This week we’ve highlighted the efforts of individuals who have been moved to do their part in the fight against slavery. We’re often dissuaded by our own belief that our actions will have no effect, that without the backing of a large organization, we cannot change things. But the following stories prove otherwise.
Jeff Wilbarger, a math teacher in Bowling Green Ohio, founded The Daughter Project after reading David Batstone’s Not For Sale. Immediately after reading the book, he felt as though he needed to leave Ohio and move somewhere where trafficking actually exists. So much to his surprise, Jeff found out that Toledo, Ohio ranks among the top five cities to have the highest rate of child sex trafficking in the United States. That's why he's building what will become one of the few safe homes for victims of human trafficking in the U.S. FULL POST
Last week, on Connect the World, we explored different forms of bonded labor around the world. Victims of bonded labor may be held captive, threatened by excessive violence, or forced to pay off an impossible debt. They can be found working in mines and factories across the globe, hidden behind doors or even hidden in plain sight.
We’ve shown you the story of Sadat, an eight year old Afghani boy forced to make thousands of bricks a day to help repay his family’s debt. The debt was incurred when his father needed to borrow money after he lost a limb in a landmine explosion, and later made even larger when his grandfather fell ill. It will take years to pay off what they owe.
We then shared the stories of two young women, who wish to remain unidentified, as well as Yemane Tesfom. They left Eritrea separately and headed to Israel in hopes of a better life. The young women were beaten, starved and raped during their 40-day travel to Sinai. Yemane Tesfom was also abused by those who smuggled him to Israel. He was made a slave, forced to dig ditches, was tortured and permanently injured. He only made it to Israel when his friends paid his $4,000 ransom. Their stories aren’t unique. “In 2010 alone, more than 14,000 African migrants made their way across Israel’s southern border with Egypt.”
Throughout the week, Richard Quest, of Quest Means Business, has tackled the issue of sex tourism - the act of traveling to another country with the intention of soliciting sex from prostitutes. While this may seem condemnable in itself, the real tragedy occurs when these prostitutes are children who have fallen victim to sex trafficking.
We started the week off with a success story in Dan Rivers’ piece on Thai sex trafficking - the Thai Police busted a sex slavery ring, rescuing nine young boys who had been held captive and abused. The ring leader was sentenced to 84 years in prison (later halved because the convicted cooperated with investigators and the court), and a monk who admitted to abusing the boys was sentenced to 21 years in prison. While a definite success, there is still much work to be done.
Fortunately, there are efforts being made to put an end to sex tourism. We interviewed several experts in the field, including John Morton , the Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He discussed the operation Twisted Traveler, which actively pursues Americans who travel abroad and abuse children. The operation’s achievements are possible because of the cooperative relationship it has with international partners.
Several preventative efforts are under way as well. For example, ECPAT has partnered with Accor Hotels. As explained by Sophie Goldbum-Flak, executive vice president of Accor, has committed to raising awareness of the issue and is training its staff to identify victims and properly deal with the situation.
Jennifer Silberman, vice president of global diversity and corporate responsibility with Hilton, has also spoken to us about Hilton’s role in the fight against human trafficking. We also heard from Marilyn Carlson Nelson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Carlson Companies, and Taleb Rifai, UNWTO Secretary General.
Nelson shared with us what her travel companies are doing to prevent the sexual exploitation of children in the travel and tourism industries. The companies have agreed to train employees, report perpetrators, inform travelers of the legal penalties involved if they are found guilty, and help in the development of a global code for other companies in the industry to follow. Taleb Rifai also discussed what companies can do, but also what steps governments around the world can take.
This past week, on Jim Clancy’s The Brief, we have focused on young activists who are serving as role models in the fight against modern day slavery. Our guests included Bradley Myles, the Executive Director and CEO of Polaris Project; Zach Hunter, author and founder of the Loose Change to Loosen Chains campaign through IJM; and Cheryl Perera, Founder and President of One Child.
Polaris Project, IJM, and One Child are excellent sources of information on the topic and accept donations as well as provide suggestions as to how you can get involved. But most importantly, these three young activists exhibit the power this generation can exert. As Cheryl Perera said, “Young people, our generation today, has the power, the intellect, the talent, the creativity, the know-how, the technology and the resources to actually see slavery go down in this generation. … I think that young people who have been exploited in the sex trade themselves would feel a sense of empowerment, they are an invaluable insight into what can be done to challenge this.”
Tina Frundt, featured later in the week, was herself a victim of trafficking. She is an excellent example of someone who has overcome her tragic past and now puts her energy into doing good for other victims. Frundt is the owner and director of Courtney’s House, a shelter for recovering child sex slaves.
ECPAT (End Child Prostitution Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes), another group working against human trafficking has dedicated itself to many projects, including working with the hotel, retail, and travel industries to prevent this awful crime. On Thursday, we spoke with Carol Smolenski, the Executive Director of ECPAT-USA, about these efforts.
And finally, on Friday, we presented one of the youngest fighters to you: nine-year-old Benjamin Sherman, who wrote a book, Gregory’s Paper Airplane, on the subject of human trafficking. Proceeds from sales of the story are being donated to Agape International Missions and IJM.
Throughout the week, we have shown that sometimes the least expected individuals can have an impact - in this case, the young as well as former victims of slavery. The Frederick Douglass Family Foundation is another organization working to end human trafficking. The group accepts financial donations and encourages more young people to join in the fight through their educational projects. You can find out how to get your school involved by visiting their website.
You can also check out the CNN Freedom Project blog’s Educator and Parents Guide.
Children tragically are being abused through every form of human trafficking. They make up to 50% of the victims, according to UNICEF. They are trafficked for sex, forced to beg, can be found working in factories around the world and are even abducted by armed rebel forces and taught to kill.
While the case of the Bangladeshi boy may be extreme, it is probably safe to say his isn’t isolated. Globally, children are kidnapped and forced to beg, and as can be expected, only the traffickers and gang leaders receive any of the profits. And in the worst cases, these children are wounded either because they refuse to beg or simply because “pity pays.”
An organization working in Bangladesh to help these children is Save the Children Bangladesh.
In Liberia, former child soldiers are now in the process of recovering after the country’s fourteen year long civil war. But what they endured cannot easily be forgotten. Abducted from their homes by rebel forces, they were used as messengers, spies, sex slaves, or even handed guns and forced to kill. Their childhoods were stolen.
Slavery is everybody’s business. Its reach is vast — so vast that it affects each and every one of us in some way. Slavery can be found in the food we eat, the clothes we wear, across the world and in our very own backyard. But we all have the power to push back.
Recently, CNN has explored what businesses and consumers can do to promote ethical production and consumption. FULL POST
Although the basic characteristics of slavery haven’t changed over time, the ways in which we can fight against this atrocity have. Victims around the world are still being physically and emotionally abused, as well as economically exploited, but we are constantly learning and developing new ways to assist the victims and track down the traffickers.
A good example of this is how the role of technology has evolved within the abolitionist movement. FULL POST
It’s easy to say that human trafficking is a violation against basic human rights and that it should be abolished. And we often assume that modern-day slavery only takes place in countries far away, that it doesn’t affect us, and that we in no way contribute to the perpetuation of this terrible crime.
Unfortunately, nothing is as clear cut as that. According to UN.GIFT, 161 countries worldwide are reported to be affected by human trafficking. These countries are found on every continent and represent every type of economy.
On October 18th, 2010, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill 657, titled “California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010.”
By January 2012, major manufacturers and retailers within the state of California must fully disclose the efforts made to ensure their products have not been tainted by slavery or forced labor at any point within the supply chain. FULL POST
Although Sweden and Denmark have seemingly opposite prostitution laws - the former strictly outlawing the purchase of sex and the latter legalizing the industry - these countries have one thing in common: both are destination points for victims of human trafficking forced into prostitution.
While Sweden’s prostitution laws have obtained encouraging results, greatly reducing the amount of street prostitution, young women like “Laura,” are still being sold into sexual slavery, often by the people they trust most. As documented in Atika Shubert’s reports, Laura was sold by her "boyfriend" when she was only 17 years old.
So how can you help?
Groups like World Childhood Foundation, founded by Queen Silvia of Sweden, and Hope Now of Denmark, are working to end sexual trafficking and to rehabilitate victims like Laura. You can find out more about their work, as well as ways you can help by visiting their sites.