Liberty in Mauritania

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

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

History of Slavery in Mauritania

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

Stories of Slaves

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

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

Unfair System

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

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

How Can People Help?

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

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

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

– Lydia Cardwell
Photo: Flickr

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

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

International Labor Organization

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

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

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

Slavery vs. Child Labor

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

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

Forms and Causes of Slavery

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

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

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

A Network of Support

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

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

Child Labor

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

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

A Child-Slave-Free World

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

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

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

– Bridget Rice
Photo: Flickr

Bonded Slavery in India

India has one of the best anti-slavery laws in the world, yet an estimated 18 million people in India live in modern slavery. This includes forced labor, sexual slavery and forced begging.

Bonded slavery in India is rampant, even though it was outlawed in 1976 by the enactment of the Bonded Labour Slavery Abolition Act. It thrives on the invisible leash of illegal financial obligations that result in a lifetime of forced labor. Whole families, including children, are forced to work for the money-lender, sometimes for generations, in an attempt to pay the debt and the exorbitant interest. Bonded slavery in India has its roots in vast inequality and extreme poverty.

Samarthan, which means “support” in Hindi, is a grassroots nonprofit organization that won the Free the Slaves Freedom Award in 2016. They fight poverty and slavery by empowering rural communities, raising awareness and providing access to essential information.

Samarthan joined hands with the BBC Media Action radio program “Majboor Kisko Bola!” (Who Are You Calling Helpless!) which aimed to help workers trapped in bonded labor by providing information about their legal rights. It is a 36-episode Hindi-language radio broadcast, each running for 30 minutes.

Samarthan spread awareness among the bonded laborers in the villages where there is no access to the internet, television or radio by using portable radios with a pen drive option. Samarthan made the effort to reach the most marginalized communities that remain isolated and uneducated, where a large number of families are under the bondage of rich farmers and money-lenders due to illegal debts.

Some of the steps taken by Samarthan include:

  • Reaching out to the most rural villages that are “media-dark” and giving access to essential information about legal and democratic rights through the “Majboor Kisko Bola!” initiative.
  • Providing the victims further personalized counseling, where anyone can make a phone call to understand what recourse they have.
  • Answering questions and register reports of abuse and forced labor.
  • Mobilizing listeners’ dialogues, called “Shrota Samvads”, in areas most affected, providing a platform for grievance redressal.

Samarthan has proved itself effective through its innovative approach to deal with the massive problem of bonded slavery in India. Due to the government’s failure to enforce the laws in realistic terms, the most effective solution seems to lie with passionate groups like Samarthan who are willing to support the forgotten slaves in the booming economy of India.

Tripti Sinha

Photo: Flickr

Help People in KuwaitKuwait is not a country that often comes to mind when considering foreign aid. The oil-rich nation may seem self-sufficient; however, Kuwaitis face hurdles in their daily lives and are in need of assistance. Colossal prices for everyday goods, human rights violations and water conditions are just a few of the problems people encounter in Kuwait on a daily basis.

Although the nation is renowned for its high salaries, the correlating high cost of living is often left out. Basic necessities such as rent, food and health care have had drastic price increases. The Kuwaiti Times reports that “90 percent of the population is not as rich as the prime minister says.” The reporter continues to insinuate that the incumbent administration is oblivious to the reality of life in Kuwait.

To help people in Kuwait, combating human rights violations is essential. The Kafala system binds migrant workers to their employers, functioning as a modern day system of slavery. Workers are often vulnerable to forced labor in subpar conditions and abuse. Employers often threaten to deport migrant workers if they do not comply with their demands.

Between January and April of 2016, 14,400 workers faced deportation. Misdemeanors such as traffic violations or talking back can result in harsh punishments from their employers. The European Union has launched a project called PAVE to assist and shield these workers from exploitation. Donating to or volunteering for this organization are both ways to help people in Kuwait.

Although Kuwait is a food secure nation, it stands at ninth place for high water risk by 2040. Unparalleled evaporation rates deplete the soil of its moisture, resulting in a nominal percentage of water flowing into the aquifers. Without any natural rivers or lakes, this proves to be deleterious to the Kuwaiti population.

Contributions to the construction of water treatment plants or waste water systems are both ways to assist the country in their water deficit.

Once we puncture the façade of images of the wealthy Kuwaiti population, we realize that Kuwait cannot be overlooked when deliberating foreign aid.

Tanvi Wattal

Photo: Flickr

Why Is the Democratic Republic of Congo Poor
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of natural resources. It sits on an estimated $24 trillion worth of natural resources, including 3.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, large deposits of iron ore, platinum, diamonds, gold and uranium, as well as 106270 square kilometers of arable land. Despite all this, its citizens make, on average, only $800 per year, and 63% live under the poverty line. Given its vast mineral wealth and natural resources, why is the Democratic Republic of the Congo poor?


Colonization, Political Instability, and the Resource Curse: Why is the Democratic Republic of the Congo Poor?


Due to the DRC’s great wealth of natural resources, it has consistently been exploited by imperial European powers throughout its history. When first discovered by the Western world in the sixteenth century, millions of Congolese men and women were stolen from their homeland and shipped around the globe to act as slaves for European industry.

Later, when slavery was eventually abolished throughout most of the developed world, the Congo was still not safe from pillage. When tires became a staple due to the rise of cars and bicycles, the rubber was taken from the Congo. When World War I was fought, 75% of the copper used in bullet casings were mined in the Congo. And when the United States dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan in World War II, you can bet the uranium came from the Congo too.

During this period, which lasted from 1879 to 1959, the Congo region was controlled by the Belgian empire. However, colonial exploitation alone cannot be the only answer to the question “why is the Democratic Republic of the Congo poor?” Due to the abundance of uranium in the region, the Soviet Union and the United States carried out proxy wars in the Congo by supporting vying factions during the Cold War.

Since then, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been subject to a slew of dictatorial rulers, often with foreign support. After the Rwandan genocide of 1994, over a million Hutu took refuge in the Congo (then called Zaire), bringing with them both disease and rebellion.

After more than a decade of war, the Democratic Republic of the Congo gained enough stability to attempt a democratic government, though the election itself was rife with violence and conflict. There still remains a large faction of Rwandan rebels, and more than 800,000 people were displaced from their homes because of military operations meant to stop the rebel groups.

Another answer to the question “why is the Democratic Republic of the Congo poor?” can be found in the current president, Joseph Kabila. Not only is he suspected of stealing large portions of foreign aid, but he also provides those who do give aid access to the mineral resources of the DRC, at great expense to his own people, a repetition of the history of the country, which has been exploited by powers both foreign and domestic for centuries. These powers have worked hard to make sure the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo remain poor, unhealthy and disenfranchised; unable to take control of their own country and the incredible resources it possesses.

Connor Keowen
Photo: Flickr

The most recent update to the Global Slavery Index estimates that, in 2016, 45.8 million people were in some form of modern day slavery in the 167 countries surveyed. Of these countries, India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan are the countries with the most slaves, holding 58 percent of the worldwide slave population. The Global Slavery Index is a program developed by the Walk Free Foundation, an organization seeking to end modern slavery with a multifaceted method.

The foundation’s strategy includes building an extensive knowledge base through research that can be used to inform action. The Global Slavery Index reports the number of people enslaved around the globe, but it also provides other important data such as the global distribution of slavery. This indicates countries with the most slaves, as well as those with the least, and specific actions governments are taking to respond to slavery within their own borders and abroad.


Walk Free Foundation believes that a combination of direct implementation, faith-based grassroots, businesses, academics, NGOs and governments all around the world is needed to eradicate modern slavery for good. By teaming up with this variety of groups and individuals, the foundation can fight at the legislative, commercial and private levels. Attacking the issue from all these angles creates a better chance for ending slavery rather than just relocating the problem.

In August 2017, Walk Free Foundation’s founder Andrew Forrest will attend the Bali Process Government and Business Forum, where CEOs and business leaders will advise government officials on how to prevent and combat modern slavery. Since the majority of modern slaves are held in the private sector working in areas such as manufacturing, construction and agriculture, Walk Free Foundation and Bali Process focus on educating businesses on how to terminate all forms of slavery from their supply chains. The forum in August aims to raise awareness of modern slavery and address ways of action. This will be crucial countries with the most slaves.

Hannah Kaiser

Photo: Flickr

Countries That Still Have Slavery
Although modern slavery is not always easy to recognize, it continues to exist in nearly every country. In total, there are 167 countries that still have slavery and around 46 million slaves today, according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index.

The U.S. Department of State defines modern slavery as “the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.”

India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan and North Korea are at the top of the list for countries that still have slavery. Here are some facts about what slavery is like in each of these countries.

The Highest Numbers: 6 Countries That Still Have Slavery

  1. India (18.4 Million) India has the highest number of slaves in the world. Like many other countries, modern slavery in India can take the shape of domestic service, forced begging, commercial sexual exploitation, forced marriage and forced recruitment for armed services. Because of India’s growing economy, many modern slaves work in factories that export goods to other countries. Consequently, men, women and children work long hours without proper compensation or even basic rights.
  2. China (3.4 Million) The Chinese government relies on exports of goods and raw materials even more than India. According to a CNN report, people in China are forced into labor across many different industries. The migration of poor families from rural to urban areas in search of jobs often leads to opportunities for traffickers. Although families travel together, many eventually split up. Individuals sell young boys to other families who lack sons, and girls often face sex slavery or forced marriage.
  3. Pakistan (2.1 Million) Modern slavery in Pakistan, like India, centers on debt bondage, or bonded labor. Brick-making employs around 10 million people in Pakistan. Children and families often work 10 hours each day in brick kilns and are denied basic rights or laws to protect them. Without this protection, workers face torture and sexual exploitation.
  4. Bangladesh (1.5 Million) Contemporary slavery in Bangladesh is accounted for through 80 percent forced labor and 20 percent forced marriage, according to the Global Slavery Index. Poverty, natural disasters and government corruption have made Bangladesh the 11th most vulnerable country to slavery within Asia.
  5. Uzbekistan (1.2 Million) The main cash crop of Uzbekistan is cotton. Each fall, when cotton crops are booming, the government forces millions of people out of their jobs to work in the cotton fields. International organizations monitor the process, however, the government still does not compensate these people. They also do not enforce proper safety precautions.
  6. North Korea (1.1 Million) The government of North Korea has done little to criminalize modern slavery. People of all ages are subject to forced labor while their government says they are “living in a socialist paradise.” One in twenty North Koreans is enslaved. Although the country does not have the highest total number of slaves, it does have the highest concentration of forced labor.

While many countries have taken steps toward banning and criminalizing slavery, there is still much to do. Countries that still have slavery are facing many problems that we all must address. “Improving the rights of 45.8 million human beings is both wise and urgent for all leaders of countries and organizations,” said Andrew Forrest, Founder and Chairman of the Walk Free Foundation. “Eradicating slavery makes sense; morally, politically, logically and economically.”

Madeline Boeding

Photo: Flickr

Though we often associate slavery with the past, it is still widely practiced throughout the world today. Estimates put the number of currently enslaved people at almost 21 million. Modern day slavery, otherwise known as human trafficking, occurs when individuals are exploited through coercion or deception and typically involves restricted freedom of movement. It can take many forms that we often do not think of as slavery. Below are six specific forms of modern day slavery.

6 Types of Modern Day Slavery That Cannot Be Ignored

  1. Forced Labor: Forced labor includes all types of enslavement that involve coercion against one’s will and a threat of punishment. The practice is typically found in industries with little regulation and many workers. It is commonly used in global supply chains by the private economy to make products. This form of slavery is also used by governments, particularly in state prisons. If the work is not voluntary and involves a threat of penalty, it can be considered forced labor. Forced labor can occur even without the presence of physical violence because it is highly ingrained in some cultures.
  2. Bonded Labor: Debt bondage occurs when an individual is forced to work to repay a debt. As the worker labors to repay their debt, the employer can add other expenses making repayment impossible and enslavement permanent. This type of slavery is often used to make consumer products. It particularly targets migrant workers looking for an economic opportunity who incur debt for travel or housing expenses. The debt involved can also be generational, so children can be born into a situation where they must work to repay a debt incurred by their parents.
  3. Domestic Servitude: This type of slavery consists of live-in domestic workers who cannot leave of their own free will. Since authorities are unable to easily inspect homes, this modern day slavery is easy to hide. It is also extremely difficult to detect because enslaved individuals can appear to be nannies or other types of domestic workers. As a form of bonded labor, domestic servitude often affects migrant workers who incur a debt to their employer for travel or recruitment that they are unable to pay back.
  4. Sex Trafficking: Sex trafficking occurs when women, men, or children are forced to engage in commercial sex acts. Commercial sex involving children under age eighteen is always considered sex trafficking. Those living in extreme poverty are particularly vulnerable to this practice because of their economic marginalization and lack of education. They can be lured overseas through false employment opportunities. Victims suffer physical and psychological trauma and potential legal charges.
  5. Forced Marriage: This type of slavery occurs when an individual lacks the option to refuse marriage or is married to someone else by relatives. Forced marriage can also happen when a wife is married in exchange for payment. This practice is characterized by a lack of consent by at least one party. A major motivation of this type of slavery is cultural tradition or threats. Forced marriage of a child under the age of eighteen is called early marriage. Girls are more common targets for this because they can be controlled through sexual violence.
  6. Child Labor: Any form of modern day slavery that involves children under 18 is considered child labor. More than a quarter of slaves today are children, and many are involved in occupations that are harmful mentally or physically. The demand for cheap labor and specific physical characteristics increases the use of child workers. Children are also easier to control and usually do not demand better working conditions or wages. Those living in poverty are especially vulnerable because of the desire or need to support their families due to a lack of education and employment opportunities.

These are six of the most common types of modern day slavery, but the practice is not limited to just these forms. Slavery still occurs throughout the world in practices that are not always easily recognizable. Governments and organizations must remain informed about the occurrence of modern day slavery to be able to stop it in its tracks.

Lindsay Harris

Photo: Flickr

Slavery In Mauritania
Slavery in Mauritania is not a thing of the past. The practice persists despite laws abolishing and criminalizing it. Slavery is ingrained in society and is perceived as a normal part of life. Below are ten shocking facts about slavery in Mauritania today:

  1. Mauritania was the last country in the world to abolish slavery in 1981, but the practice continues. It took until 2007 to criminalize slavery by law with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. This law has not been widely enforced, and the government continues to deny that slavery exists.
  2. A new law in 2015 replaced the 2007 law and declared slavery a crime against humanity. It increased prison sentences for slavery to 20 years. It also created tribunals to address slavery issues. The new law allows human rights organizations to bring cases on behalf of victims but still does not protect the rights of victims.
  3. Slave families are usually dark-skinned, serving lighter-skinned Arab-Berbers. Slavery in Mauritania is descent-based, persisting down family lines from ancestors who had been captured years ago. Slaves are typically given as gifts and are thereafter enslaved for life. The children of slaves are born slaves, and many are born out of the rape of slaves by their masters.
  4. Slavery is perceived as a normal part of life in Mauritania because it has persisted for so long. Some slaves are beaten or held under the threat of being beaten. Others are convinced that they are meant to be in slavery because of their darker skin. Many slaves do not understand their position and believe this is the life they are supposed to lead.
  5. Slaves are not physically bound, but most do not escape in part for social reasons. Some do not want to lose the social status they have gained from being a slave for a wealthy family. Others are concerned about the lack of social mobility they will face due to the persistence of a strong caste system. Escaped slaves are still considered part of the slave caste.
  6. Slavery in Mauritania also persists for religious reasons. Local Islamic leaders approve of slavery and participate in it. Although Islam does not allow Muslims to enslave each other, slaves are told that Allah wishes for them to be enslaved. Leaders of other religions also teach slaves that obedience will send them to heaven.
  7. SOS Slaves is an organization that was founded to liberate slaves. It created a school for escaped slaves and children to learn skills they need in their new lives. Funding for the school comes from SOS Slaves and the European Union. Despite this incredible step forward, many former slaves live without help.
  8. The United Nations has recommended various changes that the Mauritanian government can implement to combat slavery, including allowing international monitors into the country and funding rehabilitation centers for former slaves. Global participation is essential for the success of the antislavery movement.
  9. The percentage of people enslaved in Mauritania dropped to one percent in 2016. This represents a substantial decline in the practice. As recently as 2012, the number was estimated to be 10 to 20 percent. However, information about slavery from Mauritania is extremely hard to gather since the government continues to deny its existence.
  10. Mauritania is not the only country that still engages in the practice of slavery. A 2016 report ranks North Korea as the country with the highest rate of enslavement, with one in 20 people believed to be enslaved within its borders. The report estimates that 45.8 million people are still enslaved throughout the world.

There is still a long way to go to abolish slavery in Mauritania entirely. Global and local organizations need to engage in direct efforts for change. However, recent developments have improved the situation of slavery in Mauritania. There is hope that soon the practice will become a thing of the past.

Lindsay Harris

Photo: Flickr

Modern "Abolitionists"
Tim Ballard, a former CIA Agent and Homeland Security operant from Utah, spent over a decade working to disrupt child trafficking both domestically and internationally. His passion for this work led him to form a new organization to combat the issue plaguing the world. Ballard formed the nonprofit organization Operation Underground Railroad (OUR).

OUR uses a network of former military officers, medics, nurses, cops and others to directly free children forced into the sex trade. The organization relies heavily on high-level connections for donations and for cooperation with governments and police forces abroad. Though OUR has faced the common criticisms that follow all raid based programs, Ballard and his team defend the mission, emphasizing that these children are in dire, forced circumstances and freeing them is ideal. Also, OUR uses local government and police agencies to make the actual arrests and then sets up the rescued children with some type of assistance, be it financial or through local programs.

The program has played off of the general publicity that comes with raid and rescue type intervention programs and spun it even further. The team itself is something to behold, with physically fit and mentally sharp experts in their field, they are entrancing to watch. Which is why the organization is on the verge of making a deal for a TV show accompaniment. In fact, a large part of donations come from wealthy individuals who in turn for their donations get direct access to view the raids from afar. The entertainment aspect of the program has been substantial for funding, to say the least.

The program has also gained popularity through its marketing as modern “abolitionists” and the website entices potential donors with the tag line “give a Lincoln, save a slave,” which urges donors to give a monthly five dollar membership due. By using terms that play on 1800s slavery emancipation, the organization further highlights the slavery element of the child sex trafficking world, emphasizing that this is a tremendous injustice.

Despite OUR’s success, the organization’s highly Mormon roots, entertainment element and raid styled approach have worried some experts. The strong religious association may cause further cultural resistance in certain areas and in certain groups, which could halt other efforts working to combat sex trafficking. The entertainment element and how the group is giving back to donors in the form of live raid video access brings up ethical questions. While thus far the approach has worked and brought attention to the problem of child sex trafficking, there is the risk of the organization becoming too entertainment-focused and the actual mission being overclouded. With the potential for a television show, the raids become cinematic and less real-life-nitty-gritty, making the very real problem seem far from home and even fictional.

The classic criticisms of raid style intervention programs persist with the OUR abolitionists. Common concerns are that they are doing little to help the child recover and succeed after freedom. Also, the program needs to address the fact that many members of the sex trade are not directly forced into it but arrive there because of a lack of opportunity and desperation. Also of those that are forced, as the program does try to target children, many children develop drug addictions while working that lead them back into the practice.

OUR is new and seems to have a good amount of leverage with high paying donors and political connections that could provide the means to address the problems or concerns now to develop an unstoppable force against sex traffickers. For now, the program is working on developing software that will flag computers containing child pornographic material, particularly belonging to tourists, in areas where the sex trade is prominent, to come at the problem from that angle also. Further strengthening of the current and new programs that help rescued children recover and stay away from the sex trade is essential in for OUR to make a long-term impact. The entertainment aspect of the program is an interesting new approach that seems to have short-term success but does hold some risk down the line. However the program does deserve credit for its efforts and with continued development, could become a major player in foreign assistance. OUR serves as a prime example of how small-scale efforts can transform into larger operations through raising awareness and how non-governmental and non-profit organizations can oftentimes avoid the restrictions that are unavoidable for their counterparts.

Emma Dowd

Sources: Foreign Policy, Maxim, OUR
Photo: The Florida Villager