21st Century Child Labor Global
According to the International Labor Organization, approximately 211 million children are working around the world. These children range from ages five to 14, and most are working in order to provide support for their poor families. Nearly 128 products from 70 countries are made through child labor – many cases of which are forced child labor. While some children elect to start working at a young age to help support their families, many are forced into labor and treated as slaves in bondage.

In addition to poor treatment, the work environments children are forced to work in are often dangerous and harmful to their health. When children are sent to scour hazardous lakes filled with toxins in order to search for metals and jewels, the consequences are extremely damaging to their health. Much of the merchandise purchased by Americans is made in other countries, many of which are still developing and relying on labor from children. Children are often forced into labor by their government, or their government simply ignores the fact that companies and factories are forcing children to work for their own profit. Some of the products made by children include clothes, tobacco, metals, jewels, food items, pornography, holiday decorations, and electronic goods. This wide span of merchandise leaves little that child labor has not infiltrated.

In the worst cases of child labor, children are used much like slaves. In these cases, children are trafficked, often times forcing them to deal in illegal activities like drug trafficking, prostitution, and weapon conflict. Binding the children in debt is another method used by companies to ensure that the children will continue to work under their authority.

According to a report conducted by the Bureau of International Labor Affairs, India has the highest percentage of child workers. India is followed by China, which is then followed by smaller countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa. In 2008, as many as one in every four children in sub-Saharan Africa were forced into labor, and commonly sent to work in diamond mines and factories. In Ethiopia, an estimated 60 percent of children are forced into labor to help support their families, the child’s income usually amounting to a dollar a month.

In Afghanistan, an increasing number of underage girls are being sold in order to pay off debt, and more than 30 percent of children are working in major industries rather than attending school. Some of the worst forms of child labor occur in Somalia where 40 percent of children under the age of 15 are forced to engage in sex slavery and armed conflict.

Though the statistics concerning child labor may seem bleak, an increasing number of organizations and nations are rising up to help put an end to child labor. The International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) is an advocacy organization that has been fighting for years to redesign working conditions across the world focusing on women in the workforce, sweatshops, and child labor. The U.S. Labor Department has also joined the stand against child labor: one of its recent reports says that Brazil is no longer relying on child labor for coal production, and that India and other countries have started anti-poverty programs to help end child labor.

– Chante Owens

Sources: Fox Business, International Labor Rights Forum, Business Insider
Photo: NYTimes

Modern Day Slavery UK Government Freedom in Work
Although slavery has been abolished in the United States for around 150 years, slaves still exist in the world today. Currently, the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates there are around 21 million people in slavery across the world.

What is modern day slavery?

  • Trafficking for sexual exploitation
  • Forced labor of children as domestic workers
  • Forced labor of girls in the garment industry
  • Unpaid agricultural work
  • Child marriage
  • Debt bondage
  • Forced labor
  • Descent-based slavery (born into slavery)

One young victim reflects on her experience as a slave:

“I was very afraid, but had no other option than to stay at my workplace. The house where I was sent as a housemaid was occupied by a large family. I was forced to work both in the house and in a shop. I had to work for 18 hours a day, 7 days a week. None of the people in the home were supportive, and I was tortured on many occasions and in different ways.”

5 important facts about slavery:

  1. 90 percent of slavery is exploitation done by individuals and companies, while the remaining 10 percent is through forced work by the state, rebel military groups or prisons.
  2. Although slavery exists within every country, more than half of today’s 21 million slaves are found in Asia.
  3. 55 percent of slaves are women and children, since these populations are vulnerable and easily exploited.
  4. Human trafficking ranks as the third most profitable global crime, behind drug and arms dealings. In 2005, illegal profits from forced labor amounted to more than $44 billion.
  5. Forced labor impedes economic development and perpetuates poverty. For example, people in forced labor lose at least $21 billion each year in unpaid wages and recruitment fees.

The United Kingdom (UK) government launched a program to combat slavery in July. The Work in Freedom program aims to prevent 100,000 girls and women across South Asia from entering into labor trafficking. Through the Department for International Development and the ILO, £9.75 million will be invested in the Work for Freedom program over five years.

How will the Work for Freedom program combat slavery?

Millions of men and women from poor communities in Asia migrate to find employment and to help their families financially. The Work for Freedom project aims to tackle known trafficking routes to prevent these men and women from being exploited.

Since most of the trafficking in Asia is related to labor, Work for Freedom will focus on providing women with necessary skills and vocational training to help them secure legal employment with a decent wage. The program will also educate vulnerable men and women of their rights, and help them organize collectively. Finally, the program will prevent child labor by helping children stay in school instead of migrating for work.

The UK’s Work for Freedom program will help reduce slavery, in turn empowering the world’s vulnerable and decreasing global poverty.

– Caressa Kruth

Sources: The Guardian, The Guardian: Modern Day Slavery Explainer, Gov.UK: Work in Freedom, Gov.UK

Mauritania was the last country to officially abolish slavery in 1981, and slavery was only recognized as a criminal offense in 2007–almost 150 years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in the US. Despite the 2007 law, an estimated 10 to 20 percent of the 3.4 million Mauritanians still live in a state of slavery today, and only one person has been successfully prosecuted for slavery in Mauritania, a meager success for the victims and all those fighting for the abolition of slavery.

How is it possible that between 340,000 and 680,000 Mauritanians are still modern day slaves? For the first time, a journalist, John Sutter, was able to enter Mauritania and directly report the accounts of slaves and of former owners.

He recounts the story of Moulkheir Mint Yarba, a young woman who, as a slave’s child, automatically became a slave herself. After being separated from her parents at an early age to live with her master, she lived with sheep and camels during her childhood. After reaching puberty, she was repeatedly raped by her master. She told CNN reporter Shutter that “All of [her] children were born into slavery. And all of her children were the result of rape by her master.”

But Moulkheir resigned herself to her condition, she “couldn’t see beyond her small, enslaved world,” until the day her owner killed her baby. It happened while she was herding sheep. As she was returning from the desert, she came back to a haunting vision: her newborn daughter was left by her owner to die in the desert sun. The master wanted to punish her for bearing a child–his child. He said she “would work faster without the child on her back.”

This case is far from being an isolated incident. A 2012 United Nations survey estimated that “for every 100,000 live births in the country, 510 women die from pregnancy, with significant disparities between the death rates of Black slaves and Arab owners. An even greater concern is that due to female slaves being forced to have children with their owners, an estimated 71.3 births per 1,000 live births are adolescents who suffer extreme mental and physical abuse.”

Slavery in Mauritania is not just physical, it is not only about shackles and chains; it is also psychological. Slavery is so highly embedded in mentalities that it has become the normative state of mind for most Mauritanians. Slaves are led to believe that the state of slavery in which they evolve is “normal.” A leader of an abolitionist group told Shutter that “the multigenerational slave, the slave descending from many generations, he is a slave even in his own head. And he is totally submissive. He is ready to sacrifice himself, even, for his own master” for he believes he will go to heaven if he serves his owner well.

Mauritanian slavery is “the slavery American plantation owners dreamed of”. Shutter’s shocking documentary effectively shows the true state of slavery in Mauritania, interviewing actual slaves and former slave owners. Although the abolitionist movement’s influence is increasing abroad, Mauritania’s situation on slavery is widely unknown. The subject is so taboo that Mauritanian officials deny the very existence of slavery in their country. Abolitionists have told Shutter that some have been captured and tortured by government officials so that they wouldn’t speak out.

Mauritania is a developing country. The life expectancy is 57 years old, but great disparities exist between slaves and owners. A slave’s health comes last, and some have never been to the doctor. But slaves stay with their owners despite their evident exploitation and maltreatment. Indeed, for many, freedom means starvation, and many of those who escape end up returning to their homes because they cannot afford a life on their own.

– Lauren Yeh

Sources: Forbes, FemInspire, CNN


Since 2011, the U.S. Department of State has released an annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP), detailing the U.S. government’s evaluation of the human trafficking situation around the world. The report is organized by ranking 188 governments in their effectiveness in preventing human trafficking and addressing the issues associated with modern day slavery. The stated purpose of publishing these reports is to hold traffickers accountable for their actions and to prevent more people from falling victim.

The TIP reports organize countries into three different tiers, determined by the country’s governmental cooperation in meeting the standards set by the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

Tier One countries have the highest levels of progress in addressing and preventing human trafficking. On average, 30 countries fall in the Tier One range. Tier 2 maintains two different levels: Tier 2 and the Tier 2 Watch list, typically with approximately 130 countries in this category.

Finally, about 20 countries make up the Tier 3 level. A country is deemed Tier 3 for failed governmental attention to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and blatant trafficking. Countries on the Tier 3 list are susceptible to sanctions from the U.S. government.

Proponents of the TIP report praise the effectiveness of monitoring progress and the accountability systems. The TIP reports have strengthened through their systematic measurements of governmental actions.

Such believers in the TIP reports claim they prevent thousands of people from being recruited into the trafficking network and purport that countries around the world are spurred to action by these annual rankings. Supporters commend the State Department for taking action on this global cause and providing leadership in getting governments to examine the trafficking situations within their countries and spurring change across the world.

Furthermore, many nonprofit organizations and relief agencies cite the data in the TIP reports and use this information to develop their action plans.

While responses to the TIP reports have largely been positive, critics point out many perceived flaws in the system. Some believe the reports merely cause diplomatic problems and put tensions on relationships between various countries.

One problem critics have pointed out is how the rankings are determined: they are based not on the extent of trafficking in a country, but only on governmental action towards trafficking. Others simply disagree with the premise of the United States ranking other countries, since the U.S. has problems with trafficking as well.

The 2013 TIP Report, which was released in June, drew much attention to its downgrading of China and Russia, since these big trading countries are now liable to sanctions from the U.S. government.

– Allison Meade
Sources: Not For Sale Campaign, U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Person Report 2013

International Justice Mission
International Justice Mission is a human rights agency that rescues victims of violent oppression, including those trapped in slavery or sexually exploited. The organization brings justice to victims by prosecuting those involved in trafficking or related crimes.

International Justice Mission was founded in 1997 by Gary Haugen. At the time, Haugen was working as a lawyer at the U.S. Department of Justice and as the UN’s investigator of the Rwandan genocide. Founded upon Christian principles, the organization began as a study on the injustices witnessed by missionaries and relief workers abroad. The study was launched by a group of lawyers, human rights professionals, and public officials. The study examined 65 organizations and uncovered glaring abuses of power by authorities in the regions they served. Haugen and other professionals realized that victims overseas desperately needed the help of professionally trained justice experts. Since then, International Justice Mission has been a legal force against global human trafficking and other crimes.

International Justice Mission now includes more than 500 lawyers, investigators, and social workers. Furthermore, 95% of these workers are nationals of the country in which they work. By working with legal systems, International Justice Mission is working to bring the law onto the side of those who need it.

International Justice Mission’s vision statement is, “To rescue thousands, protect millions and prove that justice for the poor is possible.” This mission is in response to the millions of lives trapped in injustice today. In fact, more people are enslaved today than the entire course of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Human trafficking generates profits that exceed $32 billion a year. Even worse, nearly 2 million children are exploited by the world’s commercial sex industry.

To combat human exploitation, International Justice mission works in 16 field offices in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In these locations, lawyers and social workers take on individual cases of exploitation. These professionals work with local and state government to acquire support for victims and legal prosecution of perpetrators.

The mission of this organization is stated in four steps.

  1. Victim Relief is International Justice Mission’s first responsibility. The most important task is to immediately rescue people trapped in slavery.
  2. Perpetrator Accountably brings justice to those who are victims. By legally convicting perpetrators, International Justice Mission forces criminals to see the consequences of their actions.
  3. Survivor Aftercare is designed to ensure that victims of slavery are enabled to reclaim their lives and heal from the emotional and physical abuse that they faced.
  4. Structural Transformation is the strengthening of communities and judicial systems to be able to better fight human exploitation.

– Grace Zhao

Sources: International Justice Mission, Charity Navigator

TIMBUKTU, Mali — Though slavery was formally abolished in the West African nation of Mali in 1960, roughly 200,000 people continue to live as modern-day slaves and hundreds more are only now experiencing freedom for the first time.

According to the advocacy group Anti-Slavery International, “descent-based slavery” has existed for generations in Mali but worsened in March 2012 when Islamist rebels gained control of northern Mali. The lighter-skinned Tuaregs and Arab Moors used the ethnic background they shared with jihadists to control darker-skinned ethnic groups.

Many Tuareg and Arab Moor families recaptured former slaves, and those enslaved reported that their treatment worsened during the Islamists’ ten-month reign, during which a highly conservative brand of Islamic sharia law was enforced. A French-led military intervention rid Mali’s northern towns of these Islamists in early 2013, and many Tuaregs and Arab Moors fled the region fearing reprisal for their actions have .

While many former slaveholders have fled the region, the impact of slavery has left a possibly irreparable gulf between Mali’s different ethnic groups. Tuaregs and Arab Moors formerly raided communities of darker-skinned populations in order to acquire slaves for a variety of unpaid roles, ranging from salt mining to sexual slavery. Darker-skinned ethnic groups also entered voluntarily into bondage systems to feed their families because, due to discrimination, they are unable to acquire a better source of income.

These groups have adopted the language and customs of the Tuaregs and Arab Moors, but they are still subjected to unfair treatment and poor working conditions. Those who have managed to escape slavery often come to Timbuktu in order to find employment, but they end up with jobs closely resembling their former experiences as slaves.

Though former slaves celebrate as their longtime captors leave Mali, a guerrilla war surges on. Many slaves have escaped from the families that held control over their bloodline for generations, but the impact of slavery is readily apparent. Today, Timbuktu is a wasteland offering virtually no economic opportunities, even though many of its citizens are finally free.

– Katie Bandera

Source: Antislavery, Washington Post
Photo: The Guardian

For most of us, the concept of slavery is an abstract reference to a primitive and barbaric process, a blight on our nations’ histories and also, firmly in the past. A devastating report by CNN shows that in one country, the practice is still alive and well.

Mauritania is a poor Muslim country on the West coast of Africa. Largely ignored by the international community, it has also managed to uphold slavery, not officially abolishing it until 2007 – more than one hundred years after Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves of the United States. Even so, only one case of slave ownership has been successfully prosecuted in a country teeming with slave owners. Estimates of what percentage of the population is enslaved run as high as 18% – near 3.5 million people.

The term ‘slavery’ is not applied lightly. These people are made to work for one master, doing hard manual labour for no wages. They are often mistreated, denied healthcare, education, the right to own property, clothing, proper food or basic rights. A woman CNN interviewed, Moulkheir Mint Yarba, was repeatedly raped and one of her infant children left to die and be eaten by ants when she was working in the field. She was not allowed to give her baby a proper burial.

Slavery persists because of an ingrained caste system, in which family ancestry determines social standing. Historically in Mauritania, out of the four major ethnic groups (White Moors, Black Moors, Black Africans and Harantine), the Harantine are the traditional slave class. They are kept subordinate through systematic discrimination and told that Islam dictates they must be slaves. Denied an education, religion is the closest thing they have to knowledge, and this is a powerful weapon.

Foreigners have had difficulty infiltrating Mauritania because the nation seems set on preserving the status quo. CNN described the great lengths they had to go to even to write a report on the situation, much less intervene, inventing a fake investigation, dodging an official assigned to watch them, knowing they could be deported or tortured if discovered.

Currently, Anti-Slavery International is working with the local organization SOS Enclaves to work on freeing individual slaves, but are facing great odds. Not only the government of Mauritania, but the political instability that plagues the nation, threats to the anti-slave workers themselves and the indoctrination of the citizens of Mauritania.

Moulkheir herself was lucky – after enduring unimaginable circumstances, she and her daughter, with the help of SOS, managed to escape and form a new life for themselves. They live together in a one-room shack and are even attended a school for former slaves, funded by the SOS-Enclave.

However, most of the 3.5 million slaves in Mauritania are not so lucky. During the interview, CNN asked Free the Slaves worker Kevin Bales what could help Mauritania, to which he replied that global demand for change could make a difference. “It’s a destitute country. It needs a few friends in the world.”

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Source: CNN, AntiSlavery
Photo: Smithsonian Magazine


Slavery is often an issue that many people think has already been solved, or at least it isn’t one of the major global concerns. The reason these issues often fall off the radar is partly because the anti-slavery sector is scattered. There are dozens of organizations working to end human trafficking, but the problem is that it is difficult for them to collaborate and work together to solve the biggest problems. Money is often an issue for smaller organizations, and many are most concerned with making sure their own group stays afloat before worrying about working with other groups, but a group effort may be necessary to end modern-day slavery.

Collaboration provides many benefits for charitable organizations. All of them have similar goals and plans, and working together can help pool together knowledge and resources. It allows leaders to partner to network and form new connections within the anti-slavery sector of the world. It also allows for the formation of new, big ideas that can blossom with the wider availability of money and resources.

One of the most prominent and successful collaborations is the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, or ATEST. The super group is compiled of 12 United States human rights organizations with a focus on anti-slavery. The individual organizations are diverse in size, location, and funding, yet they find ways to work together and accomplish goals that would be difficult for any individual group to do alone. They work with the government in the U.S. and other countries around the world to create laws and programs that prevent human trafficking, and a major victory for the group was the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which was signed into law in March.

Social media and other forms of technology make it easier for groups like ATEST to form and communicate with each other, and it’s also beneficial because it raises awareness about modern-day slavery and gives others the chance to get involved and support the organizations.

– Katie Brockman
Source: The Guardian, ATEST
Source: StandingUpSpeakingOut


Four centuries after the first African slaves were shipped from Africa to the Americas, Barack Obama, the first African American U.S. President, visited one of the major slave shipping points of the triangular trade: Goree Island.

Obama started off his week-long trip through Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania with a private tour of the Goree Island Slave House. Built in 1776 by the Dutch on Goree Island off the Senegal coast, it is contested whether the ‘House of Slaves’ (Maison des Esclaves) was really a major slave-trading point; some historians suggest that the island was more of a merchant port, and the slave house a merchant’s home. However, despite the controversy over its effective role in the slave trade, there is no doubt that slaves walked through the “door of no return,” never to come back.

Now turned into a museum and classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, the House of Slaves reminds all its visitors of the brutality and cruelty inflicted upon other human beings during the slave trade.

“It’s a very powerful moment… to be able to come here and to fully appreciate the magnitude of the slave trade, to get a sense in a very intimate way of the incredible inhumanity and hardship that people faced”, stated Obama, who is believed to have at least one enslaved ancestor. First Lady Michelle Obama, a descendant of slaves, did not wish to comment on their visit to the House of Slaves.

More than just diplomatic, Obama’s visit to the Slave House is highly significant for many, both African and American. It is an acknowledgment of the dark history of slavery of the United States, a reminder of the considerable transformation that American society has undergone in the past decades.

The desegregation of American society and the election of the first African American  President in the history of the U.S. has made Africans very supportive and proud, although there is some disappointment that the President seems less involved with the continent than his predecessors Georges W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Moved by the living testimony of the slave trade evoked by the Goree Island Slave House, Obama emphasized the importance of the defense of human rights and praised the U.S. Supreme Court for the same-sex marriage ruling. He was accompanied by Senegalese President Macky Sall, who paradoxically declared that Senegal was “still not ready to decriminalize homosexuality”.

Obama’s visit to Goree Island and then to South Africa raises the question of the place of aid to Africa in American foreign policy priorities. That question has yet to be answered.

Lauren Yeh

Source: Yahoo! News, PolicyMicLA Times
Photo: Washington Post

What is Juneteenth Day?
Celebrated on June 19th each year, Juneteenth Day is the oldest celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. June 19th was the day that Union soldiers entered Texas to declare the news Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation. News traveled so slowly in those days that it took two years for people in Texas to find out about the Emancipation Proclamation. It is an unofficial holiday celebrated each year, although there is a push to make it a nationally celebrated holiday.

Today Juneteeth Day celebrates African American freedom and focuses on education and achievement. It is a time for assessment, self-improvement, and planning for the future. Juneteenth Day is growing in popularity and points to increased dignity among individuals. The day celebrates African American culture and acknowledges the past, present, and future.

The day also provides a time for individuals around the world to be sensitized to the experiences of others. As we are more aware of what others have and are going through, we will be more motivated the act. Juneteenth Day should serve as a call to action and a reminder that slavery still exists today.  It will take all kinds of people, from all walks of life, with all kinds of experiences, to come together and remember the past and fight for the future.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Sources: America’s Library Juneteenth Celebrations
Photo:Postal News