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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 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

anti-trafficking organizations
Countless organizations around the world, big and small, conduct efforts to combat human trafficking in all of its forms. Here are three anti-trafficking organizations trying to make a difference and give hope to the millions of victims and survivors of this heinous transnational crime.

1) Anti-Slavery International

Based in the United Kingdom, Anti-Slavery International has been working to combat slavery since 1839 and this year is celebrating its 175th anniversary. Originally called the Anti-Slavery Society, it focused on emancipating slaves in the British colonies, Americas and the Caribbean in order to bring an end to the Transatlantic Slave trade.

Anti-Slavery International continues to combat modern slavery through advocacy, public outreach, education and its many campaigns. Some of its current campaigns include projects to combat trafficked labor in the Thai fishing industry, pass legislation that seeks to protect domestic workers around the world, end the chocolate industry’s role in child trafficking in the Ivory Coast and eradicate forced labor in the cotton industry of Uzbekistan.

Successes from its campaign activities include the passage of an International Labor Organization Convention on Domestic Labor, a European Union Human Trafficking Directive and the establishment of legislation criminalizing the use of forced labor as a form of trafficking in the U.K.

2) International Justice Mission

The main purpose of the International Justice Mission is to protect those in poverty from fear of violence which they are disproportionately subjected to due to a lack of legal protections throughout many justice systems in the developing world.

IJM works to protect the poor from violent people through partnerships with local authorities who help carry out four projects: rescuing victims, bringing criminals to justice, restoring survivors and strengthening justice systems. IJM’s method works as a three-phase program called Justice System Transformation.

The first phase focuses on the victims of trafficking: IJM works with local actors to rescue and restore victims of trafficking while at the same time bringing to justice those who perpetrate the crime. The second phase focuses on working with local actors to reform justice institutions so that they better address human trafficking and other forms of violent crime related to slavery. The third and final phase involves monitoring operations to support the continuation of just responses to slavery related crimes in countries with newly reformed justice systems.

3) Love146

The foundation of Love146 begins with a heart-wrenching story about the co-founders’ journey to Thailand and the child slavery they saw undercover in a brothel. The campaign is named after one particular girl they witnessed in the brothel, numbered 146, who refused to give up the fight against the crimes being committed against her.

Love146’s main focus is to combat the trafficking and exploitation of children. Their mission statement explains, “We believe in the power of Love and its ability to affect sustainable change. Love is the foundation of our motivation.” Their love and human compassion approach is composed of four interconnected programs.

The first program, which focuses on caring for survivors, involves the operation of safe houses in regions where child trafficking is prevalent within which victims can fully recover and reintegrate into society as healthy and prosperous adults.

The second program consists of prevention education programs which seek to educate children in at-risk areas about trafficking operations, how to spot traffickers and what to do to avoid being caught up in and how to report human trafficking rings.

The third program revolves around training professionals who frequently work with children, such as teachers, in learning how to spot trafficking victims, how to report these crimes and how to help victims who they may come into contact with.

The last program is an advocacy effort to empower those who fight against human trafficking through greater coordination and organization in order to more effectively combat the highly organized criminal trafficking network.

 Erin Sullivan

Sources: Love146 1, Love146 2, Love146 3, Love146 4, Love146 5, Love146 6, International Justice Mission 1, International Justice Mission 2, International Justice Mission 3, Anti-Slavery International 1, Anti-Slavery International 2, Anti-Slavery International 3, Anti-Slavery International 4
Photo: LoveGreater