June 29th, 2012
06:31 PM ET

Nestlé advances child labor battle plan

An independent investigation into Nestlé's cocoa supply chain has found numerous child labor violations and kickstarted an ambitious plan to eventually eradicate forced labor and child labor in its production cycle.

The study was carried out by the Fair Labor Association with Nestlé's support.

"Our investigation of Nestlé's cocoa supply chain represents the first time a multinational chocolate producer has allowed its procurement system to be completely traced and assessed. For too long child labor in cocoa production has been everybody's problem and therefore nobody's responsibility," said FLA President Auret van Heerden.

It means Nestlé is the first chocolate-maker to comprehensively map its cocoa supply chain – and can work on identifying problems areas, training and educating workers and taking action against child labor violations.

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June 26th, 2012
04:13 PM ET

FBI: Nationwide child prostitution sweep leads to 104 arrests, 79 children rescued

By Carol Cratty, CNN

Washington (CNN)  During a three-day law enforcement sweep targeting the problem of teenage prostitution, officers rescued 79 children and arrested 104 alleged pimps, the FBI announced Monday.

Operation Cross Country 6 took place from Friday though Sunday with more than 2,500 state, local and federal officers working in 57 cities.

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Topics: In The News
June 26th, 2012
03:47 PM ET

Actress battles human trafficking

Actress Jada Pinkett Smith talks to CNN about her crusade to end human trafficking and how her 11-year-old daughter spurred her into action. Watch the interview above

Topics: Solutions
June 20th, 2012
05:44 PM ET

Swedish queen battles child sex exploitation

Most royals don't speak openly about subjects like sex-trafficking, much less child sex-trafficking, but for Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden it’s a cause that needs shouting from the rooftops.

The global problem of child exploitation has long been her passion.

The mother of three set up the World Childhood Foundation 13 years ago, which has since given nearly $70 million dollars to more than 600 projects fighting child abuse and sexual exploitation in 16 countries.

Financial grants range from a few thousand to as much as a million dollars – a big deal for anti-trafficking groups on the front-lines in the fight against modern slavery.

CNN had a rare opportunity to sit down with Queen Silvia and learn more about her mission.

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Topics: How to Help • Uncategorized
Forced sex trade thriving in U.S. Midwest
June 20th, 2012
06:53 AM ET

U.S. Midwest in crosshairs of child sex trafficking fight

By Deborah Feyerick & Sheila Steffen, CNN

Tamara Vandermoon is barely recognizable in the photo she holds up; her face is swollen and bruised, her eyes nearly battered shut. She was 19 at the time. "My pimp had beaten me and stomped my face," she says. "I was black and blue."

The Minnesota woman has seen a lot in her relatively short life. Abandoned by her father and angry at her mother, she ran away when she was 12, the same age she turned her first trick trading sex for money and gifts.

"I just wanted to be accepted and loved. I was told how beautiful I was and if you do this I'll get you this ... and I'll make you my girlfriend." Before she knew it she was prostituting herself up to 50 times a night, the money going to her pimp or to feed the drug habit she developed, she says, to "numb the pain" of her life.

Her eyes fill with tears as she remembers: "I was just a baby. I was 12 and they preyed on me. What would a grown man want with a twelve-year-old child?!" Now 31, she is finally getting out after nearly two decades in the sex-trade.

When it comes to child and adolescent sex-trafficking in the United States, the FBI ranks Minneapolis-St. Paul among the top 13 places in the nation. With its tangle of highways known as Spaghetti Junction, its year-round sporting events and frequent conventions, millions pass through on any given day. "There's the thought no one's going to catch you in the Midwest," says Dan Pfarr who works with teens in crisis.

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Trafficking report spotlights slavery efforts
Thousands gathered in Manila, The Philippines last week to march against human trafficking.
June 19th, 2012
10:44 AM ET

Trafficking report spotlights slavery efforts

The annual Trafficking in Persons Report - the world's most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-human trafficking efforts - was published Tuesday by the U.S. State Department.

It identifies countries that the U.S. says meet minimum standards of anti-trafficking efforts, countries working towards them and countries that appear to be doing little to stop trafficking.

The report is compiled with the help of U.S. embassies, non-governmental organizations, aid groups and individuals around the world.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “Ultimately, this report reminds us of the human cost of this crime. Traffickers prey on the hopes and dreams of those seeking a better life and our goal should be to put those hopes and dreams back within reach, whether it's getting a good job to send money home, to support a family, trying to get an education for one's self or for one's children or simply pursuing new opportunities that might lead to a better life.

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Life gets strange hunting traffickers in the U.S.
Sergeant Craig Friesen speaks with an alleged prostitute in Orange County, California.
June 13th, 2012
07:47 AM ET

Life gets strange hunting traffickers in the U.S.

Editor’s Note: CNN Freedom Project this week is reporting from the front lines in the fight against sex trafficking - not in the poverty-stricken developing world but in affluent Orange County near Los Angeles, where prostitutes are now treated as trafficking victims rather than criminals.

By Martin Savidge

Anaheim, California (CNN) - It feels odd to be in a car sat next to a guy texting a pimp. Even more odd, he's pretending to be a prostitute. It can all get a little strange in the digital pursuit of human traffickers.

I'm sitting in the front seat of an SUV in a part of Orange County, California only the locals see - where the hotels are not chains and have names that cops and criminals alike know well. The "prostitute" beside me is actually Sergeant Craig Friesen.

Nearby, either parked or patrolling, are four other vehicles holding the rest of his undercover team.

Earlier, we saw a pickup truck in a parking lot across the street approaching several women. The guy wasn't having much luck - which was too bad since he was on Friesen's crew.

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Child workers in India's beedi industry
June 11th, 2012
06:18 PM ET

Beedi industry's child workers trapped in economic slavery

Editor's note: Davinder Kumar is an award-winning development journalist who works for children’s rights organization Plan International.

Five-year-old Aliya thinks it is a game she must master quickly to be a winner. From the time she wakes up, until she goes to bed, Aliya watches her mother and all the girls and women in her neighborhood consumed in a frantic race: Making beedis - traditional hand-rolled Indian cigarettes.

To create each beedi, the maker painstakingly places tobacco inside a dried leaf sourced from a local ebony tree; tightly rolls and secures it with a thread; and then closes the tips using a sharp knife.

For anything between 10 and 14 hours, regardless of how long it takes, Aliya’s mother and others must all roll at least 1,000 beedis to earn a paltry sum of less than $2 a day, paid by the middleman. FULL POST

June 11th, 2012
02:55 AM ET

Task force busts sex trafficking ring

California (CNN) -  CNN's Freedom Project went undercover with the Human Trafficking Task Force in Orange County, California, as officers worked to break up a suspected Asia sex trafficking ring.

Police say the suspects moved women from China to the U.S. and enslaved them in residential brothels to work as sex slaves.  The women were given little food and clothing, according to police.

Life as a sex slave is a nightmare, a woman who asked to be identified as “Soo” told CNN’s Thelma Gutierrez.  Soo knows what the victims were going through.  She came to the United States with dreams of a better life, but wound up a sex slave in a massage parlor. 

Soo, who is now free, said:  “We are humans. We are not animals.”

Topics: In The News
June 1st, 2012
01:05 PM ET

CNN iReporters send message to Mauritanian slaves: 'We're with you'

By John D. Sutter and Edythe McNamee, CNN

(CNN) - Dozens of CNN iReporters recently uploaded videos of themselves telling escaped slaves in Mauritania that "we are with you" in the struggle for freedom. The videos follow a CNN project called "Slavery's Last Stronghold," which documented slavery in the West African country.

Mauritania was the last nation in the world to abolish the practice, and a UN representative estimates 10% to 20% of Mauritanians still live in a form of slavery.

The iReport videos came in from all over the world - and each began with the phrase "we are with you" in Hassaniya, the language spoken by a group of women who attend classes at a center for escaped slaves in Nouakchott, the capital. In the iReport videos, an African-American woman shared a few lines from a slave song her ancestors sang. School children in South Korea chanted "we are with you" in unison. A family gathered in a living room to record a video. Messages also came from Sri Lanka and Germany.

Watch a highlight reel of the clips at the top of this post, and please let us know what you think in the comments.

CNN plans to find a way to show the messages of hope to these women who escaped slavery. By including a phrase in the local language, iReporters ensured that the women who escaped slavery will understand their messages.

Here are two other updates on slavery in Mauritania, following the project:

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Rights group: 21 million now in forced labor
June 1st, 2012
09:58 AM ET

Rights group: 21 million now in forced labor

One of the world's leading workers' rights groups has revised upward its global estimate of the number of people working in forced labor.

Almost 21 million people are now in forced labor, according to the new study from the International Labour Organization.

That is up from a "minimum estimate" of 12.3 million in ILO's similar report in 2005 - but the group says the increase is down to better research methods rather than indicative of a trend.

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Topics: In The News • Life In Slavery • The Facts