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Child Soldiers in SyriaSince 2011, war has ravaged Syria and drastically changed the lives of millions, especially for children. An estimated 2.6 million Syrian children now live in other nations as refugees. More than one million of the refugee children do not have access to education, and an additional 1.75 million children who remain in Syria also do not attend school. Millions of Syrian children live in extreme poverty, which drives them to become soldiers in an extremely dangerous conflict.

The Recruitment of Child Soldiers in Syria

The recruitment of children under the age of 18 by armed groups has been rising in Syria as the war continues. In 2016 alone, 851 children were recruited to be child soldiers in Syria. In that same year, 652 children died and 647 were maimed, and these numbers are rapidly rising. In January and February of 2018, 1,000 children were killed or injured in the Syrian conflict.

Some of these child soldiers have been kidnapped by armed groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS). Others are young Arabs or Muslims from Europe who have been convinced by radical groups like ISIS to leave their homes and join the fight against the Syrian government. Many, however, are children in Syria or in refugee camps in neighboring countries who have volunteered to become soldiers.

Syrian children often volunteer to become soldiers because of the dire situations in which their families live, situations caused by the war. By 2015, 80 percent of Syria’s population lived below the poverty line, and the situation has continued to worsen. With the unemployment rate in the country at 57.7 percent at the beginning of 2015, millions are struggling to survive. In addition, more than 90 percent of refugee families in Lebanon are at risk of food insecurity, and 80 percent in Jordan live in poverty.

For these families that are struggling to survive, the benefits that armed groups offer child soldiers in Syria can be life-saving. Some parents believe their only option is to send their children to fight for ISIS or ISIS-affiliated groups in return for financial subsidies. Other children join the Free Syrian Army (FSA), one of the main rebel groups fighting the Syrian government. The FSA provides its fighters with monthly benefits including salaries. Additionally, the FSA offers refugees in the Zaatari refugee camp precedence in receiving food aid and cash assistance that are crucial to their survival.

Providing a Solution

Alleviating Syrian poverty could be a crucial step in reducing the number of child soldiers in Syria. This could be done by providing Syrians with humanitarian aid, like helping them get food and homes and jobs. Children will be less vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups if they and their families are living in more stable situations.

The United States is mobilizing humanitarian aid to provide food, water, education and medical services to Syrian children and their families. International aid and the acceptance of refugees are also key. However, the “humanitarian needs inside Syria continue to outpace the international response.” Increased aid from the U.S. and other nations is key to relieving poverty in Syria and surrounding nations and reducing the number of children that are recruited to be soldiers.

– Laura Turner
Photo: Flickr

Child Soldiers in NigeriaViolent conflicts largely incited by the militant group Boko Haram continue to ravage northeastern Nigeria and the larger Lake Chad region. Due to these conflicts, youths in the area face the unwanted yet real menace of being recruited as child soldiers in Nigeria.

Parties Recruit and Abduct Children for War

In 2016 alone, there were 2,122 cases of deployment of children for military purposes in Nigeria, according to a 2017 United Nations report on children and armed conflict. The report also stated that Boko Haram used four boys and 26 girls for suicide attacks in 2016; 13 more children were killed in November and December by the Nigerian security forces, which suspected them of carrying bombs.

Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), a vigilante group that opposes Boko Haram, also recruited child soldiers in Nigeria, though they were mostly used for supporting roles. The Nigerian Security Forces (NSF) was also accused of deploying children in warfare.

A United States 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report pointed out that children merely 12 years old were recruited by NSF. The report also explains that some of the child soldiers in Nigeria were originally arrested or detained for alleged connections with Boko Haram and might have been forced into military operations by the state.

“Human Bombs”

Some suicide bombers were as young as seven or eight years old. In a bombing in Maiduguri in December 2016, two young girls set off explosions in the middle of a crowded market, killing at least one and injuring 17 people.

“They got out of a rickshaw and walked right in front of me without showing the slightest sign of emotion. I tried to speak with one of them, in Hausa and in English, but she didn’t answer. I thought they were looking for their mother. She headed toward the poultry sellers, then detonated her explosives belt,” local militia member Abdulkarim Jabo told United Press International.

In only the first eight months of 2017, 83 children were made into “human bombs,” more than doubling the number of child suicide attacks in the entire year of 2016. Most of the children used were girls.

Reintegration for Child Soldiers in Nigeria

Children who were able to escape from Boko Haram often suffered further from rejection as they tried to reintegrate into civilian life, as the use of child soldiers in Nigeria aroused fear and distrust among the general public. Child soldiers also have to endure severe physical, psychological and sexual abuse. Those who return home often face discrimination and even ostracization by their families, including girls who were forced to be “wives” in captivity.

The United Nations calls for the unconditional release of children from armed forces worldwide and the increase of resources for the purpose of reintegration and education of released children. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimated in 2017 that 65,000 children worldwide had been released from armed groups in the past decade.

U.S. Government (USG) Programs Support Highly Vulnerable Children

On June 7, 2018, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Stuart Symington announced a $112,000,000 donation to assist with humanitarian efforts in the region. USAID will manage the use of funds via Food for Peace, Foreign Disaster Assistance and the U.S. State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration. Ambassador Symington said that among its recipients, the donation would go toward helping child victims of the violent conflicts in the area, many of whom have been forced to separate from their families.

USAID and other USG agencies have cooperated to mediate similar humanitarian programs around the world. A USAID program based in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) helped reintegrate previous child soldiers through communication campaigns that directly talk to local community leaders, psychosocial counseling, family tracing, education, financial support, etc.. In a single year, the program identified 1,905 children and provided them with health and psychological support.

More attention must be given to the children being exploited by these groups. With the continued efforts of government programs, there is still hope for child soldiers in Nigeria.

– Feng Ye

Photo: Flickr

South Sudan
Child soldiers were brought to the attention of the American public in 2012 when the “KONY2012” campaign, aimed at dismantling a Ugandan warlord, soared in publicity. However, children being used in combat is not new to various regions of Africa, including South Sudan.

Children in Combat

In 1983, civil war broke out among the Sudanese people, eventually creating in 2011 the countries known today as Sudan and South Sudan. This war led to the separation of families, murders, poverty, lack of educational resources and most notably, South Sudan child soldiers.

According to the International Rescue Committee, the number of children fleeing South Sudan in 1985 to escape recruitment as soldiers in the civil war was as high as 20,000. This number is shockingly high with a 1985 population of only five million in South Sudan. Children fled to neighboring Ethiopia only to die from hunger, dehydration, crossfires and wild animals along the way.

Draws of South Sudan’s Military

Due to outcomes associated with the war, South Sudan has been unable to properly maintain nutrition among its citizens in recent years. Often, children are only guaranteed meals and housing if they enlist in the South Sudanese military, leaving them with the choice between staying unarmed, educated and hungry, or armed, fed and uneducated. Children may choose to join the military simply as a means of survival.

South Sudan child soldiers are known to be used in every way that an adult soldier would be used. Children are given and taught how to use assault rifles, engage in direct combat (as spies), and serve as cooks for troops among other activities.

The prevalence of South Sudan child soldiers seemed to dissolve throughout the early 2000s; however, over the last several years, the numbers have begun to creep up again. In 2013, South Sudan ended a several-year-long ceasefire when tensions between different ethnic groups rose.

Hope for South Sudan

When the war resumed, the children of South Sudan were again recruited for combat. This sparks a series of issues for the South Sudanese people over the next years, such as infrastructure instability, economic poverty, food shortages, violence and poor education.

Although the situation in South Sudan may seem bleak, there is very real hope. South Sudan is rich in diversity with many different religious practices and ethnic cultures. While the tensions between different ethnic groups have instigated a large amount of violent tension, the different groups each bring something unique to the cultural brand of South Sudan.

A history of aid workers present in the country assists the country’s development and recovery from its civil wars. The next few years will be a pivotal time in shaping the future of the Republic of South Sudan and its children, so time will tell if child treatment improves.

– Alexandra Ferrigno
Photo: Flickr

Child soldier in SomaliaSince 1991, the Federal Republic of Somalia has been involved in an ongoing civil war being fought between the transitional federal government (TFG) and al-Shabab militants.

This civil war continues to acquire worldwide attention for its recruitment of child soldiers, often used by al-Shabab and the Somali National Army (SNA).

Child Soldiers in Somalia

Child soldiers are children or individuals under the age of 18 who are used for any military purpose. As of 2016, 1,915 children have been recruited and used in the Somali civil war.

The number of child soldiers in Somalia has almost doubled since 2015 because of an increase in al-Shabab abduction cases. Out of 950 children abducted since 2015, 87 percent were abducted by al-Shabab. The SNA is also responsible for 920 cases of child soldiers. Here are 10 key facts about child soldiers in Somalia.

Top 10 Facts About Child Soldiers in Somalia

  1. Child soldiers are not only used to fight in the war. Though some children serve as combatants, others also serve as porters, messengers, spies and cooks. Young girls are forced to marry al-Shabab militants or recruited as sexual slaves in brothels.
  2. Children are recruited as soldiers because they can be easily coerced. They are more likely to comply and be easily influenced than adults. Al-Shabab relies on recruiting child soldiers because they are easier to manipulate.
  3. Seventy percent of child soldiers have been recruited by al-Shabab. Al-Shabab has recruited and trained children as young as age nine to be combatants. Over 50 percent of al-Shabab members are believed to be children, according to the U.N.
  4. Poverty and living in a combat zone can increase the probability of a child becoming a child soldier. Some poor children decide to join a military organization if there is a lack of access to education or to end a poverty cycle. Living in a combat zone also causes separations between children and their families.
  5. Child soldiers and children in Somalia endured 18 cases of denial of humanitarian access to children. Clan militias (10), al-Shabab (5), the SNA (2) and Puntland armed forces (1) are responsible for the grave violation.
  6. Hardships and abuse do not end when child soldiers are arrested and detained. The special circumstances of children who were recruited and coerced into war activity are unrecognized. Child soldiers in detention are threatened, tortured and forcibly sign confessions.
  7. In 2001, SAACID implemented the first Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) program in Mogadishu, Somalia. SAACID (pronounced ‘say-eed’ in Somali, meaning ‘to help’) is a non-governmental organization (NGO) focused on improving the lives of women, children and the poor. Programs were created by the U.N. to reintegrate child soldiers into society, but these still lack the protection of rights of children. Former child soldiers of al-Shabab also fear to leave DDR compounds and possible reprisal from al-Shabab.
  8. Once reintegrated, former child soldiers have difficulty finding a job with little to no skills or education. UNICEF and INTERSOS offer vocational training programs for former Somali child soldiers. The program offers training in plumbing, carpentry, electrical and tailoring. In 2016, over 900 former Somali child soldiers received these services.
  9. The SNA takes measures to improve the protection of children. The SNA formed a plan of action with the U.N. that follows Security Council resolutions 1539 and 1612.
  10. The Dallaire Initiative establishes a child protection advisor in the African Union Mission of Somalia (AMISOM). The British Peace Support Training Team in Kenya will train members from AMISOM, SNA and the Somali National. The training will instruct how to counteract the use of child soldiers.

AMISOM and Future Developments

AMISOM held a forum with the security sector and AMISOM military in November 2017. The meeting primarily focused on the disadvantages of recruiting child soldiers and policies and law enforcement that can prevent it.

According to Musa Gbow, AMISOM’s Child Protection Advisor and coordinator of the workshop, “We have to ensure that the Federal Government and Federal member states continue to work together especially with regards to dealing with the prevention of the recruitment and use of children as soldiers in the conflict in Somalia.”

Recent developments, like Gbow’s dedication to creating a child protection policy at the federal and regional level, create hope for the futures of all children of armed conflict.

– Diane Adame
Photo: Flickr

human trafficking relief organizationsAround the world, there is an ongoing epidemic that is often hidden in plain sight­: human trafficking. According to the United Nations, there are over 27 million slaves in the world today and this number threatens to increase as the demand for certain goods and industries increases.

Although this is a crisis is facing many people, there are several organizations that have stepped in to bring attention and relief to this global epidemic. The following are five human trafficking relief organizations that everyone should be aware of.

Five Important Human Trafficking Relief Organizations

  1. Freedom United: This organization works to combat human trafficking by encouraging direct involvement from people who visit its site. Freedom United does not exactly implement solutions to change and provide relief for victims, but rather it rallies for other people to get involved in order to produce change. The organization has made great strides in its efforts to end human trafficking which is why it is one of the five most important human trafficking relief organizations.

    Since its launching, it has acquired over 18 million actions taken to end human trafficking. The organization also has 5.9 million fans on Facebook and 79 global partners, including the United Nations University, helping to create effective change for issues facing the world’s most vulnerable.

  2. Urban Light: Founded by Alezandra Russell in 2009, Urban Light is dedicated to helping a sector of human trafficking victims that is often overlooked by mainstream media: boys. This is the reason why it is one of the five human trafficking relief organizations everyone should know. After visiting Thailand, Russell decided to leave her home in Washington, D.C., and relocate to Thailand to begin Urban Light. Since its founding days, it has helped over 3,000 boys and has provided over 10,000 meals.

    A few steps included in its method to restore the lives of vulnerable young boys include: health, which provides victims with education and awareness resources as well as screenings to make sure victims are healthy; education, which provides victims with educational resources to help them finish their education; outreach, such as frequenting clubs and bars in Thailand where victims of human trafficking are usually located and providing them with the opportunity to leave their vulnerable situation in order to get help; and legal support, such as working with victims to help them obtain legal identification cards to devoid any illegal circumstances and providing the opportunity for victims to be represented in court.

  3. Abolishment 21st Century (A21): Founded by Christine Caine in 2007, this organization works with women and girls who are victims of human trafficking with its own unique campaigns. A reason why this is one of the major human trafficking relief organizations to know is because it is a multinational organization, assisting girls in nations in Europe, Asia, Africa as well as the United States and Australia.

    A21 uses a three-step methodhttp://www.a21.org/content/our-solution/gn9pjs to help victims reintegrate into society. The method includes:

    Reach: The reach method consists of the Walk for Freedom campaign, where volunteers host public demonstrations highlighting the harsh realities of human trafficking today. Other campaigns also include Can You See Me, which bears a similar approach to educate men, women and children of the harsh realities facing victims of human trafficking in the world today.
    Rescue: The next portion of A21’s mission focuses on collaborating with law enforcement and the government to help prosecute captured human traffickers. Representatives also help with the legal process by defending victims in court.
    Restore: The last method in its solution focuses on providing victims the opportunity to re-integrate themselves into society, by providing them with prime accommodations for recovery that include housing, medical treatment, top-class educational resources, counseling, employment and enterprise opportunities.

  4. Rapha House: Rapha House was founded in 2003 by Joe Garman after he witnessed the near trafficking of a young woman in Cambodia. Since then, Rapha House has served as a safe house for victims of human trafficking. The organization contains several programs to help young, high-risk victims as one of the five human trafficking relief organizations everyone should know.

    One of Rapha House’s programshttps://raphahouse.org/programs is Safety House, a facility where young girls are given free housing, education and meals to protect them from the exploitation they face in the outside world. Another program is Kids Club, which provides boys and girls from impoverished backgrounds with education, housing and healthcare needs. Training and Reintegration provide victims of human trafficking with the skills they need to re-enter society. The program includes vocational training, such as sewing classes, produce farming as well as business training, among other programs.

  5. Prajwala: Founded in 1996 by Sunitha Krishnan, this organization seeks to address human trafficking in India. Prajwala uses a course of action that includes prevention, rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration.

    For prevention, the organization has established Implementation Programs as well as Community Based Prevention Programs to combat the issue of human trafficking. The rescue method uses the following planned rescue operations: Rape Victim Support Program, Victim Witness Protection and VIKALPA, which is a police-NGO partnership that seeks justice for victims. Rehabilitation works by providing victims with psychological rehabilitation, economic rehabilitation and civic rehabilitation and reintegration works by providing victims with family reunions, marriage and independent living.

These five human trafficking relief organizations are just a small number compared to the larger amount of efforts established to help eradicate the statistics of human trafficking worldwide. Although great efforts have been made to address human trafficking, the world still awaits a day when slavery will be abolished for good, but it is up to those who are aware of the dire situation to make this happen.

– Lois Charm
Photo: Google

The Fight for Freedom: Most Common Types of Human TraffickingThe prevalence of human trafficking is a present-day example of the existence of slavery. This global human rights issue is a billion-dollar crime industry, affecting millions of individuals in almost every nation in the world. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), human trafficking is defined as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion… for the purpose of exploitation.”

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is a form of exploitation that has three elements: the act, the means and the purpose. The act refers to the transfer or recruitment of persons. The means is how trafficking is done, which includes the threat, force or deception used to control victims. The purpose of exploitation includes sex, labor, slavery or the removal of organs. According to the Human Rights Commission, the most common types of human trafficking are sex trafficking, forced labor and debt bondage.

Common Types of Human Trafficking

Sex trafficking refers to the forced participation of commercial sex acts; women and children are the most vulnerable to this type of human trafficking. This type of trafficking forms a significant portion of the transnational present-day slavery. The commercial sex trade exploits one million children a year. Women and young girls make up 80 percent of the trafficked victims.

Forced labor, or involuntary servitude, is where individuals provide labor through coercion, force or fraudulent means. According to the 2017 Estimates of Modern Slavery, there are 24.9 million victims of forced labor. Millions of enslaved individuals worldwide produce goods in various supply chains under violence and threat. These include the agricultural, mineral, construction and textile industries.

Debt bondage is also one of the most common types of human trafficking in which a person forcibly works in order to pay a debt. Migrant laborers are particularly vulnerable to this form of trafficking, as many regions have systematic schemes designed to exploit workers. Debt bondage involves a debt that cannot be paid off within a reasonable time frame. Also known as debt slavery, the period of debt strips the victim of basic freedom. A cycle of debt is then created and maintained through the abuse of contracts, increasing debt interest, increasing living expenses and higher labor expectations.

Response to the Most Common Types of Human Trafficking

Despite the large number of individuals that have fallen victim to human trafficking, there are many organizations that dedicate their efforts to address human trafficking issues. UNODC has established a comprehensive approach to tackle human trafficking. The strategy can be best viewed as three interdependent components which include: raising awareness, capacity building and maintaining strong partnerships.

Additionally, Polaris is a leading organization committed to the worldwide battle to end modern slavery. The organization’s model places an emphasis on the victims of human trafficking. Polaris provides assistance in the restoration of the victim’s freedom, helping survivors reintegrate back into society.

In other parts of the world, nonprofits continue to investigate core issues, such as the conditions that increase the vulnerability to human trafficking. The Freedom Project is an Australian movement that seeks to empower communities and focus on the prevention of human trafficking.

In response to these alarming human trafficking statistics, global movements dedicated to the eradication of modern slavery are leading the way to freedom.

– Dane de Leon

Photo: Flickr

How the U.S. Benefits from Foreign Aid to MaliA landlocked country in West Africa, Mali gained its independence from France in 1960. It is the eighth largest country in Africa and its population currently consists of 18 million people. As one of the world’s younger nations, Mali still faces many challenges, from the effects of heavy rainfalls and floods to human rights violations such as terrorism and trafficking. In order to overcome these challenges, Mali needs foreign aid. However, there are many ways that the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Mali.

Since its inception as an independent country, Mali has maintained diplomatic relations with the U.S. Over the years, the foreign aid Mali received from the U.S. has helped it to foster democracy and reduce poverty in the country. For instance, conflict in the country since 2012 has resulted in displacement, and food insecurity still remains an issue in Mali. Due to the foreign aid it received through USAID, Mali has been able to improve the availability of food and basic services, which led to the return of 60,200 displaced people to their areas of origin. Additionally, aid through USAID/OFDA helps improve access to emergency healthcare, protection services, safe drinking water and sanitation infrastructure in Mali.

 

Eradication of Extremism

Similarly, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Mali since it is committed to the eradication of extremism. Extremism negatively impacts every nation including the U.S., and the focus on Mali is crucial, as it has been called the deadliest country for U.N. peacekeepers. Extremist groups have carried out violent attacks in the country, and most of the recruits associated with such groups explained that their actions were not affected by their religious beliefs. In fact, they expressed the anger they felt due to the longstanding neglect of their communities, which led them to seek a sense of community in extremist groups. In order to eradicate extremism, the USAID has taken some key steps.

Utilizing locally-informed assessment and analysis, USAID has focused on “youth empowerment, social and economic inclusion, media and messaging, improving local governance, reconciliation and conflict mitigation.” The USAID tailors its activities to meet specific threat levels, the political environment and other material needs of each community, especially focusing on groups that need more assistance, such as at-risk young men. Armed bandits and extremists still occupy northern Mali, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of the country. Poor governance and extreme poverty contribute to the rise of extremist groups, which is why many of the USAID activities focus on improving these areas.

For instance, in order to stop the spread of extremism and foster development, USAID and Mali have jointly taken a different approach than previous ones that concentrated more on individual projects. USAID and Mali will target the country’s institutional weaknesses while contributing to ending extreme poverty, and the projected $600 million in investments for fiscal years 2016-2010 will focus on four key objectives:

  • Stabilization of Conflict-Affected Areas Reinforced (transition)
  • Public Trust in Government Improved (governance)
  • Adaptive Capacity of Vulnerable Communities and Households Improved (resilience)
  • Socio-Economic Well-Being Advanced (prosperity)

Combating Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is another serious issue in the country. The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Mali because it is committed to fighting human trafficking globally, and Mali is a source, transit and destination country for women, men and children subjected to forced sex and labor trafficking. The government of Mali does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking. Hence, the aid it receives from the U.S. makes a considerable difference. For example, foreign aid from the U.S. through the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons provides not only crucial training and technical assistance, but also child protection compact partnerships, emergency victim assistance and research projects that focus on innovative ways to combat human trafficking.

In short, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Mali because the latter is facing some dangerous challenges that the U.S. has committed to eradicating. By working together with Mali, the U.S. could help put an end to the violence that is caused by extremism and human trafficking.

– Mehruba Chowdhury

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in Bhutan
Bhutan is a tiny, isolated, primarily Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayas that has only permitted television since 1998. In a country that measures development by Gross National Happiness in lieu in of Gross Domestic Product, does it make sense to ask how to help people in Bhutan? Given the often discriminatory treatment of journalists, non-Buddhists, the disabled, women and especially Nepali-speakers, the answer is yes—this question should still be asked.

Bhutan has had an extremely rapid transition from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy with the establishment of political parties in 2007 and held its first election in 2008. The Freedom House upgraded the country’s Freedom Status in 2009 from “not free” to “partly free,” citing the below reasons:

  • Journalists surveyed in 2012 expressed grave concerns about freedom and personal safety.
  • Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that work on issues relating to ethnic Nepalese are not allowed to operate in Bhutan.
  • In 2007, Bhutan moved to a rule of law. The civilian police operate within the law and the Judiciary is considered autonomous.
  • The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), in answer to corruption within the government, was given more leeway and power. The most recent Prime Minister, Togbay, does not tolerate corruption, and many prior powerful politicians are now being held accountable.

In the 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report, the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons determined that the government of Bhutan did not fully meet minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government did demonstrate increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. In an example of how to help people in Bhutan, the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) partnered with an international organization to conduct training on anti-trafficking toolkits and also to facilitate reports on Bhutan laws and policies on trafficking. Bhutan, over the last five years, has still remained a source and destination country for both forced labor and sex trafficking.

Bhutan has no formal relations with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and accepts financial assistance from primarily India, leaving Bhutan isolated from much of the world. It has recently shown a willingness to move toward democratic ideals and is also seeking to increase tourism after a long history of shunning foreigners. Learning how to help people in Bhutan means working to ensure adequate funding for the NGOs and other agencies dedicated to assisting the Bhutanese officials. One must work to stay vigilant and continue to support organizations dedicated to combating violations of human rights in Bhutan.

Michael Carmack

Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in GuatemalaEach day, 33 people become entrapped by human trafficking rings in Guatemala. Nearly 60 percent of the 50,000 victims of human trafficking in Guatemala are children, according to a report by UNICEF and the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). The report estimates the industry to be worth $1.6 billion a year – this number represents 2.7 percent of Guatemala’s gross domestic product.

Guatemala’s pervasive culture of gender inequality – coupled with extensive sexual abuse in the home – promotes trafficking. Often, human trafficking affects families that have already experienced domestic and sexual violence by fathers and stepfathers. The violence they experience prompts boys and girls to run away from home, leaving them prey to sexual exploitation by traffickers. Mothers who sell their children into the sex trade are often victims of trafficking or domestic abuse themselves.

In Guatemala, very few sex trafficking cases are actually detected each year – about 3 percent. Although Guatemala has adopted numerous programs and laws to tackle human trafficking, only two prosecutors work on sex trafficking cases across the country. Therefore, the number of trafficking convictions in Guatemala remains low, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). In 2014, the Guatemalan authorities convicted only 20 human traffickers, according to the 2015 U.S. Department of State report on human trafficking.

Education is a key factor in eliminating human trafficking; in Guatemala it occurs largely due to the absence of family education. Illiterate or uneducated children and adults are more vulnerable to abuse. Traffickers target poor, uneducated and unemployed women and girls, luring them with promises of earning money as a waitress or model. Girls as young as 12 work in brothels and are forced to have sex with up to 30 customers a day.

Just as it plays a large role in preventing human trafficking, education also plays a critical role in helping survivors of human trafficking to escape the trauma they experience after victimization. Instruction and counseling are immense steps toward rehabilitating the survivors and reintegrating them into society. When survivors are provided with education, they gain an opportunity to “reprogram” their lives by increasing their knowledge.

All members of society in Guatemala being more educated and knowledgeable on human trafficking is essential for the defeat of traffickers. Every avenue must be explored on how to raise awareness about the nature of the crime, its causes and the damage human trafficking inflicts on its victims.

Heather Hopkins

Photo: Flickr

End Modern SlaverySlavery is never an easy problem to confront. It is uncomfortable and unpleasant to think about, a complex jumble of economics, politics, culture, and dozens of other areas. It is also very uncomfortable to address the possibility that many western clothes and electronics are made by slaves. However, poverty cannot end completely without ending slavery, and slavery will not end without an end to poverty. They feed off one another, so in order to end poverty, people must end modern slavery as well.

Society tends to imagine slavery as an issue of the past, a horrible chapter of human history that closed with the ban on the slave trade in Europe and the emancipation proclamation in America. But slavery has continued, and today, there are more people in slavery than at any other time in human history. Twenty-seven million people are enslaved today, 79 percent of whom are women and children. Almost every country in the world is somehow involved in human trafficking and slavery, either as a country of origin, transit or destination.

Many people who become trapped in slavery are the people who are already trapped in poverty. People in extreme poverty often try to find ways out of their desperate situation, and many are lured into the slave trade with promises of education, steady work and a better life. Instead, they are sold into slavery, often for as little as $90 a person, and imprisoned with literal chains or psychological pressure. They can then be forced into different types of slavery, including sexual exploitation and prostitution, forced labor, being compelled to act as beggars, benefit fraud and organ removal.

There are laws and international protocols against the slave trade, but they are poorly enforced and often ineffective. Victims fear coming forward to the authorities because of stigmas and the risk of imprisonment or deportation, even when they are the victims, not the criminals. The victims are often the ones to carry the social shame and punishments while the conviction rate for the slave traders remains low.

Ending modern day slavery feels like a difficult task. There is no open slave trade to end as there was in the 1700s and 1800s. The U.N. is one of the many organizations working to free people and give them a new life. Since the early ’90s, it has freed more than 90,000 people by working to prevent trafficking and protect victims. However, there are still millions more to free and prevent from becoming victims in the first place. The State Department has devised a strategy of prosecution, protection and prevention, the “3 P’s” that are aimed to end modern slavery.

One of the most important ways to end modern slavery is by preventing it. Both slavery and poverty are about “excluding people from economic and social justice,” so addressing economic and social issues deals with slavery and poverty together. By preventing individuals from falling into the desperate situations of poverty, they are less vulnerable to slave traffickers. Preventing social exclusion and discrimination is also an important step to stop slavery. Slowing the supply of victims by addressing these social and economic causes is a crucial step to ending modern slavery. Since many of these problems are also related to global poverty, this is a win-win situation.

Protection is another key way to end slavery. The movements of refugees and migrants have made many people more vulnerable, so safe migration and trade unions can help keep workers from becoming susceptible to the slave trade. Those already trapped in the slave trade should receive the proper treatment and legal action. This leads to the final P, which is prosecution of those running the slave trade. The low prosecution rates provide little deterrence for those involved with the slave trade, so cracking down on prosecution can act as a form of further deterrence.

Compared to the number of people in poverty, about 10 percent of the world’s population, the number of people in slavery is small. However, these 27 million people deserve far better treatment. Addressing the issues of poverty that cause the desperation can help end modern slavery, and ending modern slavery helps end poverty.

Rachael Lind