Information and news about slavery

10 Facts About Child Labor in Niger
Niger, a country in Western Africa, is one of the most impoverished nations in the entire world. While its economy is growing, many children enter harsh jobs to provide for their families. Here are 10 facts about child labor in Niger.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Niger

  1. Niger has the highest fertility rate in the world. On average, a woman from Niger will have around seven children. The high fertility rate has led to consistent population growth and large family sizes. It is quite common for large families in Niger to hire underage girls as housemaids where they receive poor treatment and make as little as $6 a month. According to UNICEF, “three out of five girls are working in an environment considered as prejudicial to their health and development.” The high fertility rate has led to consistent population growth and large family sizes which makes it difficult for families to sustain themselves solely off their own farming.
  2. The main form of agriculture in Niger is subsistence farming, however, only 11 percent of the land is arable. Even the arable land is extremely dependent on rainfall, with droughts leading to widespread food shortages. When food becomes scarce, Nigerien children, like 12-year-old Oumar Soumana, must drop out of school and look for work to support their families: “It is a painful job for me… I spend the whole day walking. I do not really rest because I have to sell and bring the money back.”
  3. Roughly 48 percent of Niger’s population is 14 or younger. Niger’s population is increasing so fast, its median age is an alarming 15 years old. Food production is not matching the increasing population of Niger. Lack of consistent rainfall makes it very difficult for rural families to avoid malnourishment. When it does rain, families use their children for labor to try and maximize their food production. This is back-breaking work includes hand planting seeds in rough soil during extreme heat.
  4. According to a report by UNESCO, 42.9 percent of Nigerien children between five and 14 are working instead of going to school. This, coupled with only 70 percent of children in Niger completing elementary school, greatly limits their educational opportunities. Article 23 of Niger’s constitution provides free public education, but experts claim that instituting compulsory education would help keep even more children in schools.
  5. The insurgent Islamist group Boko Haram has contributed to Niger’s child labor crisis with its kidnapping of Nigerien children. Boko Haram uses children mainly for menial labor like cooking and cleaning, but in the past, they have used children for suicide bombings. While Boko Haram agreed to stop using children in 2017, there are still thousands of children missing. Additionally, children who formerly worked as child soldiers receive discrimination at an alarming rate.
  6. Many of the children who do not attend school and enter the workforce experience harsh working environments. “Uneducated, these children grow up in very miserable conditions: long working hours, low wages, no food. Furthermore, they run the risk of becoming victims of prostitution, discrimination, abuse, etc.” Additionally, children whose parents did not register them at birth and “lack the appropriate official papers, are not recognized as members of society and cannot exercise their rights.” These children are severely unprotected from life-threatening situations because their rural families were not aware of Niger’s birth registration law.
  7. Part of the reason why child labor in Niger is so prevalent is that the government either lacks regulation prohibiting these practices or it fails to adequately enforce its laws. In 2017, Niger took a significant step forward in combatting its child labor crisis by increasing the minimum age for hazardous work to 18 and increasing the number of jobs under the hazardous label. People under 18 can no longer work at jobs like quarrying, mining, welding and construction.
  8. While article 14 in Niger’s constitution outlaws forced labor, ethnic minorities like the Touaregs have a history of enslavement. Certain Nigerien traditions effectively endorse child slave labor. Whether it be the purchasing of young girls to serve as fifth wives or Wahaya, or koranic teachers forcing their pupils to beg on the streets and surrender their earnings, slavery is still prevalent in Niger.
  9. Niger is not ignoring the unfortunate truth that slavery still exists. With the help of the group Anti-Slavery International, Niger has successfully prosecuted men engaging in the fifth wife practice. This group also joined forces with a local Nigerien organization called Timidria and opened six elementary schools for descendants of slaves.
  10. These 10 facts about child labor in Niger illuminate the issue of child labor that the country must solve. Social programs funded by the Nigerien Government and other nongovernmental organizations like UNICEF are attempting to combat the crisis. In 2017, both of these groups ran 34 centers tasked with providing “food, shelter, education, and vocational training to street children, many of whom are victims of child labor.”

While most of these 10 facts about child labor Niger are disheartening, there is evidence that the situation is improving. For instance, a 45-year-old Nigerien woman named Tatinatt was a slave for the majority of her life, but today she is free and her youngest children are the first ones in her family who are attending school instead of entering the workforce. Hopefully, exposure to this crisis will galvanize more groups into focusing their resources on ending child labor in Niger.

Myles McBride Roach
Photo: Flickr

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 Europe
The definition of human trafficking is the act of illegally transporting people from one country or area to another, typically for the purpose of forced labor or sexual exploitation. Human trafficking occurs all over the world. There are approximately 20 to 30 million slaves worldwide and around 800,000 people trafficked across international borders every year. Moreover, 80 percent of people trafficked yearly are female. Here are 10 facts about human trafficking in Europe.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Europe

  1. A study in 2012 assessed human trafficking in Europe. The study identified and reported 11,000 people as victims of human trafficking.
  2. Ninety-five percent of sexually exploited victims are women and girls. Seventy percent of victims trafficked for labor exploitation are men.
  3. However, these numbers only indicate reported victims. It is predicted that at any given time there are 140,000 people in Europe trapped in human trafficking.
  4. Thirty-two percent of victims in Europe originate from the Balkans, 19 percent of victims originate from former Soviet states, 13 percent are from South America, 7 percent are from Central Europe, 5 percent of victims are from Africa and 3 percent are from East Asia.
  5. Conviction rates are low for human trafficking. In fact, for every 100,000 people in Europe, less than one person receives a conviction of human trafficking annually.
  6. The conviction rate in Denmark for human trafficking is 3.14 per 100,000 inhabitants. However, in Hungary, the conviction rate is at 0.24 per 100,000 inhabitants.
  7. Unfortunately, there is no decrease in the number of human trafficking victims. On the other hand, from 2008 to 2010, convictions for human trafficking decreased by 13 percent. This indicates slow reactions by authorities regarding trafficking and low prioritization of human trafficking as a crime.
  8. Fortunately, several organizations are working to help end human trafficking in Europe. In 2003, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) established a plan to work on implementing measures to decrease human trafficking. This action plan is titled Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings.
  9. Moreover, this plan lays out measures to prevent human trafficking by building awareness and addressing issues at the cause. Additionally, the plan articulates plans for how to prosecute traffickers and work with international law enforcement. Finally, it works to protect victims’ lives through compensation and assistance. The OSCE expanded the plan in 2014 with the addition of partnerships, which emphasizes the importance of international coordination and organization.
  10. Finally, La Strada is an organization working to address human trafficking internationally and within European countries. It has establishments in eight European countries. The primary goal of La Strada is to increase nongovernmental organization participation and focus toward human trafficking, with the ultimate goal of putting an end to human trafficking. Notably, La Strada is the largest organization working to end human trafficking in Europe.

Human trafficking is an issue people often brush aside over due to low report rates and a lack of focus. However, as these 10 facts about human trafficking in Europe state, the rates of trapped and abused victims are only increasing in Europe. Ultimately, it is important to acknowledge the organizations working to end human trafficking in Europe, as organizations like OSCE and La Strada work tirelessly to achieve.

– Claire Bryan
Photo: Flickr

stopping the slave trade in LibyaThe rise in immigration and an increase in criminal activity are going hand in hand in Libya. Since immigrants are an especially vulnerable population with so many seeking asylum or other needs, criminals are more likely to target them. CNN released a report on the slave trade that is still occurring in Libya today. This report showed many people what is happening. With the influx of immigrants, it is important to see what efforts are being made in stopping the slave trade in Libya.

Libya has officially become a lawless state. The government has little to no control over what goes on, and criminals are taking advantage of this. Due to the large influx of vulnerable immigrants, the slave trade has now risen to an all-time high. Slavery has been outlawed in other countries; however, criminals don’t follow the rules. Dozen of people are still being auctioned off, some only being sold for $400. Immigrants often live in poverty and don’t what to do improve their conditions. Slave traders pick up on this vulnerability and use it to their advantage. Libya is the main transit point for immigrants that are trying to make it to Europe.

Stopping the Slave Trade in Libya

While looking at Libya and the events that are occurring there, a question arises: What efforts are being made in stopping the slave trade in Libya? The U.N. and the U.S. have been putting pressure on the government to investigate more into the crimes being committed. They urged Libya to take urgent action in these matters and to make it come to an end. So far, Libya went from not having the resources or support to track down these traffickers, to accusing and sanctioning six men. Since 150,000 immigrants cross into Libya each year, the U.N. involvement has been a huge milestone for Libya and those being sold into slavery.

Additionally, a new transit system has been put in place to make sure that immigrants are able to travel more safely. The more immigrants are provided safer ways to travel, the lesser the likelihood of being sold into slavery. At this new transit facility, run by the UNHCR, immigrants are not only being provided with safe shelter but also food, medical care and psychosocial support. UNHCR is bringing new hope for immigrants that are looking for a better life. It is a necessary facility that will bring international protection to those that are most vulnerable.

Many news outlets and people from different communities are now raising awareness on this topic. The more people to find out about what is being done in Libya, the more solutions can be found up and more actions can be taken. CNN is the original news outlet to exposed the slave trade that is happening in Libya. Afterward, more people started to take action and contribute to the conversation. By someone speaking out, it causes a ripple effect for organizations to come together and make a plan to help those being sold.

Canada is Providing a Refuge

Canada has taken action in making sure that those who were once former slaves are able to rebuild their lives. Providing the necessary housing and support can help those that fell victim to slavery to regain their life. More than 150 people who had immigrated to Canada were victims of the slavery that occurred in Libya. Canada will also be resettling another 600 people that are at risk of being sold into slavery. With the number continuously rising, Canada is doing it’s best to keep up with those that are seeking asylum and providing options for settlement.

Although the fight for stopping the slave trade in Libya is still raging on, new support systems are being brought in and making it so immigrants can feel safe. Governments, like in Canada, are now taking action, as well as organizations uniting together. The slave trade in Libya is still continuing today, but the situation in improving. By raising awareness about important topics such as this, it can act as a catalyst for other people to step in as well.

Hopefully, the immigrants and other vulnerable populations that are currently living through this tragedy can find some consolation in the fact that the world finally sees what is happening. The United Nations, the Libyan government and other organizations have dedicated their time to working towards one goal: stopping the slave trade in Libya. The measures that have been put forth thus far have already helped many people, and the next step in this journey is making sure that the rest people and immigrants of Libya are safe from slavery.

Emme Chadwick
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

Liberty in MauritaniaIn the West African country of Mauritania, though slavery was abolished in 1981 and a 2007 law was passed that criminalizes owning a slave, much of the population remains in bondage.

The Global Slavery Index reported that there were up to 47,000 slaves remaining in Mauritania. The size of this human rights violation and recent crimes against activists warrant American attention and aid for those longing for liberty in Mauritania.

History of Slavery in Mauritania

Slavery has a long and storied history in Mauritania. As in other parts of the world, it is often based on skin color and ethnic background. Most enslaved people in Mauritania are darker skinned and Harantine/Afro-Mauritanian. This is especially relevant considering that the government is overwhelmingly run by the lighter skinned Arab-Berbers, under an administration that has done little to ease the plight of slaves.

Stories of Slaves

Even when Mauritania’s minority peoples live as freedmen, they tend to occupy lower positions in the social hierarchy than the Arab-Berbers. This colorist system is deeply ingrained throughout Mauritanian culture. One Harantine slave testified that her mother used to tell her every night that she must respect the masters because their caste is higher and they are considered to be the saints. Despite the horrors of slavery, ingrained biases often block the way to liberty in Mauritania.

Those who remain enslaved in Mauritania live in abhorrent conditions. Stories of cruelty and barbarism abound. Fatimatou, a former slave that was freed by the nongovernmental organization SOS Slaves, testifies: “I lost two babies to this family because they prevented me from taking care of my own children. I was forced to work when I had just given birth.” Aichetou, another former slave, escaped in 2010, assisted by her sister. The older sibling had escaped after witnessing her captor murder her child using hot coals.

Unfair System

Despite the frequency and brutality of these incidents, only five people have been punished in the past three years for practicing slavery. In comparison, at least 168 human rights activists that are fighting against slavery have been arrested in the past four years.

This institutional disregard for anti-slavery efforts has become apparent leading up to the country’s September elections. On August 7, former presidential candidate and human rights activist, Biram Dah Abeid, was arrested because of an “order from above.” Most likely, he has been detained because he and several colleagues planned to run for legislative positions. His vow to defeat the authoritarian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz has made him a focus of much controversy and state persecution.  Throughout the most recent detainment, Biram Dah Abeid and other arrested opposition members have not been given access to a lawyer during the prosecution.

How Can People Help?

People around the world who feel sympathy for the plight of those seeking liberty in Mauritania have several ways in which they can assist.

  1. First, they can learn all they can about the subject and spread the word to their friends and family on social media.
  2. Second, they can donate to anti-slavery organizations like the Abolition Institute that uses the proceeds to rescue people from bondage.
  3. Finally, they can write a letter or email to the U.S. government to prevent the deportation of Mauritian asylum seekers. Amnesty International has warned that if deported, these people face the threat of slavery, torture and death. One of the easiest ways to contact influential people is through the Borgen Project, specifically through this link.

Only with the support of compassionate and aware citizens can enslaved victims find liberty in Mauritania.

– Lydia Cardwell
Photo: Flickr

ending modern slaverySlavery is not a widely accepted or legal practice nowadays, but it is far from extinct. In 2016, there were an estimated 40.3 million people trapped in modern slavery. This slavery can take the form of forced labor, domestic slavery and sexual exploitation among others with many of these slaves being young children. Although, sexual slavery is often what many people think of when they first hear the term “modern slavery,” nearly 25 million people have been exploited as slaves for forced labor.

This is an epidemic that can seem quite daunting at times but has gained more recognition in recent years. Now, nonprofits, businesses and governments around the world are working to end modern slavery. One nonprofit in particular has used technology to their advantage and, on July 30, launched an anti-slavery application for smartphones in The United Kingdom in the hopes of ending modern slavery.

Smartphones and Ending Modern Slavery

In 2016, The U.K. nonprofit, Unseen, started a nationwide Modern Slavery Helpline that individuals could call to report incidents that looked like slavery. This hotline saw a large increase in usage at the beginning of 2018 with an 80 percent increase in reports. In order to make reporting easier and raise awareness for this problem, Unseen developed a new smartphone app.

The app has easy-to-read guides on identifying the signs of modern slavery and is an easier version of their confidential hotline. It features graphics showing what slavery can look like in different contexts, such as in manufacturing, construction, agriculture or domestic work. The guides are even detailed enough to show users different physical signs or movements that may indicate slavery.

The nonprofit recognized that traffickers and pimps are using technology and all the resources available to them to recruit, exploit and control their slaves. In order to fight traffickers and slavery, this organization created its own app to be innovative in its solutions to fighting this problem, believing it is an important step in ending modern slavery.

As of right now, arrests solely based on the hotline have been low, but different agencies in The U.K. are embracing the app and will hopefully begin to rely on it more. Currently, the app is only available in The U.K., but slavery is a widespread problem that has a deep tie to global poverty.

The Tie Between Poverty and Slavery

There are many factors contributing to modern slavery, but one of the most prominent is poverty. The International Labour Organization (ILO) argues that poverty and income shocks are key to understanding forced labor and slavery.

The ILO articulates that people living in poverty are more likely to borrow money, which can make them vulnerable to exploitation.  When a family experiences extreme poverty they are more likely to rely on a third party for emergency funds. Oftentimes, due to a lack of financial resources, this dependence ends up being on a recruiter or trafficker and leads to manipulation, slavery and exploitation. Slavery traps its victims in a tragic cycle where they end up impoverished with little escape.

Other factors that The ILO highlights are education and illiteracy, which are often more common in impoverished societies. Often people who are less educated end up working in manual labor where forced labor and slavery is more common. It is also more challenging for these people to gain an understanding of their rights and protections against slavery or how to exercise these rights to defend themselves.

Although there is much progress to be made in ending modern slavery, innovative nonprofits like Unseen are creatively helping solve this problem and will hopefully inspire others to do the same. Being able to safely report incidents of slavery is the first step to ending this horrible exploitation.

Alexandra Eppenauer
Photo: Flickr


In places like the United States of America, marriage seems to be an exciting event for a majority of people. A celebratory get-together with family and close friends, surrounded by food, music, dancing and all the “selfies and photos” one could dream up.  However, marriage customs differ around the world depending on culture, family, tradition and even the economy. In Guinea, Africa, 76 percent of girls marry before turning 18, but this occurrence is far from just being a tradition; in fact, the high level of poverty impacts child marriage more than one might think.
 

People of Guinea

In Guinea, mining, minerals and fuel resources are what keep the economy alive and thriving. However, it is one of the poorest nations in West Africa and often struggles to share what wealth it does have with neighboring countries.   

While the economy works to aid both citizens and refugees within the country, health concerns also take a toll on Guinea. Polio, Measles, Ebola and HIV/AIDS affect many women and children and can leave children orphaned or separated from family. Such a traumatic event can make them vulnerable to marriage at a young age. 

Poverty and Child Marriage

Lack of access to resources such as education, literacy, health, well-being, job status and living in rural areas creates poverty and impacts child marriage, especially for young girlsIn many situations, girls are considered an economic or financial burden — a status that often leads families to marry their daughters/sisters off for economic benefit. If economic resources are available for education, more girls may utilize their education as a means to aspire for goals beyond marriage.

Poor areas often lead to poor interactions and respect among individuals who oftentimes have to fight for survival against one another. Children married at young ages will frequently experience marital and gender-based violence as a result. 

Government Involvement in Guinea’s Future

Like most countries, Guinea’s government plays a role in future change and helps discern the answer to the question: what is being done about child marriage in their country? 

As of 2018, Guinea is now a part of the African Union Commission, which helps make child marriage a priority social issue. In 2015, the Guinea Civil Union code established that men and women must equally consent to a marriage, consent must be free and valid and the marriage must be part of the civil registrar.  

Advocates For Change

Legislation also states that “promises of marriage” do not make a marriage mandatory. People under 21 years of age cannot enter into marriage without their father’s permission or someone who is an “acting father” for the household. However, legislation relating to marriage refusal is still in process, mostly due to sociocultural pressures. 

Other groups, partnerships, NGOs and organizations — such as the Pan-African Women’s organization — work diligently to break social stigmas and provide more support and liberation regardless of sex, race, religion or political affiliation. These advocates also utilize relationship and collaboration development to help fight against and provide awareness on how poverty impacts child marriage in the region. 

– Ashley Cooper

Photo: Flickr

child labor
The worst forms of child labor by international definition is: the enslavement, sale, trafficking, debt bondage, serfdom or compulsory labor of anyone under the age of eighteen. In the United States, minors are a protected class under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

This act prohibits the oppressive labor of children, and is meant to include anything deemed physically or emotionally damaging, hazardous, or would inhibit the well-being and education of such individuals. Outside of the United States, however, minors are not necessarily granted such special protection and may begin working under hazardous conditions without profit, access to education, ability to escape or hope of a future.

International Labor Organization

The International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency founded in 1919, estimates that there were 40.3 million people in modern slavery, a quarter of whom are children; in fact, in 2017, 152 million children were in child labor around the world.

“Alliance 8.7 is a global strategic partnership committed to achieving Sustainable Development Goal Target 8.7, which calls on the world to ‘take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labor, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 to end child labor in all its forms.”

This organization has made tremendous efforts towards attaining its goals to eliminate child labor completely. As evidence of progress, there has been a decrease of 94 million children previously engaged in child labor since the year 2000.

Slavery vs. Child Labor

The distinction between slavery and child labor is important to note, as it distinguishes between what is considered labor and involuntary servitude, which by definition is forced. “Slavery is the holding of people at a workplace through force, fraud, or coercion for purposes of sexual exploitation or forced labor so that the slaveholder can extract a profit.”

Of the 40 million slaves today, the majority are female, and the prevalence of slavery is most common in the Asia & Pacific regions, as well as in sub-Saharan Africa. As noted above, slavery takes many different forms and about 10 million of the slaves in existence today are children.

Forms and Causes of Slavery

The most typical forms of slavery are: debt bondage, contract slavery, sex trafficking, forced or servile marriage, domestic servitude, worst forms of child labor and child soldiers. The breakdown of industries where slavery takes place is fifty percent through forced labor in agriculture, manufacturing, construction, fishing, mining and other physical labor industries; 12.5 percent sex slavery in forced prostitution; and 37.5 percent forced marriage.

Poverty alone clearly does not cause slavery to occur, however, it is a large determinant of what allows slavery to catalyze in the first place. Slavery arises out of vulnerability and, as with all forms of cruelty and evil, predators prey on the weak.

In addition to poverty, other susceptibilities to one being subjected to involuntary servitude include: a lack of awareness of rights and risks, absent or weak protective organizations, absence of critical services, inadequate legal protection and survivor vulnerability. Human trafficking occurs within approximately twenty-three percent of the people who make up the slave population.

A Network of Support

The creation of stronger support systems is one key action item to putting an end to slavery. This is termed capacity building, and includes improved training, technical training and assistance to already existing organizations. Support systems aid in identifying those at risk to poverty and child slavery, preventing slavery from occurring and helping those in the aftermath to thrive under post-traumatic conditions.

As with all other inhumane acts, raising awareness is a crucial component to the creation of a world without child slaves.

Child Labor

While slavery is an obvious unspeakable injustice that strips the innocence of nearly 10 million children, the other 152 million children who are child laborers equates to one in ten children across the globe.  The child labor statistics mentioned are primarily related to work in agriculture, with a smaller amount who work in the service or industry sector.

By continents it is estimated that 72.1 million child laborers exist in Africa, followed by Asia and the Pacific at 62 million, the Americas at 10.7 million, Europe and Central Asia at 5.5 million and the Arab States at 1.2 million. Thirty-eight percent of children in hazardous work conditions were between the ages of 5 to 14 when this data was collected.

A Child-Slave-Free World

One way to commit to the creation of a slave-free world and end child labor is to be a responsible consumer. Simply buying products from reputable companies who use ethical practices to produce their goods is a step in the right direction towards positive change. For business owners or those in corporate professions, knowthechain.org aids businesses in how to make ethically sound choices with respect to labor practices.

Demonstrating support for legislation crafted to prohibit child labor and the creation of stricter deterrents to using slave labor is a means to a solution. Finally, preventative measures can be taken by raising awareness, and increasing availability of education so that all people around the world know their rights. It would also help if funding is allocated to organizations that work to create positive change through both prevention and assistance.

Also, Free the Slaves contains additional information on what can be done to fight slavery and make ethically sound purchases.

– Bridget Rice
Photo: Flickr

Types of Slavery
Slavery is a term that most Americans are familiar with. From history classes to pop culture, the word has permeated the collective consciousness. UNESCO states that slavery is “identified by an element of ownership or control over another’s life, coercion and the restriction of movement and by the fact that someone is not free to leave.” Through this definition, the U.N. declared in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights that every type of slavery is prohibited. Though it has been 70 years since this universal identification of slavery as an affront to human rights, the business of many types of slavery persists.

While exact numbers are difficult to establish, a recent estimate by the International Labor Organization claims that there are around 40 million people living in modern slavery. One of the many reasons that the number of people living in slavery is hard to identify is due to the many types of slavery that are used to coerce and control millions of people. To understand the global issue of slavery, this breakdown defines of the types of slavery as identified by the U.S. Department of State.

Types of Slavery

  1. Sex Trafficking
    The manipulation, coercion, or control of an adult engaging in a commercial sex act. The adult may consent to prostitution but be held in the exchange unwillingly due to unlawful debts. Any physical or psychological manipulation or force used to retain the individual is illegal and is considered trafficking.
  2. Child Sex Trafficking
    The child performs a commercial sex act after being recruited, sheltered, transported or sold. In this type of slavery, the child cannot consent. All forms of commercial sexual acts performed by children are illegal. These victims are especially vulnerable and often face long-term health issues.
  3. Forced Labor
    The physical or psychological manipulation or coercion to force a person to work. The employee may originally consent to work, but once force is used to compel the victim to work, it is considered trafficking and is illegal. Migrants and women are particularly vulnerable to forced labor.
  4. Forced Child Labor
    Some labor is permissible for children to perform, but there may be symptoms of abuse and trafficking if the child’s wages are redirected away from the child or his/her family. There are specific strategies outlined by the State Department to combat this unique problem.
  5. Bonded Labor or Debt Bondage
    The coercion of a person to work in order to pay off incurred debt. This debt may be from former employment or through ancestral debts. The ancestral form of debt bondage slavery seems to be most prevalent in South Asia.
  6. Domestic Servitude
    Individuals whose workplace is a private residence and feel as though they cannot leave; they may also be abused. These individuals lack common benefits including, but not limited to, days off, appropriate compensation and freedom from abuse and violence.
  7. Unlawful Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers
    The coercion or manipulation of children to act as combatants. The traffickers could be individuals, rebel groups, paramilitary groups or governments.

There are many organizations that fight trafficking. There are also several hotlines to report suspicious behavior that may indicate trafficking. Though the issue is global, fighting modern slavery begins at home. There are opportunities to become involved at the regional, national and international levels. As Congress navigates trafficking issues and seeks to expand protections in order to prevent human trafficking, understanding and showing support for the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and the types of slavery impacting millions of people is one way of supporting those impacted by trafficking.

– M. Shea Lamanna
Photo: Flickr