We discussed it in history class when learning about the US Civil War. We relived it with Alex Haley's groundbreaking mini-series "Roots". We're glad it's over. But is it really?
Modern Day Slavery is not so different from the slavery of the past. Men, women, and children are lured or sold away and forced to work in fields, factories, and homes all around the world. In today's world, Asia and India seem to have the worst records for slave labor but they are not alone in this exploitive trade. They come out on top of this horrible list due to long histories of indentured servitude and birth into slave castes.
What is it like to be slave in the 21st century? Not much has changed in the last 150 years. They are still forced to do back breaking labor with no pay. If there is pay given it's immediately taken back to pay off a debt, usually to the person holding them captive. There is little to eat, horrible living conditions and beatings if the work is not done fast enough. Children and parents are separated. They are isolated from family and homes, not allowed to leave or have contact with anyone outside the slave encampments.
Women and girls as young as six years old are sold or tricked in the sex industry. Sometimes they are sent to other countries by recruiters promising them legitimate work as a domestic. But when they arrive what they find is a life of servitude or sexual exploitation.
As an example, Free The Slaves does not endorse boycotts of industries or producers of goods made with slave labor. A boycott may take a particular product out of the store but it has little to no affect on the individual held in slavery. If the need for their labor dries up in one place their owners will simply move them to another location and take up different work.
Instead of boycotts, Free The Slaves focuses their efforts on changing attitudes about slavery and enabling people to meet basic needs such as legitimate work, education and health services. If these things are available, the poorest of the poor will be less vulnerable to the tactics of slaver traders.
Free the Slaves and their partner organizations are responsible for rescues that have saved the lives of many. Drissa, a teenager in Mali, was forced to work with 17 other children in the cocoa fields. He was beaten when he was too tired to work and then forced to work while flies bit at his open wounds. Drissa’s nightmare ended with a rescue by a Malian official.
Free The Slaves lists many ways to get involved, including education materials free for download. There is a great links page with other organizations involved in the cause to bring an end to slavery worldwide. They also accept donations and are lobbying the US government to establish a Commission for the Abolition of Modern Day Slavery.
Awareness is the key. Slavery still exists and there are viable ways to bring it to an end. Spend some time on Free The Slaves website if you are moved to act.