I was a modern-day slave in America
November 21st, 2013
04:22 PM ET

I was a modern-day slave in America

Ima Mutal was 17 when she left her home in Indonesia to work as a nanny in Los Angeles. As soon as she entered the U.S. her passport was confiscated by her new "employer" and her servitude began. Hundreds of thousands of people are thought to be enduring forced labor in the United States. This is just one story.

FULL STORY
July 15th, 2013
10:30 AM ET

Fighting forced labor helps women beat poverty

By Guy Ryder, Special for CNN
Editor’s Note: Guy Ryder is the Director-General of the International Labour Organization. This week it is launching The Work in Freedom program, an initiative funded by the UK Department for International Development which aims to help 100,000 women and girls from Bangladesh, India and Nepal who are in forced labor in countries including Lebanon, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and India.

Across the planet, about one in every seven of us lives in extreme poverty, having to survive on less than $1.25 a day. Every day, they and the millions more living just above the poverty line struggle to have enough to eat, and dream of a better life and of earning enough to provide for their families.

Geeta Devi was one of these people. The 32 year-old mother of two from Nepal had been struggling to support her children and, like millions before her, made the difficult decision to leave her family behind in search of better work. Geeta, whose real name is being withheld to protect her safety, left her home believing she had secured a job through a local recruitment agency to work in a hospital in Lebanon.

When she arrived in Beirut, the man who collected her at the airport told her that she would actually be employed as a domestic worker in his house.

Geeta had used her meager savings to travel abroad and now had no money to fly home. And so she was forced to accept the job. What followed was an all too familiar story of exploitation – no wages, physical and psychological abuse, loss of contact with family and restriction of movement. FULL POST

July 11th, 2013
06:02 PM ET

Saudi princess charged with human trafficking

A woman identified as a Saudi Arabian princess has been accused of holding a domestic servant against her will at her condominium in Irvine, California.
Meshael Alayban, 42, faces one felony count of human trafficking. Court details released Thursday say Alayban is one of the wives of Saudi Prince Abdulrahman bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz al Saud.

FULL STORY
It's time for anti-slavery action, Mr. President
President Obama, in front of Lincoln's Memorial which honors his fight against slavery, can act against modern-day slavery.
January 10th, 2013
06:10 PM ET

It's time for anti-slavery action, Mr. President

By David Abramowitz, Special for CNN

Editor's note: David Abramowitz is Vice President, Policy & Government Relations for Humanity United and Director of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), a coalition of U.S.-based human rights organizations working to end modern slavery and human trafficking in the United States and around the world. ATEST recently issued “The Path to Freedom,” a road map for the second-term Obama Administration to follow as it works to fulfill its commitment to eliminate modern slavery.

It’s been 150 years since President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation declared in the midst of the U.S. Civil War that all slaves “shall be free.”

Today, the word “slavery” still conjures up horrifying images and stomach-churning thoughts about the most disgraceful days in U.S. history.

This shamefully evil chapter still cannot be fully explained, because no facts can possibly answer how humanity allowed it to happen, and why we didn’t stop it sooner.

Similar questions haunt the United States and countries around the world today - how has slavery evolved into a multi-billion dollar illicit global industry, overshadowed only by drugs?

FULL POST

October 15th, 2012
01:40 PM ET

Bonded labor stretches from third to first world

Editor's Note: Anti-trafficking expert Siddharth Kara is the author of “Bonded Labor: Tackling the System of Slavery in South Asia,” providing the first comprehensive overview of bonded labor in South Asia.

In September 2010, I met a young girl named Nirmala in the remote western Terai region of Nepal.  Nirmala is one of the thousands of internally trafficked domestic slaves in Nepal, called kamlari, who belong to the outcast Tharu ethnic group.

Agents recruit Tharu girls as young as eight to work as servants in upper-caste homes.  Aside from room and board, the children receive little to no payment for up to 10 years of work.  Kamlari girls often suffer extreme abuse and maltreatment.

“I did all the work,” Nirmala explained, “cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, washing dishes.  I woke each morning at 5 a.m. and went to sleep at 10 p.m. I slept on the floor…I did this work seven days a week. Sometimes the wife would beat me. The husband in the home would rape me.  I did not want to be in that home.”

FULL POST

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

Labor migrants dying abroad
May 13th, 2012
05:44 PM ET

Nepalese dying to work

Kathmandu, Nepal (CNN) – Twenty-one-year-old Ramila Syangden weeps uncontrollably as she clutches her 10-month-old baby. She sits and watches as the pyre where her husband’s body will be cremated is set alight in the open Nepalese air.

Syangden never considered one of the potential consequences of her husband’s decision to work abroad. Now she can’t ignore it.

Hours before the Buddhist cremation ceremony she watched the coffin, with her husband’s body inside, arrive on a flight from Saudi Arabia where he had worked.

The paperwork says the 36-year old committed suicide there. Not a single person gathered for the cremation ceremony believes it.

“I don’t think so. He said he would go abroad, see the place, earn as much as he could for the children and come back. I think somebody killed him,“ his wife said.

FULL POST

January 19th, 2012
09:34 AM ET

Former domestic slave reunited with mother in Taiwan

When she was about 7, Isabel was sold into domestic servitude to a wealthy Taiwan family who later moved to California. She endured a childhood of constant work and beatings and only escaped when she was in her 20s.

CNN's Martin Savidge first talked to Isabel about her story in November. In that conversation, Isabel said her wish was to be reunited with her mother. "If I find her I say Mom I love you so much. I still want to find you," she said.

Her story sparked a media storm in Taiwan and the country's foreign minister helped locate Isabel's family.

On Thursday, after 20 years, Isabel got her wish and was finally reunited with her mother. FULL POST

Breaking the chains: Freedom's successes
This image showing enslaved fishing boys in Ghana was one of the first to appear on the Freedom Project.
December 19th, 2011
03:44 PM ET

Breaking the chains: Freedom's successes

(CNN) - Since its launch in March, the CNN Freedom Project has helped shine a spotlight on all aspects of modern-day slavery and spurred action from governments, corporations and individuals.

CNN reported on sex slaves and bonded workers, children and adults caught in despair, and the inspirational against-all-odds work of individuals and organizations fighting the trade.

Nearly 2,000 people have come out of slavery, either directly or indirectly, as a result of the hundreds of  stories broadcast on air and published online.

FULL POST

December 1st, 2011
11:37 AM ET

Watch the "Common Dreams" documentary

Editor's note: The documentary "Common Dreams" recently aired on CNN. Find out more about how you can help the Haitian children at CommonDreamsHaiti.com

In a Freedom Project documentary, Grammy Award-winning musician and actor Common focuses on the plight of the Restaveks, the estimated 300,000 children working as domestic servants in Haiti. You can now watch the entire program in six parts below.

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Photographer changed by Haiti's Restaveks
November 23rd, 2011
07:29 PM ET

Photographer changed by Haiti's Restaveks

Steven Taylor is a 24-year-old music and celebrity photographer. In the past two years, Steven has photographed Common, John Mayer, Snoop Dogg, Pharrell, Bruno Mars, Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, John Legend and more. FULL POST

Haitian kids exploited by tradition
November 23rd, 2011
07:14 PM ET

Haitian kids exploited by tradition


Editor's note: "Common Dreams", which aired on CNN at the weekend, can now be viewed online in its entirety. Find out more about how you can help the Haitian children at CommonDreamsHaiti.com

A Grammy Award-winning musician and actor is using his star power to help rescue children being exploited in Haiti, a nation founded by freed slaves.

In a Freedom Project documentary, Common shines a light on the plight of the Restaveks, the estimated 300,000 children working as domestic servants in Haiti.

FULL POST

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