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Slavery has been practiced for centuries, and although many believe it is a practice of the past, modern-day slavery is very prevalent in today’s society. It’s estimated that about 40 million people are modern slaves, and this article will explore how to end such prominent slavery.

Modern-day slavery has been defined as “debt bondage, serfdom, forced marriage of a child for the exploitation of that child.” Out of the 40 million people trapped in the slave system, around 25 million people are in forced labor, 15 million are involved in forced marriage and five million people work as sex slaves. Statistics also show that 25 percent of slaves are children and 71 percent are women.

Parts of Asia and the Pacific hold the most substantial amount of slaves, while Europe, Africa, the Arab states and the Americas also suffer from the same crisis. It is essential to know what steps and measures can be taken to know how to end slavery.

Social Media

Social media is a key component on how to end slavery. Modern slavery is not a priority compared to other political agenda movements, so utilizing social media to bring awareness to the issue can be a significant first step.

In this age of technology, social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram started as a device used to spread and share news, as well as connect individuals; thus, a simple post can be the beginning of an entire movement.

Education

Another way to end slavery is to educate yourself on the topic. Be able to note the difference between slavery of the past compared to the new definition of slavery; learn which demographic is most affected by slavery; discover which organizations strive to end slavery; and finally, how you can make a difference.

Donating Money and Time

Becoming involved in organizations that solely work to end slavery such as the Anti-Slavery International or the CNN Freedom Project is another excellent action-item, as is joining campaigns or hosting fundraisers for the organizations.

Fundraising at schools, churches, after-school programs and around your local community can significantly help organizations fund campaigns and other events that will lead to the end of slavery. Another significant method of donating time is to write to local newspapers and magazines to spread concerns.

Pay Attention to Survivors

Fighting for freedom is an important step to ending slavery, but ensuring that survivors do not fall back into the system is just as essential. A way to help survivors is finding them jobs and helping them adjust to society.

Survivors can also be necessary tools for how to end slavery — people tend to sympathize with survivors when they hear their testimonies and experiences first-hand.

Contact Your Government

Possibly one of the most beneficial measures is to express your concerns with modern slavery to your local government; contacting your senator or representative can in fact lead to mass amounts of change. The United States government has an essential hand in international affairs, and one should use this privilege as a tool to fight against modern-day slavery.

Slavery has been a virus to this world for too long, and now it is finally time to put an end to this dehumanizing practice.

– Cassidy Dyce

Photo: Flickr

Women’s Empowerment in South SudanOver the past several decades, South Sudan has experienced severe political division, violence and unbearable poverty. Millions of people have been forced to flee their homes to neighboring countries for asylum. The violence has been targeted at men, women, children, the disabled and the elderly. However, women and young girls are considered a particularly vulnerable population for violence, specifically physical and sexual violence. This sometimes includes forced marriages. In spite of the vulnerability and risk, women’s empowerment in South Sudan is growing. Here are some things to know about the empowerment of women in South Sudan.

Current Situation

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), approximately 475,000 women and girls are at risk for physical and sexual violence. Most recent estimates indicate that more than half of young women between the ages of 15-24 have experienced some form of gender-based violence. The violence women are experiencing in South Sudan is of serious concern and importance because it deeply impacts women’s physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health, and may also place them at an increased risk for contracting diseases, such as the incurable HIV.

Forced marriages are a frequent practice in South Sudan. Almost 50 percent of South Sudanese girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are married, and some are as young as 12. Forced marriages have severe psychological implications for girls and women, but experts also argue that it contributes to the high levels of poverty, gender gaps in education and the country having one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.

The perpetual gender-based violence and forced marriage create serious physical and mental health concerns, limits their potential for progress and improvement and strips them of their basic human rights.

What is being done?

The United Nations Development Programme currently works to empower women in South Sudan through education and awareness. Awareness is one of the fundamental aspects of their work in South Sudan, as fear and stigma frequently prevent women from seeking the help they need. The program also provides additional support to women who have already experienced severe violence through counseling services and medical assistance.

The UNDP is also working with the government to encourage women’s empowerment in South Sudan. The government is working to address gender-based violence through mental health support programs and through national planning. South Sudan is in the process of developing a new permanent constitution and building new institutions that reflect the country’s movement towards gender equality and the empowerment of women.

What can be done?

Currently, South Sudan lacks severe governmental infrastructure, and overall the country has some of the worst human development indicators across the globe.  Many programs related to women’s empowerment in South Sudan are underfunded as gender-based violence is not considered to be a priority for government spending, due to the country’s high rate of poverty.

However, poverty and gender-based violence go hand-in-hand. If fewer women are subjected to violence and forced marriages, more women would then have the ability to work and find jobs; in turn, lifting individuals, and possibly families, out of poverty. Women’s empowerment in South Sudan needs additional awareness, coupled with increased funding in order to provide women with the best future possible.

– Sarah Jane Fraser

Photo: Flickr

Burkina Faso_Merriage
In Burkina Faso, forced marriage is a frequent occurrence, especially for girls of a very young age. Over 52 percent of women in the country are married before the age of 18 and 10 percent are married before the age of 15. Forced marriage often puts girls in jeopardy of increasing health resources and losing access to education.

Child marriage rates vary throughout the country but can be as high as 86 percent in some regions. The practice is connected to both poverty and tradition. There are also tangible links to lack of education, with girls being more at risk for child marriage if they are less educated.

Forced marriage in Burkina Faso is technically illegal, but the law is rarely enforced. It does not prevent traditional or religious marriages, which creates a loophole in the law, causing many girls to be forced into marriage. The law also defines a lower legal marriage age for girls than boys. Girls can legally marry at age 17 and boys at age 20. Many girls are married before age 17, despite the current laws in place to prevent the practice.

Girls as young as 11 can be forced into marriage. This equates to a huge age difference between a young girl and her male spouse. The gap can vary from 30 to 50 years. In many cases, these men are engaging in polygamy and already have one or more wives.

Forced marriage is usually motivated by economic or social incentives. Sometimes marriage is promised at birth or during early childhood, often including a dowry from the husband’s family that consists of money or land.

Risks Associated with Forced Marriage

There are numerous health risks for young girls that are forced into marriage. Women are expected to bear children at the husband’s discretion, which can be extremely unsafe at such a young age. Complications during pregnancy may cause injury or even death to the young mother. Physical and sexual violence is also common among forced marriages.

Marrying early endangers girls’ futures as well. Wives are expected to perform all household chores and are often denied access to education or economic opportunity. The level of female access to education in Burkina Faso is already low, at only 64.2 percent, but girls that are forced into marriage are more likely to give up school.

Joint Efforts Toward Prevention

Burkina Faso created a “National Strategy to End Child Marriage” in 2015. The goal of the project is to reduce the occurrence of child marriage by 2025. The strategy is supported by U.N. agencies as well as political and religious leaders throughout the country. Objectives include preventing child marriage and supporting victims of child marriage.

This is a step in the right direction, but the country still has a long way to go to comply with international human rights standards.

Lindsay Harris

Photo: Flickr

vows_of_poverty
Research done by CARE found that girls in 26 countries are more likely to be forced into marriage before the age of 18 than to enroll in secondary school. The report Vows of Poverty was released on Oct. 11, 2015, the same day as International Day of the Girl.

The two stunning figures presented in the report were: 39,000 girls around the world are forced to marry each day, and 62 million girls are currently not in school, with half of them being adolescents.

The tradition of child marriage is what continues the cycle of poverty in developing countries. “Every time a girl under 18 is forced into marriage or prevented from attending school, it’s a missed opportunity to improve that girl’s life and strike at the roots of poverty,” said CARE Australia Chief Executive Dr. Julia Newton-Howes.

The U.S. Department of State initiated an Adolescent Girl Strategy in cooperation with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. The strategy focuses on enhancing American foreign policy to end child marriage.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama encourage efforts to educate adolescent girls through the Let Girls Learn initiative, which focuses on “community-led solutions that reduce barriers between adolescent girls and their education, including the elimination of child marriage.”

On a national level, governments are reinforcing laws that prevent child marriage. The 2014 Girl Summit resulted in 43 nations signing commitments to end the practice of child marriage. Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Mali, Tanzania, Yemen and Zambia have recently initiated campaigns and legal reforms to end child marriage.

In the Amhara region of Ethiopia, communities have stopped at least 180 child marriages since 2013 thanks to the TESFA program. CARE partnered with the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and the Nike Foundation to break the cycle of poverty. The program focused on improving girls’ education, health, business and financial literacy.

In Bangladesh, the local women’s empowerment group, EKATA, works to end the tradition of child marriage by discussing with parents the adverse effects of the practice and urging them not to force their daughters into early marriage.

Seeing as poverty promotes child marriage practices, in South Sudan cash incentives are given to parents who enroll or keep their daughters in school. In Senegal, community and religious leaders publicly criticize the practice of child marriage.

“We focus on women and girls because we know that empowering women is the key to ending poverty,” stated Howes.

Marie Helene Ngom

Sources: Vows of Poverty Report, The Hill, Leadersinheels
Photo: Wikimedia

Child-Marriages
Every minute, 28 girls around the world who are under the age of 18 are forced into marriage. Child marriage is one of the most serious human rights violations of today. An average of 15 million girls are annually forced to marry before they are of legal marriageable age, and the consequences can be severe. Child brides are more likely to face domestic violence, HIV/AIDS and complications during pregnancy. Some brides are able to escape their marriage, but are then forced to return to an abusive home because they are not able to survive on their own.

Although there are laws that prohibit child marriage, these marriages still persist for many reasons, including poverty and cultural traditions. Parents who are poor tend to try to marry their children off at an earlier age in order to have one less mouth to feed. Also, some countries still practice dowry-giving (in which the bride’s family has to give a present to a groom at the time of marriage). Since dowries are lower for younger brides, many families who feel the need to give a dowry try to marry their daughters off at a young age.

Luckily, there are programs in place that work to reduce the amount of child marriages taking place throughout the world. One of the main ways to help is to increase the amount of access to education that girls receive. Girls who are able to complete their education are more likely to be able to support themselves, and therefore less likely to be forced into marriage in order to survive. Educating communities also plays a large part in decreasing the number of child marriages which occur.

Canada has been an important player in the fight against early and forced marriages. As Girls Not Brides states, in 2013, Canada and Zambia co-led a U.N. Resolution to combat child, early and forced marriages. They are working to pass a second resolution by mid-November of 2015. Canada has also give $20 million to UNICEF in order to fight child marriage in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gambia, Yemen and Zambia.

The Canadian Broadcasting Channel reports that on Wednesday, July 8, 2015, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister announced that the government would give $10 million to end child, early and forced marriages worldwide. $2.3 million of that money is to go towards promoting education and skills training for girls in the Commonwealth countries, and the rest of the money is meant for local community groups, governments and NGOs which work to end child marriages.

This increase in funding is part of the Canadian Government’s Muskoka Initiative, a $3.5 billion pledge which focuses on maternal, child and newborn health. Eleven Canadian NGOs are going to share $180 million in the next five years in order to help with projects which address nutrition, sanitation, hygiene and health worker training.
Increasing aid is an important step towards making certain foreign affairs issues a priority. By giving money to fight child marriage, Canada reinforces just how important it is to end the human rights violation of forced marriages once and for all.

Ashrita Rau

Sources: Yahoo News, Girls Not Brides 1, Girls Not Brides 2, CBC, UNICEF
Photo: Punch

yemen_child_marriages
In Yemen, 52% of girls are married before the age of 18. This nightmare is far from fantastical dreams of love and marriage, meeting ‘Prince Charming’ and living ‘happily ever after.’ Rather, many Yemeni girls are forced to marry men double their age.

Prior to recent progress, Yemen had no legal minimum age for the marriage of its citizens. In 1999, parliament abolished a former law that made marriage before the age of 15 illegal, and in 2009, attempts to reinstate a legal marriage age failed. Both of the aforementioned incidents occurred when legal groups cited “religious grounds,” arguing that a minimum marriage age would be contrary to Islamic law. However, Abdulwahab al-Anisi, who currently serves as the secretary general of Yemen’s largest Islamist party, has voiced his party’s willingness support the new law.

The average age of child brides in rural Yemen is 12 to 13-years-old, and the death of brides as young as 8-years-old have been reported after their wedding night or child birth. This is the horrific reality for young brides forced into child marriage, many of whom are unlikely to have knowledge of intercourse prior to their wedding night.

However, new constitutional proposals address gender equality and women’s rights, as well as the suggestion to make marriage before the age of 18 illegal for both genders. The proposed Child’s Rights Law was submitted to Prime Minister Mohammad Basindawa on April 27 and would require the verification of age for both the man and the woman when filing for a marriage license.

The draft also suggests punishment for perpetrators of forced child marriage, providing criminal penalties of two months to one year in prison. Any persons who draw up a marriage contract with the knowledge that one or more persons is under the age of 18 could face fines of up to $1,860. Prison sentences and fines are also suggested for witnesses, parents, or guardians who know that at least one person filing for the marriage license is under 18.

It will be long and difficult process to change a practice with such deep roots and serious social implications, but Belkis Willie, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) researcher, believes that, “a law setting an age and criminalizing is a first step, and then a few high profile criminal cases against parents and spouses will be key.”

Organizations such as HRW are urging the Yemeni government to expedite the passing of this law, which would help protect thousands of girls who are victims of early and forced marriage. Forced marriage, in turn, often results in girls being prevented from completing their education and makes them more vulnerable to marital rape and domestic abuse.

“The prime minister should provide strong leadership to get the minimum age for marriage and the child rights law on the books,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director for HRW. “There’s no excuse for further delays in passing this desperately needed legislation.”

– Madisson Barnett

Sources: The New York Times, Human Rights Watch (1), Human Rights Watch (2)
Photo: BBC