Thursday, November 29, 2012

Trafficking Around the World

             Here at Amirah, progress on the safe house has been steadily unfolding through the dedication of many hard-working volunteers.  Elsewhere around the world, the pace of the anti-slavery movement has been unusually encouraging over the past few months. 

            All too often, causes only really take off when the super-rich decide to back them and throw the full force of their funding into the projects. Well, the abolition movement has reached that point. 

Pierre Omyidar, an eBay executive who holds $7 billion, believes that the things in this world are well worth paying for. After his wife Pam encouraged him to allocate some of his resources towards fighting slavery, the billionaire helped began doing research on trafficking and some of the top anti-slavery NGOs. 

In the United States, Pierre brought together many of the more talented, efficient antislavery nonprofits – such as International Justice Mission and the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking - and used his political leverage as a billionaire to back their lobbying efforts for more comprehensive and efficient anti-trafficking legislation. Abroad, the Omyidars have partnered with NGOs in Nepal and Sudan, among others, to take young children out of the abusive conditions they work under and provide them with free educations, entrepreneurial training and money management skills. 

So far, Pierre and his wife, Pam, have invested $115 million in 85 different antislavery nonprofits, and they plan to invest $50 million more in the near future. Since the couple plan to give away most of their fortune by the time of their deaths, we can expect them both to be heavily involved in such efforts for many years to come. 

In other news, it seems that international pressure on nations that use child labor works. Citing threats by trading partners to stop doing business with Ghanaian local businesses, the country’s National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) has begun pushing for the nation to begin enforcing its anti-child labor laws more fiercely. Currently, thousands of children in Ghana, many of them girls, are growing cocoa or fishing in hazardous conditions for very little pay. 

According to a spokeswoman for the NCCE, children should be allowed to work only two hours per day on weekdays and only three hours per day on weekends. Even this level of labor, of course, must not be too dangerous or difficult, or Ghanaians risk being in violation of international law. 

In Morocco, one of the latest countries to adopt the International Labor Organization’s Domestic Workers Convention, an estimated 123,000 children are engaged in child labor, many of them in domestic work. Although the minimum wage for a domestic worker is $261 per month, the average young female laborer interviewed by Human Rights Watch receives less than a quarter of this. Although the law demands that such laborers work no more than 44 hours per week and receive a day off, some work over 100 hours per week and fewer than half receive a day off at all. Only about 10% have advanced beyond third grade before quitting to work in the homes of others.  The majority have been both physically and verbally abused by their employers, and 15% have been sexually abused. 

Human Rights Watch has been lobbying for Morocco to formally criminalize all child labor performed by those under age 15, but even if the nation agrees and passes a law taking this into account, the country will likely have extreme difficulty enforcing such a measure. Although levels of child labor have been falling steadily for years, it looks as though for the foreseeable future, Morocco will remain a place where it is safe for the more well-to-do to illegally employ and abuse young women. 

It can be disturbing and humbling to read about the dire conditions that many people around the world work under. Whether they are slaves, quasi-slaves or merely endure slave-like conditions, it is hard to imagine going through what these remarkable people endure on a daily basis. But there is always hope. For every new sweatshop in Karachi, Pakistan, and for every new brick kiln in rural Nepal, there are new abolitionists, some from every country, working to unravel what the creatures of humanity’s darker nature have wrought. Let’s hope and pray that as modern-day abolitionists, we can have the strength, courage and sheer numbers to ensure that the Omyidars of the world prevail against the traffickers. 

For more updates on the status of trafficking issues around the world, check out the official Free the Slaves blog

Jack is a sophomore at Gordon College, where he studies English, political science, human nature, and how to make the world a better place. 

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