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
A section of Walton Avenue, between 149th and 150th in New York City's Bronx borough, has some new graffiti gracing one of its walls. This, however, is not the work of neighborhood miscreants, but a call to action to end human trafficking.
The mural, created by a group of students, is dedicated to Somaly Mam – an anti-trafficking activist - and is part of a project to raise awareness by the Somaly Mam Foundation.
Organizers of the project say that the mural allowed the kids to work together to raise awareness in their communities.
The students say the mural is their way of raising their voices against human trafficking and that they hope that when people see the mural they will add their own voices to fight against human trafficking.
For photographer Kay Chernush, a passion for shedding light on human trafficking began with a plane ride across the Atlantic Ocean.
"I was going overseas, and sat next to somebody who, it turned out, worked at the TIP (Trafficking in Persons) office at the State Department. We talked all the way across the Atlantic, and I was very interested in learning more about the subject."
Chernush would later be invited to trek across Asia and eastern Europe in 2004 to document cases of human trafficking, using her talents as a photographer. Her imagery would become an integral part of the 2005 "Trafficking in Persons" report - a report mandated by Congress to be compiled by the State Department each year.
A self-described well-traveled person, Chernush was shocked that she had not noticed the obvious signs of modern-day slavery.
"I'd traveled for many years, I'd lived overseas - how had this escaped me? It just grabbed me emotionally, the fact that people's lives are so precarious."
What began as one assignment has turned into a humanitarian passion. Chernush continues to work with a number of different groups attempting to highlight modern-day slavery. She continues to exhibit her work shedding light on human trafficking with various non-government organizations around the world.
"I'm enamored by that idea - so egalitarian, reaching people who are not necessarily aware of the problem. It's not the anti-trafficking crowd, not the gallery-going crowd, it's everyday people."