Information and news about slavery

Human trafficking in Niger
Niger has experienced slave-based exploitation due to the border crossing between it and Libya, a key launching point for human traffickers. However, the Nigerien borders are not the root issues. A Nigerien anti-slavery organization, Timidria, found that various Niger officials, who the country chose to combat human trafficking in Niger, may have slaves in their own households.

Overview

Ilguilas Weila, a Niger native, founded Timidria in 1991. Together with Anti-Slavery International, Timidria has been standing at the forefront seeking to protect more than 40,000 lost, unidentified and identified victims of inherited slavery and trafficking. This is its printed testimony:

“It clearly emerged from this review that the failure of slavery prosecutions had less to do with litigation itself than to external elements, particularly the influence of traditional chiefs and social hierarchies on judges’ decisions and disputations between customary and statutory law.”

This is a credible statement depicting the Nigerien government’s failure to identify, prosecute and convict traffickers, as it has failed to identify the ones among them.

Timidrias’ Success

In 2003, the anti-slavery organization gained much praise for its contributions to the Nigerien Anti-Slavery enacted Law 2003-25. Timidria also promoted efforts to fund a governmental 2019 Child Protection Committee in each commune in order to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. In 2019, Niger’s supreme court ruling also declared wahaya, the traditional practice of selling and trading young girls as fifth wives, an illegal act in 2019. Unfortunately, the news is yet to reach the majority of Nigerien citizens, a concern that left many victims trembling. Critics report that the government has made no efforts to identify and prosecute families who practice such practices.

What Makes Niger Vulnerable to Human Trafficking?

Niger underwent conflicts relating to the criminalization of traditional slavery that wealthy Tuaregs most invoke, some of whom serve in government seats. This includes Prime Minister Rafini who shares a Tuareg descent although no indication claims that he practices slave-ownership. The Tuareg tribe participates in various traditional and slave-based practices against children. A known practice is wahaya where little girls become trafficking victims by ending up in marriages as fifth wives or slavery. Meanwhile, talibés are young boys who traffickers place in slavery and extreme labor such as mining and cattle herding. Despite the 2003 slavery abolition, Timidria adduced that “children in {descent-based} slavery are considered to be the property of their master and face a lifetime of forced, unpaid labour and abuse.” Out of the thousand Wahaya crimes that underwent identification over the years, Timidria is only aware of one single conviction.

Government’s Role in Human Trafficking in Niger

The anti-slavery organization stated that “the implementation of the law criminalizing slavery has been inadequate and prosecutions for slavery are rare. Government alliances with the religious and political elites among the Tuareg tribes (traditionally slave-owning) is the root cause of Niger’s vulnerability.” The current President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, and current Prime Minister, Brigi Rafini have both been in office since April 2011, serving 10 years as lawmakers. The 2020 Human Development Index ranked Niger at the bottom of the list caused by Niger’s late criminalization of slavery.

Similarly, reporters have described events involving seeing “women displaying the heavy brass anklets they had been forced to wear to prevent them from escaping.” Oftentimes, these women’s knowledge of laws and rights is limited in their areas, especially with no education or help in sight.

The Niger government has strained the workload of Timidria by the failure to identify government officials’ role in slavery-ownership. Despite this, Timidria is present all throughout Niger. It has over 680 offices in villages and camps, 182 offices in rural and urban communities and a growing legal team among its 300,000 members and supporters. This makes it crucially important for the organizations, with or without government assistance, to raise awareness of slavery that lingers underneath the heavy stigma of oppression.

– Ayesha Swaray
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Hong KongHuman trafficking is a persistent problem all around the world, including in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region located in the People’s Republic of China. The Justice Centre Hong Kong produced a study in 2016 on human trafficking in Hong Kong and it was found that one in six of the 370,000 migrant workers in the city were forced labor victims. While Hong Kong does take steps to eradicate human trafficking, it is important to study human trafficking in every region of the world so that it can be prevented in the future.

Recent Changes and Legislation

Lawmakers in Hong Kong proposed that the government pass an anti-slavery bill based on Great Britain’s “Modern Slavery Act.” However, two of those lawmakers, Dennis Kwok and Kenneth Leung, were removed from Parliament, leaving many questioning whether the bill would ever get passed. A member of The Mekong Club, a group in Hong Kong dedicated to fighting modern slavery said, “There is little chance that this important bill will move forward.” This, in conjunction with the current protests in Hong Kong likely means that lawmakers have had little time to focus on anti-human trafficking legislation.

Another recent development on human trafficking in the nation is that in mid-2020 the U.S. demoted Hong Kong from Tier 2 on the Trafficking in Persons Report to Tier 2 Watch List, suggesting that Hong Kong “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.” The government of Hong Kong disputed the U.S. human trafficking report’s claims, arguing that the report was not based on evidence and looks at minor flaws rather than the big picture.

Hong Kong’s Approach to Resolving Human Trafficking

One problem with the nation’s current anti-human trafficking legislation is that the city only defines human trafficking as “involving cross-border sex trafficking for prostitution,” which means the legislation does not cover “labor exploitation, debt bondage, domestic servitude or similar practices.” Unfortunately, the legal system can make it difficult for those who are trafficked in Hong Kong to get the help they need or support from legal authorities.

While anti-human trafficking laws could be amended, lawmakers and academics have shown there are creative solutions to the problem. Reed Smooth Richards Butler, a law firm, worked with Liberty Asia, an anti-slavery charity, to create the Legal Gap Analysis report, which explains how other laws can be used to persecute human traffickers. For example, individuals responsible could be arrested for false imprisonment rather than human trafficking directly. Creative efforts like these are important to find solutions to salient issues, including the trafficking of people.

Protecting Human Rights

While the government can certainly improve its response to human trafficking in Hong Kong, the country has implemented many measures to help reduce human trafficking and protect human rights. Human trafficking needs addressing and analyzing the nuances in human trafficking policy can help incapacitate the industry globally.

Madelynn Einhorn
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Mauritania
Mauritania in coastal west Africa is among the most impoverished countries in the world, with 31% of its 4 million people, or around 1.2 million people, living beneath the poverty line as of 2014. Consequently, child poverty in Mauritania is likely to be one of the gravest situations in the world, even though reliable data regarding child poverty is scarce due to the fact that 56% of births in Mauritania do not have legal documentation.

The Background

Despite the abundance of natural resources present in the lands and waters of Mauritania, decades of political and social instability coupled with corruption, oppression and a centuries-long history of ethnicity-based enslavement have created conditions that continually exacerbate child poverty and poverty in general. Other factors such as frequent droughts in and around the Sahara Desert in Northeastern Mauritania also deprive people of food and income to feed themselves or their children. Accordingly, one reliable indicator of the severity of child poverty in Mauritania is the fact that an estimated 19.2% of children under the age of 5 were underweight in 2018.

Child Poverty and Slavery in Mauritania

Poverty and slavery in Mauritania interconnect. Though Mauritania abolished slavery in 1981 and criminalized it in 2007, the persistence of the oppressive ethnic caste system continues to deprive the Haratine population, an ethnic minority in Mauritania, of receiving the social and economic freedoms that the rest of the country receives. As a result, 20% of Mauritania’s total population––and half of all Haratines–– remain enslaved, either explicitly through the threat of punishment or de facto due to socioeconomic discrimination and indentured servitude in 2018.

People inherited and often still inherit slave status in Mauritanian society. As a result, many children are born into slavery to serve the slave masters of their parents or the masters sell them to other families where they often suffer neglect and injury. This continuing cultural practice of hereditary slavery perpetuates a self-sustaining cycle of poverty in the Haratine population of Mauritania. This is one of the ways by which child poverty in Mauritania manifests itself––and by which the practice of slavery continues to maintain itself.

Education

As slaves, children do not receive an education that could provide them with valuable knowledge and skills to improve their living situation. As a result, the threat of living in near-certain poverty if they were to leave their master’s household traps children with their masters. With few viable alternatives to make enough money to live, “former [child] slaves (commonly descendants of slaves) continue to endure slave-like practices, including working for their former masters in exchange for food, money, and lodging” according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs.

In 2014, estimates determined that 18.2% of children in Mauritania, ages 5 to 14 years old, were working and not receiving an education. An additional 10.8% of children in the same age group were reportedly splitting their time between work and school. Furthermore, UNICEF estimates that the primary school completion rate in Mauritania is 63% indicating that more than one-third of children in Mauritania do not receive a sufficient education.

Solutions

One promising solution that focuses on reinvesting in childhood development in order to break the poverty cycle is providing direct transfer payments to people––primarily mothers–– in impoverished villages on the condition that they attend classes on hygiene, nutrition and early childhood development. This program is jointly funded by the Mauritanian government, the World Bank, the U.K. Department for International Development and the French Agency for Development. Households receiving the payments have seen their families’ and their village’s living conditions improve as they take more care to prevent disease and malnutrition. One of the main objectives of the program is “to invest in the next generation and break the poverty cycle by tackling intergenerational poverty.”

Though Mauritania is currently one of the most impoverished nations in the world, its young population and abundance of natural resources should help the country achieve long-term prosperity.

– Willy Carlsen
Photo: Flickr

Anti-slavery Efforts in Mauritania
Mauritania, described in a CNN documentary as “Slavery’s Last Stronghold,” was the last country in the world to formally abolish slavery. Arrests for protesting slavery and lax punitive practices have shown Mauritania’s long list of subsequent anti-slavery legislation to be merely lip service. Still, recent attention and a growing frequency of successful prosecutions hint at incremental progress and intersectional anti-slavery efforts in Mauritania.

The Situation

Since outlawing slavery in 1981, Mauritanian officials have publicly denied any presence of the practice in their borders. In spite of these claims, data that independent observers collected shows that slavery is still prevalent: the Global Slavery Index (G.S.I.) estimates that 90,000 Mauritanians live in modern slavery, a figure likely lower than reality because the government obstructs all efforts to study the practice.

Mauritania ranks sixth on the G.S.I’s Prevalence Index, behind North Korea, Eritrea, Burundi, the Central African Republic and Afghanistan. Other estimates, from local sources, claim that as much as 20% of the population lives in slavery.

Because the Mauritanian government has categorically denied the existence of slavery, efforts to measure or sanction the practice have made slow progress. Major sites like the Washington Post claim that there are no reliable statistics on how many people are enslaved due to government obstruction and cultural norms that make measurement difficult. In fact, Mauritania’s census does not count enslaved people. Slavery did not receive criminalization until 2015, and Mauritanian courts have largely neglected to prosecute individuals accused of enslavement.

SOS-Esclaves and Anti-Slavery International

Still, anti-slavery efforts in Mauritania have seen small victories of varying impact. SOS-Esclaves, joined by Anti-Slavery International, filed a successful lawsuit in 2016 that served two former slave masters a five-year prison sentence and forced them to pay significant compensation to two victims. They won a similar conviction in November 2019, but the defendants appealed their sentence and remain free. The most recent win came on July 9, 2020, when courts served two former slave masters 10 and 15-year sentences and ordered the state to assist them in attaining citizenship. Because a lack of citizenship is one of the greatest obstacles to former slaves’ self-sufficiency, NGOs have touted this latest ruling as a significant victory.

The increasing frequency of these legal wins suggests incremental but steady progress in anti-slavery efforts in Mauritania. Other wins highlight the intersectionality of the issue. Alongside the first two successful convictions in 2016, successful appeals downgraded the charges of two anti-slavery activists who peacefully protested slavery, allowing them to walk free. According to the think tank Freedom House, convictions like these are common obstructive tactics that the government uses. Mauritanian courts frequently convict individuals for activism and inhibit a free press: “journalists risk arrest for reporting on sensitive topics,” and the government “continues to arrest antislavery and antidiscrimination activists.”

The Challenges

Non-governmental organizations’ efforts to stop slavery are beholden to a political system that actively opposes their cause. In turn, Mauritania’s government has resisted international pressure to reform. In January 2019, the United States terminated its trade agreement with Mauritania, citing forced labor practices and government retaliation against peaceful activism.

Further, the Sahara Desert covers 90% of Mauritania’s territory, making only 0.2% of Mauritanian land farmable. In Mauritania’s southern deserts, slavery and poverty deeply intertwine. Masters allow many enslaved families to live and farm on their own but the families have to give up a portion of their harvest each time their masters visit. When people manage to escape, they often gather in desert villages called adwaba where food and water are scarce, and conditions of poverty mirror those of their previous lives. The region’s harsh climate and lack of resources make it extremely difficult to flee abuse or find better circumstances.

Anti-slavery efforts in Mauritania are also battling against ingrained racial distinctions. A majority of slaves are the descendants of dark-skinned people who lighter-skinned Arab Berbers captured centuries before. In interviews, slaves claim that they lack representation in a government filled with lighter-skinned Mauritanians.

Ways to Abolish Slavery in Mauritania

Slavery in Mauritania deeply ties to the country’s cultural, political and geographic roots. The makers of “Slavery’s Last Stronghold” argue that substantively abolishing slavery in Mauritania means addressing the deep poverty that many dark-skinned Mauritanians face. In one interview they conducted, a former slave who had suffered beating and rape by her master nonetheless described him as a benevolent relative because “he also made sure she was fed in a country where many die of hunger.”

The approach that they and local anti-slavery organizations advocate addresses not only slavery but also the issues at its roots: poverty, famine, lack of citizenship or legal rights, obstructions of justice and persecution of activists. Further, slavery rests at the intersection of race, gender, poverty and geography in Mauritania. Successfully prosecuting slave masters brings about slow and incremental progress that inconsistent rulings, which the African Union Court condemned in 2018, still undermine. Anti-slavery efforts in Mauritania encompass improvements in criminalization, but they also extend the other areas mentioned. All they are missing is unity and resources.

– Skye Jacobs
Photo: Flickr

Slave Labor in LibyaIn the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, an outbreak of news coverage uncovered the mass institutionalized racism within the United States. However, it is important to also bring to light the racist acts in other countries, such as slave labor in Libya, that still continue the prejudice against black communities today.

The migration of more than 150,000 migrants from Libya to Europe motivated the government to allocate funding towards the Libyan Coast Guard. As a result, Libya accumulated at least 400,000 refugees in detention centers, concentration camps and slave auctions. Currently, there are three times the amount of people in these modern slavery systems in comparison to the transatlantic trade in the 1600s. Here are five ways to help end slave labor in Libya.

5 Ways to Help End Slave Labor in Libya

  1. Social Media: As social media is becoming more popular by the minute, try raising awareness about the mistreatment of migrants in Libya through social media. It is crucial, especially with the sentiment of the Black Lives Matter Movement, to provide resources to the community on how to help during this crisis.
  2. Email or Call U.S. Congressional and International Leaders: Support from the United States is instrumental in providing foreign aid to refugees in Libya. For example, calling attention to certain legislation, such as the International Affairs Budget or the Global Health Security Act, could ensure safety and enrichment for countries at risk. It is also important to grasp the attention of the most vocal leaders across the globe. One could also contact different U.N. ambassadors about taking priority in this cause and mobilizing efforts to solve this global issue.
  3. Boycott Slave Labor in Large Industries: Living in a primarily capitalistic economy, many do not realize how slavery persists through global businesses and industries. Popular brands, such as Nestle and H&M, have used slave labor previously in support of mass production. With over 850,000 textile workers since 2018, H&M does not provide its laborers up to minimum wage. In fact, many of the large industries outside of H&M have their laborers work up to 11 hours a day for six days a week. However, there are simple measures that one can take daily to boycott slave labor. For example, one could support smaller black-owned businesses, such as Aaks, to foster an antislavery sentiment within the community. Other examples of black-owned businesses that follow ethical guidelines are Moda Operandi and Aliya Wanek.
  4. Support Antislavery Movements: Many organizations, such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM), protect victims from human trafficking and support safe departures for refugees. Adding on, smaller projects, such as the Polaris Project, have geared themselves towards ending global enslavement. The Polaris Project takes significant value in its name. It translates to the “North Star” which slaves used as a navigation tool for their freedom. To be more specific, the Polaris Project has run a national human trafficking hotline that has served as a model in many other countries. Having more than 4,000 service providers in the U.S. alone, the Polaris Project has helped survivors and victims who have experienced human trafficking. In addition, it has researched and formed databases, such as the Global Modern Slavery Directory, to connect various countries in ending the slave trade. As of now, more than 2,900 organizations have the database to end human trafficking and slave trading internationally.
  5. Restorative Justice Within Libya: Libya does not criminalize labor trafficking, which allows slave labor to endure. This is largely due to weak law enforcement and the judicial institution in Libya. For example, labor trafficking is not a criminal law, which allows for slave labor to persist. To take part in restorative action, it is necessary to assemble support to provide legal reform in overlooked matters, such as labor trafficking, within Libya. Some organizations that are combating this issue are the Ministry of Interior (MOI) and the Directorate For Combating Illegal Migration (DCIM).

Although the slave trade remains to be an integral problem in Libya, some are making various strides in the fight against slave labor and labor trafficking. For example, the United Nations made it an official goal to end slavery by 2030. In addition, the United Nations Human Rights Council is providing more funding towards antislavery actions as well as providing health care to migrants and refugees. With this support, Libya is taking action in making internal improvements, such as collaborating with IOM on imperative initiatives such as the better treatment of migrants. With numerous efforts together, there is more solvency not just in Libya, but in the widespread systemic oppression that many face today.

– Aishwarya Thiyagarajan
Photo: Flickr

 10 Facts About Human Trafficking in China
Most people know China for its immense production capacity, sky-rocketing population, and of course its incredible cuisine. The human trafficking at the source of the nation’s production capacity, however, often remains unknown outside the country. While China’s aggressive censorship policies create a difficult barrier for the flow of information, here are 10 facts about human trafficking in China.

 10 Facts About Human Trafficking in China

  1. The Government Prosecutes Some Cases: The Chinese Ministry of Public Security (MPS) reported investigating 1,004 cases of human trafficking and arresting 2,036 suspects in 2016. China convicted 435 individuals for sex trafficking, 19 individuals for labor trafficking and 1,302 individuals in other cases slavery.
  2. Apple and Sony Offer “Internships”: Foxconn, a Chinese electronics manufacturer that produces parts for Apple’s iPhone, reportedly utilizes exploitative working conditions. The company forces students to work in the manufacturing sector by threatening to fail them and limit their ability to graduate. While job postings often list these as internships, they usually are just production line jobs in dangerous factories. Similar cases of forced labor have occurred in electronics factories supplying major brands such as Apple, Acer, HP, and even Sony, according to The Wallstreet Journal.
  3. China’s Imports Support Human Trafficking: In 2015, China imported a total value of $1.6 billion of electronic products from Malaysia, which employs forced labor to produce electronic goods. China also participates in coal trade with North Korea—importing $954 million worth of coal in 2016—which allegedly uses state-imposed forced labor to sustain many of its economic sectors, including the coal industry.
  4. Some Chinese Buy Myanmar Women for Babies: Most know about China’s one-child policy, meant to slow its burgeoning population. The black market for babies, however, remains relatively unknown outside the nation. Traffickers usually sell women, originating from Myanmar’s northern Kachin and Shan States, for some amount between $3,000 to $13,000 after luring them across the border by promising good jobs. Traffickers lock up and rape many of the victims, and force them to bear the children.
  5. China has 61 Million Left-Behind Children: With China’s booming urban economy, many people in rural areas migrate for work, often leaving behind their families and children completely. While previous estimates documented 61 million of these left-behind children in rural areas, the Chinese authorities officially altered the definition of left-behind children, resulting in a significant decrease in their numbers to 9 million in 2016. These children are prime victims for different traffickers for uses such as forced labor, sexual exploitation and others.
  6. China is One of the Largest Human Smuggling Victims: In 2011, more than 40.3 million Chinese resided overseas in 148 countries. Human smuggling syndicates, like the Snakeheads, leverage its criminal connections to transport Chinese people to other nations. Fees for transnational smuggling vary from $1,000 to $70,000 (average of $50,000) per person. Oftentimes these migrants end up dead or the gangs who smuggled them extort for more money.
  7. It Affects the U.S.: Traffickers lure many Chinese women to the U.S. with promises of “$10,000 per month, board and lodging, and opportunities to travel around.” Garden of Hope, an NGO in New York has helped 1,528 women and 420 youths escape human trafficking since its inception 13 years ago, said Yuanfen Chi, executive director of the organization. Starting in September 2013, criminal courts in New York viewed workers at illegal massage salons (where people offered sexual) not as normal criminals, but as potential human trafficking victims. Liu stated that these victims can remain and work in the U.S. if traffickers forced them to perform sexual acts or work by fraud or force as defined in The Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
  8. North Korean Refugees Face Trafficking in China: The smuggling of North Korean refugees into China constitutes part of a multi-million-dollar criminal industry, operated by a vast network of brokers in both countries. These brokers arrange for guards in both countries to allow for safe passage, often costing refugees around $8,000. This price will only increase as crackdowns on border security intensify in both countries. Once these refugees arrive in China, they become extremely vulnerable to trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, cyber pornography and forced marriage.
  9. China Attempts to Crack Down on Marriage Trafficking: The Supreme People’s Court issued a new judicial interpretation on trafficking of women and children that entered into effect on January 1, 2017. It defines illegal trafficking as “matchmaking that involves subtle coercive measures such as withholding of passports, restriction of freedom of movement, and taking advantage of vulnerabilities such as language barriers, or unfamiliarity with the destination in order to sell the victims against their will.”
  10. Child Forced Labor is Not Overexaggerated: In 2016, police found cases of forced child labor in a garment factory in Changshu, Jiangsu Province, where managers forced underage workers to work overtime, beating them if they refused. The factory took the workers’ phones and passport if they tried to escape. The new judicial interpretation mentioned in point 9 of these 10 facts about human trafficking in China should help stop some of these cases of child trafficking and forced labor.

While China’s significant activity in human trafficking remains unknown in many aspects, these 10 facts about human trafficking in China shed some light on modern-day slavery in one of the largest and most censored nations in the world.

– Raleigh Dewan
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and Modern Slavery in India
India, with a population of approximately 1.29 billion people, is the world’s second-largest country. The South Asian nation currently has the third-highest overall GDP in the world. However, though it ranks third in overall GDP, India’s GDP per capita is considerably lower. This ranks India as 156th out of all the countries in the world. Certainly, a number of factors affect this disparity between national wealth and individual economic hardship. That said, one thing is certain: with an estimated 21.9 percent of the population living below the poverty line, India’s lack of wealth distribution feeds directly into the intersection of poverty and modern slavery in India.

Slavery is Still Prevalent

Many may not be familiar with the fact that slavery is still a very real issue in countries like India. This is because it simply does not receive the same media coverage as other topics. Slavery is quite prevalent in present-day India, especially in rural areas that heavily rely on agriculture. In fact, according to estimates by the Global Slavery Index, approximately 18.3 million people are living in modern slavery in India. This staggering number represents a portion of the many impoverished people in India who are trying to emerge from their socioeconomic situation.

Vishnu Rao-Sharma, a student who frequented New Delhi, gave The Borgen Project some insight on poverty and modern slavery in India. Rao-Sharma recalled that “Poverty in India is so jarring because of how visible it is. Within just miles of the New Delhi airport, one is plunged into a devastating reality that is foreign to many first-time visitors. This reality consists of mangled limbs, emaciated bodies, and rotting teeth. No one is spared. Indian men, women and children are all prone to India’s seemingly inescapable poverty.”

Lack of Other Options Leads Indians to Become Slaves

The issue with combating poverty and modern slavery in India is that they both affect each other. This is why so many poor people in India have few options to survive. Rather than living on the street and begging, they have little choice but to enter into realities like bonded labor. Bonded labor, one of the most common forms of modern slavery in India, is most similar to many people’s idea of indentured servitude. This is a service agreement in which employers bind laborers to them. They work long, arduous hours in exchange for food, shelter and small sums of money. The lack of sufficient employment opportunities leaves many impoverished Indians with no choice but enter into modern slavery. This feeds right back into the cyclical nature of poverty and modern slavery in India.

Fighting Poverty and Slavery in India

Though India’s poverty and slavery situations may appear dismal, there are groups and initiatives focused on resolving such issues. For instance, the international organization GlobeAware fights poverty in India by sending people to help the poor. Another example is Anti-Slavery International, a group committed to eradicating all forms of modern slavery around the world. Organizations such as these are working tirelessly to try and improve the dreadful conditions for many people in India.

Since the issues of poverty and modern slavery in India are so interwoven, organizations around the world are working to free India from both. Eliminating even one would hopefully result in the elimination of the other issue. If more groups, like the aforementioned, could invest time, money and resources into improving living conditions in the nation, the outlook for the situation in India should improve. Viable solutions may not be so far down the road after all.

– Ethan Marchetti
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Child Labor in Mali
Mali, the eighth-largest country on the African continent, is home to approximately 18 million individuals, more than half of which are children. Historically, Mali has suffered economically due to excessive conflicts between multiple military coups and rebel groups. With 67 percent of the population under the age of 25, children have become the most vulnerable in a nation growing with violence and slavery. These 10 facts about child labor in Mali will detail the country’s history of child labor and how it is combatting it.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Mali

  1. Approximately half of the Malian population live in absolute poverty making children most vulnerable to hereditary slavery. Mali is one of the 31 landlocked developing countries and one of the 49 least developed countries in the world according to the United Nations (U.N.). The U.N. describes Mali as the “poorest and weakest segment of the international community.” Due to such poverty, children have little to no opportunities that ensure the practice of basic human rights and often become child laborers as a result.
  2. One of the most important of the 10 facts about child labor in Mali is that Malian children often become child laborers in an effort to bring financial support to their families. Today, 56 percent engage in child labor. The earliest age of a typical Malian child laborer is five while the most common age group is between the ages of seven and 14.
  3. The Malian government is making an effort to monitor child workers through the implementation of various social programs. The indication that children as young as five have worked, however, proves that the country has inadequately enforced such programs. Some of these programs are the National Policy for Promotion and Protection of Children and a new five-year plan that the  Malian Ministry of Justice that Mali adopted in February 2019. The five-year plan will combat trafficking in persons and assimilated practices.
  4. One in three Malian child labor victims must work in hazardous conditions where they may become exposed to accidents and diseases. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs, the most common industries for Mali’s child laborers are agriculture and gold mining.
  5. Only a mere 54 percent of all Malian children attend school and as a result, most Malian child labors are illiterate. Organizations like UNICEF and Save the Children provide the protection and knowledge these children need to overcome extreme impoverishment. Although Save the Children’s primary focus in Mali is on “revising curricula and enhancing quality in the classroom” for students, it has implemented other effective programs that work with adolescents, primary-school learners and early childhood as well.
  6. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the Malian government has been unsuccessful at fully implementing the National Plan to Combat Child Labor and other social programs due to insufficient funding. These initiatives were to examine the root problems of slavery in the nation. Moving forward, the government plans to reorganize its funding tactics of several enforcement agencies. The Ministry for the Promotion of Women, Children and the Family (MPFEF) is one of few agencies in Mali responsible for protecting vulnerable children and monitoring any violations of child labor laws.
  7. Child laborers, boys and girls alike, are often victims of sex trafficking. Approximations state that people sell thousands of Malian children and exploit them within multiple industries across the nation.
  8. To avoid others from determining Mali a Tier 3 nation, the Malian government agreed to implement more effective programs to help at-risk children from slavery in 2014. This was after failing to distribute anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts in 2012. This effort was not successful as the  Mali government failed to prosecute and convict perpetrators of injustice nor did it identify a sufficient number of trafficking victims. Tier 3 nations are countries that do not comply with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 which is monitored by the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
  9. In 2016, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiatives (ABA ROLI), with support from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, resumed its work in Mali and began programming to combat child labor. Through special training in Timbuktu, lawyers and civil representatives received tools to properly protect potential victims of slavery. Many lawyers and attendees of the training indicated no previous knowledge of the statistics pertaining to forced labor.
  10. In 2017, Mali raised the overall minimum wage worker’s age to 15 in order to combat child labor according to the U.S. Department of Labor. By doing so, Mali now complies with international standards. Before this transition, Mali had no permanent standards for child workers’ regulations.

Mali continues to struggle as one of the world’s poorest nations. These 10 facts about child labor in Mali illustrate how extreme poverty has driven slavery within the nation. Despite numerous failed attempts to control child labor, Mali has seen some advancement in recent years.

– Danyella Wilder
Photo: Flickr

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