How do women and children come to find themselves as property being used? The answer of course, is that there are hundreds of reasons. Some of them however, are more common then others and it's important for us to be able to pin point the beginning of such a tragedy if we're going to make some kind of difference to stop it.
Many children and young girls are sold by their parents. My first reaction is total outrage but then if you look deeper you start to see a system that is giving them little choice. A father is watching his children starve, he is in such debt to the land owner that the only thing he can do is sell one of them. Sacrifice one to save the many. Most girls that are sold are sold for the amount of one weeks groceries. Or at some point some one in her family borrowed money but the interest on the loan was such that they will never pay it off thereby putting his future generations into the hands of the loan shark, they become his property. Many times a young women that has left her village will come back with lots of money and tell girls that they can go with her and she'll get them jobs as models etc. they trust her because she's one of them and they want a better life for themselves so they go, she takes their passports for "safe keeping" and they are quickly handed over to be used in brothels. In our country the pimp finds girls who don't have privacy settings on their face book type accounts and "befriends" them. He listens to them tells them how amazing they are and then when they really need some one they go to him never to see freedom again. And of course many of them are simply kidnapped, stolen away.
It's not just sex, slavery touches almost all good and services. People who work for nothing or almost nothing are slaves. Remember Europe several hundred years ago from history? The peasants work the land but every thing they make goes to the Land owner, the peasants live in continual debt to the land owner while he gets rich they stay in poverty. That is what is happening around the world in farming and manufacturing. If a woman is working in a sweat shop and doesn't even make enough money to feed herself then she is a slave. I used to hear when I was young "yea but if she didn't do that then she would be on the streets as a prostitute." I see now that it's conditions like these that lead to prostitution. If you can make more money turning a trick then working 18 hour long days in a factory you may do it. Or if your working but some one you love is ill then you have to borrow money from a loan shark etc. You see the cycle just goes on and on.
The worst two things touched by slavery beside the sex industry are (I'm so sorry to tell you this) coffee and chocolate. In the Ivory Coast, which produces the majority of coco used by the major three candy companies. The following is an excerpt from an article from CorpWatch:
Approximately 286,000 children between the ages of nine and twelve have been reported to work on cocoa farms on the Ivory Coast alone with as many as 12,000 likely to have arrived in their situation as a result of child trafficking. These children are often at risk of injury from machetes and exposure to harmful pesticides. With world cocoa prices so low, many farmers maintain their labor force through trafficking; West African parents living in poverty often sell their kids to cocoa farmers for $50-$100 in hopes that the children will make some money on their own.
Sadly, although these children work 80 to 100 hours per week, children working on cocoa farms frequently make little or no money and are regularly beaten, starved, and exhausted. Most of these children will never even taste the final product that results from their suffering.
AAAAAhHHHHHHHH!!!!!! I am so frustrated right now! How terrible. Please understand I am not and expert on these things I'm just trying to relay information to you that I think you should know about. Mars, Hersheys and Nestle are doing practically nothing in this country to work on this problem. Yes I said in this country they do offer Fair Trade products in the UK and Ireland because to quote Hershys "It's a hotter issue over there." So basically it was hurting their bottom line in Europe but not in the U.S so they're going to do the right thing over there but not here! How about you just do the right thing.
What does this mean for us? Well it means that if we start making a fuss they'll have to listen. To quote a good friend of mine "I vote with my dollar ever day." money talks and the biggest impact we can have as consumers is being careful about what we consume. It means we're going to pay more for coffee and chocolate. That may suck but I can't stand the thought of having to have a cheap sweet treat when it's literally destroying some one else's future. Plus the more things we buy in an ethical way the more the costs will go down though they'll never be as cheap as they are now. Coffee is an easier one this as been an issue for a while so it's way easier to find "fair trade" coffee I pay about a dollar more per pound then regular that doesn't seem like much to me if it means that the farmer is going to be able to feed his family.
I am a libertarian and I believe in free trade but I do NOT believe in slavery! There is a difference. If people start earning a living wage (meaning a living wage in their country not what we earn) then they stop living in so much debt, they can save, put food on the table their children can get an education and the cycle of poverty that leads to so much harm is broken. It's the trickle down effect or "reaganomics" for people.
I know this a lot but tomorrow I want to start telling you about the awesome and easy things we can do to help and about companies that are making a difference. Tomorrow will be a good day, a hopeful day!