is larger than most people realize and exists in the form of strip clubs, fake massage businesses, hostess clubs and even online escort services.

The internet is the number one center for sex trafficking in the United States. For example, pimps use websites like and even disguised as massage services to escort victims for services. Thus, these women are forced into sex trafficking at a young age mostly by older men. Most of the services that are offered on Craigslist are in the form of recruiting. Women post pictures of themselves and answer customer’s calls referencing the ads placed on Craigslist. These women are not willingly posting these pictures, but are in constant fear of their own lives. In addition, these pimps use not only force but the false promise of a better life and threats to harm the victims’ loved ones. Victims are coerced into trafficking by pimps posing as model scouts, or nannies and house maids being recruited and then captured by these sex traffickers.

Because trafficking is unique when based in the internet it has become extremely profitable and it is easier to reach a larger audience. Anyone can post ads on these sites and these ads can be seen by thousands of people in addition to being unnoticed by the police. The average age range these victims enter the sex trafficking industry is 11-15 and due to the vague description of age with words like “young,” these operations slip by unnoticed by authorities.

In addition, many women in places like Nigeria, Thailand, and other places suffering from global poverty are involuntarily forced into sex trafficking. The geological approach to sex trafficking shows high numbers of victims in areas stricken with poverty, as well as remote areas where women are more likely taken from to an area of global capitalization and tourism. These high traffic areas are promoted through the use of the internet and smartphones. Because of the accessibility to these websites, where a brothel can be located in under a minute generates high revenue for the owner.

Accordingly, President Barack Obama released a statement saying “We’re turning the tables on the traffickers. Just as they are now using technology and the Internet to exploit their victims, we’re going to harness technology to stop them.”

To illustrate the alarming statistics of this issue the US Department of Health and Human Services show that 90% of runaways end up in the commercial sex trade industry and in Tennessee 94 children are trafficked every month. Human Trafficking has become a larger issue than most realize and will be addressed accordingly to the advancement of technology.

– Rachel Cannon

Photo: CNN
End Slavery Tennessee, Polar is Project

A third of Cambodians live on less than a dollar a day, economic mobility is limited and shark loans are rampant. Many families have been resorting to prostituting their young daughters out of financial desperation. Often times, brokers—themselves once victims of sex trade—would convince mothers to sell their virgin daughters. Debt-stricken and living below the poverty line, thousands of Cambodian girls are sold by their own mothers to be deflowered. The average price for a virgin is $1,500, an equivalent of about 4 years of income for many Cambodians. Some of the victims are often as young as early pubescent. Many clients belong to Asia’s wealthy elite both from Cambodia and other countries.

Cambodia has an unofficial but written ancient code of conduct for women called the Chbab Srey. The dictates of the Chbab Srey are well inculcated into the social fabric. There are still families who do not view their daughters as having the same value as their sons. There is also a pervasive myth in many Asian countries that through engaging in a sexual intercourse with a young virgin, men will be able to enhance their virility.

In addition, imbued with corruption, Cambodia makes for a very difficult environment for police to operate. It is believed that so far no one—absolutely 0.0 percent—has been convicted for statutory rape for engaging in intercourses with virgin girls. Not only that but, due to the aforementioned cultural code of conduct, female premarital chastity is also highly valued. There is even a national saying that “men are like gold and women are like white cloth,” meaning that men are more valuable than women, and if they are stained they can be washed. Unfortunately, there are still people who live by this maxim. Women, on the other hand, are less valuable and once stained, the stain never comes off. Furthermore, among many poor families, the daughter’s virginity is often seen as an asset that can be liquidated.

Thus, girls who are victims of virginity trade are also ostracized by the society. Many of them are stigmatized and find it extremely difficult to escape prostitution to find other jobs or get married. The case of Kieu—a girl who was 12 when her virginity was sold—demonstrates harrowingly and luridly the ordeals girls who have been sold by their parents go through.

At the age of 12, Kieu was sold by her mother—who blamed grinding poverty for her decision—to a man who raped her for two days. Afterwards, her mother sold her to a brothel where, according to Kieu, she was detained as if she was a prisoner. There, she was forced to engage with several men per day. Upon returning, physically and emotionally broken, her mother decided to give her to two other brothels including one 250 miles away on the Thai border. Certainly, Kieu’s heartbreaking tribulations are not unique; every year, thousands of sex tourists make Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Cambodia their prime destinations. In Cambodia alone, UNICEF estimates the number of children working in the sex industry to account for a third of all sex workers (40,000-100,000 sex workers in total.)

Although poverty and difficult economic situation are in no way admissible justifications for the parents, the painful experiences of these victims highlights the need to alleviate poverty. The parents themselves—belonging to an aftermath generation of the Khmer Rouge regime—are poor, uneducated and in their view, they are deprived of other means of survival. Consequently, the preexisting cultural prejudices, which devalues girls and women, does not subside due to the overall lack of access to education and the developmental stagnation at the grassroots level. As for the girls, what could they do to protect themselves when their own mothers—the people whom they trust most—are willing to sell their bodies?

– Peewara Sapsuwan

Sources: CEDAW, CNN, The Concordian, The Phnom Penh Post

In the span of about five years Israel has seen monumental changes in its country’s reputation as being sympathetic to human trafficking.

As of 2005 Israel was listed on Tier 3 by the U.S. State Department in its efforts to fight and prevent human trafficking. As the bottom in the scale Tier 3 is reserved for those shame-faced countries whose governments “do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.” Israel at this time was still considered one of the main destinations for the trafficking in woman – primarily those from the former Soviet Union.

The U.S. State Department’s harsh labeling of Israel as being on the same Tier as non-democratic countries such as Sudan and Somalia shamed Israel into action. Knesset member David Tsur of the HaTenua Party and chairman of the Subcommittee on Trafficking in Women and Prostitution stated, “If I were a seasoned and professional politician, I would say that the decision to act was not related to the Americans, but the reality was that without the whip of the State Department, we would not have taken serious steps. We understood that if we didn’t address the problem, aid funds would be stalled, and very quickly we would have a new center of criminal activity on our hands.”

As the law stood, victims of human trafficking were treated as criminals, making it very difficult and unlikely for them to come forward and report their abuse. This was one of the first things to be changed as Israel began to make anti-human-trafficking a priority. Government-funded shelters were set up for trafficked women who’d filed complaints where they received medical treatment and underwent rehabilitation.

Congruent to decriminalizing the victims, starting in 2006 perpetrators were given 20 year sentences for human trafficking violations. As of the U.S. State Department’s 2013 report on Trafficking in Persons, they declared that this still wasn’t a sentence that “Commensurate[d] with the gravity of the offence.”

The addition to Israel’s pre-existing barrier in 2005 was monumental in preventing the trafficking of people from Egypt, which at one time was the post popular through-country and entrance into Israel for traffickers.

Since prostitution is legal in Israel there are still issues of sexual exploitation and cases of trafficking within the country, but Israel has been hugely successful in abolishing human trafficking across its borders. In a statement to Israel’s Daniel Shapiro a U.S. Ambassador said, “I applaud the Government of Israel for continuing to focus on eliminating the scourge of modern day slavery. Israel has taken an all-of-government approach to tackling this global phenomenon, including legislative action in the Knesset, police training, and providing shelters and services for trafficking victims.”

Other countries stand to learn a lot from Israel’s example. Human trafficking has been reported in nearly every Western country, including each state within the U.S. As Israel has demonstrated, governments must recognize trafficking as a threat and allocate a full-on attack to stand a chance in eliminating it.

– Lydia Caswell

Sources: The Times of Israel, Al-Monitor, Atzum, U.S. Department of State
Photo: Jerusalem Post

Although the Indian caste system is no longer legitimate, its repressive characteristics still affect the lives of the Dalit population today, particularly its women.

According to Human Rights Watch, the caste system in India “is perhaps the world’s longest surviving social hierarchy” and is a “defining feature of Hinduism.”

“A person is considered a member of the caste into which he or she is born and remains within that caste until death,” the organization said in a report.

Graham Peebles, director of the Create Trust, a UK based charity that helps disadvantaged women and children, said that women suffer the most under the caste system.

In a Counterpunch article, Peebles said Dalit women suffer the most under the caste system despite its being banned by India’s constitution. They tend to become victims of sexual slavery, humiliation and torture. They are also denied access to land, water and education.

Peebles argues that they are living under a type of apartheid in which “discrimination and social exclusion is a major factor.”

That is not to say, however, that Dalit women are the only females who struggle under the Indian caste system.

Indian authorities are constantly unsuccessful in seeking justice for the rapes that occur throughout the country. India’s National Crime Records Bureau estimates that rape cases increased up to 900% over the last four decades. In 2011 alone, more than 24,000 rapes were reported.

But unlike girls who are born into a middle class family, Peebles believes that girls born into a Dalit family receive little attention due to the media’s success in making the country look like a Bollywood film to international observers.

India can definitely improve in several areas regarding the unfair treatment of women. However, with the outlawed caste system still in place, these improvements seem unlikely to occur any time soon.

– Juan Campos

Sources: CounterPunch, Human Rights Watch
Photo: Kamla Foundation

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced this week that he will not retract his country’s official apology for its military’s use of sex slaves during World War II. Abe’s cabinet had been reviewing a landmark 1993 cabinet statement in which Tokyo acknowledged for the first time that the Japanese military had directly or indirectly been involved in establishing brothels for its soldier in territories occupied by imperial Japan during its brutal conquest of east Asia in first half of the twentieth century. Up to 200,000 women are estimated to have been forced to work as sex slaves in Japan’s military brothels.

Speaking on Friday to the budget committee in the upper house of the Diet, Japan’s parliament, Abe said he had, ” no thought of my cabinet revising,” the 1993 apology, known as the Kono statement, after then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono. “We must be humble regarding history… it should not be politicized or made into a diplomatic issue,” Abe said.

The decision by Abe, a rightwing nationalist who recently angered his country’s east Asian neighbors by visiting a controversial war shrine commemorating Japan’s war dead, is being seen as an effort by the hawkish prime minister to placate South Korea, which has criticized Tokyo for its perceived failure to atone for wartime atrocities. Japan annexed the Korean peninsula in 1910 and ruled it as a Japanese colony until the end of World War II in 1945.

Abe’s attempt to mollify Seoul, a strategic partner in countering China’s economic and military rise, comes ahead of a possible meeting between the Japanese prime minister and South Korean President Park Geun-hye next week on the sidelines of a nuclear disarmament summit in The Hague.

On Wednesday, Japanese Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Akitaka Saiki traveled to South Korea in a bid to lock down a meeting between the two leaders at next week’s summit. After meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Akitaka left without obtaining a commitment from South Korea for a meeting between its president and Abe, as Seoul continued to insist that Tokyo do more to make amends for it militaristic past.

The Prime Minister’s decision not to revise the 1993 apology comes about two weeks after Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announced that Abe’s government was forming a team to review the Kono statement, in which Tokyo acknowledged for the first time that, “The then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women.” Comfort stations is a Japanese euphemism for the brothels operated by the Japanese imperial military in territories conquered by Tokyo during its conquest of east Asia in the first half the twentieth century.

Abe’s refusal to revisit Tokyo’s groundbreaking admission represents a u-turn for the sometimes hard line prime minister, who at times has pushed a revisionist version of history that white washes over Japan’s wartime atrocities. When he was running to be the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party in 2012, Abe said “there was no evidence” that the comfort women had been forced to work in the brothels.

Late last year, Abe angered China and South Korea, both of which were occupied by Japan during the first half of the twentieth century, when he visited Yasukuni, a Shinto shrine that commemorates Japan’s war dead, including 14 Class A war criminals.

– Eric Erdahl

Sources: BBC, BBC, Nikkei Asian Review
Photo: Enformable