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?
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.”
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
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.
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
(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.
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.
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.
A Taiwan girl whose story of being sold into slavery was featured in the CNN Freedom Project has met with the country's foreign minister.
Isabel's story of abuse sparked a media storm in Taiwan and CNN has learned several people have come forward claiming to be the mother or sister of Isabel.
By Colleen McEdwards (CNN)
Atlanta (CNN) - My sister has a violin that was passed to her from my grandmother, to my mother, and on to her. To a musician today, the instrument would probably be written off as a ratty old fiddle. But to us it is not just a violin. It is the violin.
Six months ago my mother died from ovarian cancer after a courageous fight. Less than two years ago, her mother, Isabel Connell Wise, died in a nursing home at the age of 93. In fact, my mother’s cancer was diagnosed the same week her own mother died.
In the midst of the loss of these two family matriarchs, I learned that my grandmother’s family housed an indentured servant in the early 1920s.
Editor's note: This is part of a series on the CNN Freedom Project on domestic servitude. Read more about some in domestic servitude who are so desperate to escape, they take their own lives. And get an update on the nanny in domestic servitude who suffered extensive burns when, she said, a Gadhafi relative poured boiling water on her.
(CNN) – One was sold by her impoverished parents, the other willingly left her family to become a nanny. But both found years of their lives turned to domestic servitude before finally finding freedom.
CNN's Martin Savidge tells the story of Isabel. Her mother sold her into slavery at around age 7 to a Taiwanese family who later moved to the United States in an upscale southern California neighborhood. FULL POST