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End Slavery Now Blog

End Slavery Now! is the voice of the passionate abolitionists at End Slavery Now, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to end slavery in our lifetime. You can also check us out on twitter, facebook and LinkedIn where we share news and other features to keep you informed about modern slavery and human trafficking, and — more importantly — what YOU can do about it.

We hope you’ll be touched, moved and inspired to action by the articles posted in this column.

Join us today - together we’re ending slavery. Now.

How Many Slaves Do You Own?

Posted: 07/29/2011

How Many Slaves Do You Own?
How many slaves do you own? This atypical question would seem outside the realm of normal conversation and, in some cases, offensive. Shockingly enough, this query is relevant to every consumer. Products come from somewhere, and are produced and processed by someone or other entity; but as consumers, we seldom stop to contemplate these questions. The reality: 27 million people are enslaved with a majority forced into labor to contribute to products we buy. Due to lack of transparency, we are often unaware of such realities. Once we can understand how consumers contribute both willingly and unwillingly to slavery, we can begin to further fuel the abolitionist movement.

Slavery Footprint is an innovative matrix rating system that will answer the daunting, yet very real question: How many slaves do you own? Justin Dillon, a world-renowned abolitionist, has played a significant role in the development of the Slavery Footprint system.

Justin is a musician—as part of the band Tremolo—and director of Call + Response, a documentary that reveals the secrets behind the booming human trafficking industry. The film and movement aims to provide "opportunities to act and engage through mobile phones and online platforms," according to the Call + Response website. With the help of well-known abolitionists, celebrities, and other musicians, Call + Response has turned its vision into a reality—stimulating the abolitionist movement with aspiration, value, and action.

Justin explains that Slavery Footprint "connects the dots" through helping consumers understand how they contribute to slavery. Through a comprehensive combination of synthesized reports that account for over 400 products and an algorithm that uses data separated by country, the amount of slaves it takes to produce a specific product can be estimated. Interested consumers take a short, online survey to reveal the amount of slaves it takes to maintain their lifestyle purchases. The results enable people to be a part of the solution, leveraging consumption to make a difference. With popular information and mobile technologies, this system will be easily accessible and usable.

The inception of this revolutionary tool was inspired by ideas generated from the U.S. Department of State. The State Department sought out assistance from Call + Response to create and implement the Slavery Footprint. Justin declares the State Department's innovative and open effort, "A great mark of courage." Since its inception, Call + Response has made the construction of this revolutionary tool a collaborative effort—bringing together nonprofits and abolitionist groups to strengthen the influence. On September 22, 1862, President Lincoln issued the first part of the Emancipation Proclamation. The release of Slavery Footprint on September 22, 2011 will further aid the fight against slavery, even centuries later.

Justin calls all consumers and activists to action. He reminds us of our two greatest assets: consumption and network. First, consumption can harness the strength of the market through directing purchases that support the abolitionist movement. Second, the power of one’s network can be accrued to influence others and spread truthful, understandable narratives. "Act often; act passionately," Justin states. Often, we concentrate on problems and forget to celebrate. Justin challenges activist to "Celebrate every victory—that’s what will win the battle."

The Power of Your Purchase

Posted: 07/20/2011

The Power of Your Purchase
Next on your list: bananas — the deliciously versatile fruit, perfect for baked breads, desserts, and smoothies. While perusing the grocery store isles, you find the fruit section and intently scan for the perfect batch of bananas, ripe and reasonably priced. "Ah ha!" Confidently, you pick up the perfect batch — thinking about how scrumptious banana crème pie will taste — and make your way through the sea of carts to the checkout line.

Although we may consider ourselves attentive and mindful buyers, do we ever stop to think: What is really in my banana? And, what are my dollars supporting? These rarely asked questions, however, are critical to abolishing slavery and other unjust work practices employed by exporters. As abolitionists and active consumers, it's important for us to understand the realities of slave-produced goods, contribute to the Fair trade market, and participate in this social movement to abolish slavery and support sustainable company practices.

The realities are undeniably harsh — making the Fair Trade movement more vital than ever before. Children, women, and men are all targets of exploitation. A 2008 global report by the International Labour Office estimated at least 12.3 million people are in forced labor worldwide, with children approximately representing between 40% and 50% of all forced laborers. Moreover, 115 million children are working in hazardous conditions and 5.7 million children are trapped in forced and bonded labor. This issue is rampant across the globe, infiltrating into diverse regions of agricultural and industrial production. According to a 2000 US State Department report, 15,000 children (aged 9 to 12) in the Ivory Coast have been sold into forced labor on conventional cotton, coffee, and cocoa plantations. Ironically, the public — consumers of commodities produced by bonded laborers and slaves — agree human exploitation is wrong and slavery should be eradicated at all costs.

What if these consumers were aware that their purchases were contributing the expansion of slavery, endorsing an inhumane industry through the daily activity of buying basic goods? As consumers, it is our duty to understand what is really behind the production of our goods and, specifically, how we can harness purchasing power to abolish slavery.

These questions are addressed by Paul Rice, President and CEO of Fair Trade USA. Fair Trade USA is a non-profit organization that audits transactions between US companies offering Fair Trade Certified products and their international suppliers. Knowing what is behind our next purchase, or that next banana batch, is quite simple: just look for the Fair Trade label. Paul explains that this label is the only audited certification, indicating that labeled goods were produced in alignment with over 200 regulations; these regulations endorse ethical labor conditions, wages, and agriculture practices. He states, "If you care about slavery and poverty, buy fair trade."

The number of fair trade products is growing. The fair trade Federation Interim Report claimed there was a 102% growth in US and Canadian sales for Fair Trade between 2004 and 2007. How and who are these sales helping? In 2008, 7.5 million individuals directly benefited from Fair Trade Certified production, according to the Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International. Fair Trade is a consumer-driven market mechanism, enhancing the power of every person and every purchase.

Fair Trade USA aims to empower people to be 'conscious consumers.' "We can vote with our dollars," Paul states. It is time for consumers to harness the power of the market. With each Fair Trade purchase, consumers can ameliorate global slavery and poverty.

The next time you consciously scan the long isle of bananas, or any goods for that matter, stop to think about what your purchase is supporting. Paul calls everyone to action: "Look for the Fair Trade Certification and buy it." People no longer have to feel helpless, fighting against the colossal giants of slavery and poverty; we can help in a direct way through altering our everyday purchasing practices. As "conscious consumers," our purchases will be convenient and powerful.

Unyielding Strength

Posted: 06/28/2011

Unyielding Strength
"Trafficking is absolutely, positively the worst human rights violation you can think of. Trafficking is abduction. Trafficking is rape. Trafficking is torture, emotional and physical. Trafficking is murder," Matthew Friedman stated in the film, The Day My God Died.

The realities of human trafficking are intrinsically horrendous. After enduring physical and psychological abuse, survivors need support to push forward through the darkness of hurt into the lightness of hope. In order to harness their inner strength, survivors need compassionate people to unveil new opportunities—which enable survivors to live each day, knowing they are loved and safe from the shackles of slavery.

After experiencing the trauma of sex trafficking firsthand, Tina Frundt has become an exemplary activist for the anti-slavery movement and the winner of the Fredrick Douglass Award from Free the Slaves. She is a beacon of hope, and mother figure, to children and teenagers forced into commercial sex slavery—a lifestyle that is not by choice. Tina firmly believes that no human desires or deserves to be exploited, and it is this credo that compels her to abolish such injustices.

As a teenager, Tina found herself manipulated by an older man who was full of empty promises for a better life. Little did she know that running away with this man to Cleveland, Ohio would drastically alter her life's course forever: she was forced into prostitution at age fourteen. She was raped; she was deprived of basic needs; she was tortured and left hopeless. And even after this suffering, a part of Tina blamed herself.

After a year of abuse, exploitation, and threats, Tina found her inner strength to escape. Despite the fact that she had been severely abused before the police arrived, Tina was viewed as a criminal and sent to a juvenile detention center. Although it required overcoming further obstacles, Tina's hope and strength fueled an unbridled motivation to help other survivors.

In 2008, Tina founded Courtney's House: an anti-slavery organization based in D.C., established to provide a supportive environment and safe haven for survivors of human trafficking. Through outreach projects, an active telephone hotline, support groups, and medical care, Courtney's House works intimately with survivors through the entire trauma recovery process.

"Our issue does not stop from 9:00 am-5:00 pm," Tina says. A total of four staff members and 85 volunteers work around the clock to carry out their mission of ending commercial sex slavery. Extensive time and energy is necessary to eradicate this injustice, and it is only made possible through the collaborative, passionate, and selfless efforts of those willing to take action.

Let's look at some facts:

ECPAT USA reports that 1.2 Million children are trafficked every year throughout the world.

A University of Pennsylvania Study from 2001 estimated that up to 300,000 children nationwide are at risk of falling victim to some sort of sexual exploitation.

With these realities, we need movers and shakers like Tina: people who are willing to lobby for the greater good and risk boldly for silenced voices.

In order to propel this movement forward, Tina calls all people to "get involved, donate, and volunteer."

Survivors at Courtney's House empower each other and themselves. Tina yearns for the day when survivors can "sleep without lights on and walk in the street at night" without fearing for their lives. These are simple comforts that people take for granted; but for survivors, these are craved securities.

Tina reminds us that survivors possess unyielding strength.

To Be or To Act; that is the question.

Posted: 06/08/2011

To Be or To Act; that is the question.
Life is a series of choices. Every minute, every hour, and every day we make choices—from dining out or dining in to choosing whom to date or marry. Encountering and acting upon such choices pave the path for our life-long journey in search of greater purpose. These choices, the very things we decide upon decisively or habitually, can be simple or complex; but no matter how they differentiate, choices share a common quality: they are essential ingredients for our personal progress. Unfortunately, a recipe for life achievement and happiness does not exist. Three tablespoons of education, a cup of steady work, and dash of enthusiasm cooked at 225 degrees of stress may not produce desired results. This lack of rigidness gives us the power to choose.

The diverse methods in which people make choices depend on the significance of an issue, individual differences, and personal ideologies. Let us think of a few methods, shall we? There is the "I’m gonna go with my gut" method, or those who play rock paper scissors. Some may create a pro and con list, while others engage all their cognitive resources to make a thoughtful decision. Identify how you make crucial decisions and decide which issues require your attention.

Discussing the ability to decide seemingly insignificant and central choices for ourselves may seem like a daunting duty; on the contrary, this responsibility is transformed into an endearing opportunity when we consider the realities of those with limited abilities to choose.

The 27 million modern-day slaves have little to no voice. Strangled by powerful atrocities, they must live each day knowing their lives are not their own; rather, they are forced to be lifeless puppets, pulled and jerked in brutal directions. According to CNN's Freedom Project, "Slavery occurs when one person completely controls another person, using violence or the threat of violence to maintain that control, exploits them economically, pays them nothing and they cannot walk away."

Our actions that assist the anti-slavery movement can give them hope and freedom from the shackles of disparity.

Let's play a game. Depending on your answers, you will be directed to another question. As you advance, questions will become increasingly difficult.

Question #1: Do you believe in the dignity and rights for all mankind? If yes, you may pass start and collect $200; if no, you are stuck until a subsequent turn.

To the player who answered yes, question #2: Is the exploitation of human life wrong an inhumane? If yes, you are granted another turn and allowed to invest personal capital; if no; you have lost another turn.

Question #3: What will you do to act against this brutal crime and assist in abolishing modern-day slavery? This is when is gets tricky.

a) Sit back and relax—it's not my problem

b) Let someone else be proactive

c) Become educated

d) Take action

Congratulations! Your first round is complete. If you answered a or b, your choice reflects passivism: the state of being, not doing. If you answered c or d, your choice reflects activism: the state of doing something or taking action.

Sometimes we fail to realize our choices can indirectly affect others—choices that could dramatically change the lives of those enslaved. When dismissing the responsibility for those who suffer, we must beg the question: "Why?" One of the issues with the individualistic nature of Western societies is that we only attend to problems that affect us personally. Fortunately, there are people and groups that defy this generalization; they choose to abolish slavery.

To be or to act: that is the question. Choosing to act does not mean you have to strap a cape to your neck, fly across the sky, and save the world from all ill doings. Instead, this call to action requires your individual abilities and resources to aid in the anti-slavery movement.

Now, becoming an Activist is easy and engaging with the help of the New Underground Railroad, a revolutionary Internet database provided by End Slavery Now. Through integrating resources, events, and opportunities provided by anti-trafficking organizations, End Slavery Now has built a unique and comprehensive platform that allows users to choose how and when to act. Whether it is signing a petition, hosting a documentary, or attending an immersion trip, your actions will assist in the fight.

Joining the movement is simple. First, sign up as a Volunteer with The New Underground Railroad. Second, set your individual preferences to receive information tailored to your needs. For example: if you sign up for "write a press release" and "organize an event" task-related topics, information will be e-mailed to you by anti-slavery organizations that have opportunities related to these preferences. Third, manage and track your past and future participation of events. Additionally, you will have access to a comprehensive calendar that enables you to RSVP for opportunities to support or attend. Fourth, view your stats and compare them to the top 250 activists through a system in which points are granted for the extent and level of participation. Fifth, participate in live discussions concerning crucial issues related to human trafficking. Finally, resources such as literature and links to sign petitions allow you to act from the comfort of your own home.

Lauren Taylor, founder of End Slavery Now states, "The New Underground Railroad is an unprecedented set of tools that focuses and concentrates the energy needed to catalyze the anti-slavery movement and propel it forward."

And forward is the direction this movement will go if we all choose to act. By becoming an Activist, your choices will become readily accessible. Will you choose to act for the purpose of human dignity, in pursuit of a world absent of slavery? Or, will you choose to simply be passive and believe that your actions will not affect the monstrosities that plague society?

We can act or we can be. Choose to act.


Posted: 07/22/2010

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

- Theodore Roosevelt

… but also keep on pushing for more things you can do, with even more diverse tools for change, all over the world. Just because Teddy encouraged others to “do what you can,” I don’t think he wanted them to settle.

There is increasing criticism of social movements that use seemingly passive forms of activism, like joining a facebook group, signing an online petition, wearing a wristband, putting a sticker on your laptop, or wearing a pin on your backpack. The term widely being used for these behaviors is slacktivism, a combination of the words “slacker” and “activism.”

Maybe these efforts are just the desire to do something good without leaving one’s chair. But if you multiply one “effortless” action by a million, you still have a whole lot of political will.

Forget speculative arguments about whether these actions should be termed as “slactivism,” or whether they are indeed as productive as other forms of activism… what actually matters is what is happening. And change is happening.

For example, last year, after individuals and members of the anti-trafficking community wrote letters, commented on blogs, signed petitions, and generally complained, Craigslist.org declared an end to their “erotic services” section. This section was the area of Craigslist where human trafficking and underage prostitution was most usually advertised. That section has, unfortunately, been replaced with a “legal adult services” section, which contains many of the same lightly masked ads. But although the ultimate change may seem small, it was still a positive step. Other steps? The Rebecca Project created an inspiring video which outlines the reality of modern day human-trafficking and this “cyber sex market.” In their video, they interviewed several young women who were forced to prostitute themselves, and comment on the drastic change that needs to be made to prevent the buying and selling humans over the internet. Such publicity can have a powerful ripple effect. Change.org developed an online petition to stop this exploitation and allowance of human-trafficking on Craigslist once and for all. Add your name to the thousands who have already signed and continue to be part of the change that needs to happen: stop the online assistance of human-trafficking in its tracks!

Of course, don’t convince yourself that a few clicks with your computer mouse is all you can you do to stop human-trafficking. There is oh so much more that needs to be done, and that you can do! But also, don’t give into the idea that online activism has no impact. It already has had an impact.

The criticism that those who might have otherwise engaged in hands-on forms of activism, such as protests, in the past are now solely focusing on online activism is a valid one. But what about all of those people who wouldn’t even know about modern day slavery if it weren’t for facebook? Or twitter? Or an online petition? What about all of those people who are now informing themselves and becoming more involved in this movement? That alone is an impact.

Margaret Mead famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” This quote has, quite justifiably, become the champion of many social movements. It often straddles the border of cliché and inspiration… but these words are so often quoted because they will always ring true. As you read this, you are a member of that small group. Harness the power we all have, of acting, and add your voice to the movement committed to ending modern-day slavery.

Simply put: discounting any action, including that over the internet, isn’t productive. Encouraging individuals to work towards change, in any and every way they can, is.

Secrets in the City of Jasmine

Posted: 07/12/2010

Secrets in the City of Jasmine
On the streets of Damascus, you find men selling corn on the cob, chanting in Arabic. You find women in bright red heels walking next to women in nekabs, fully covering their faces and bodies. Kids playing games in front of the teal mosaic of a mosque. You find the winding alleys of the Old City, and minarets peaking out over the horizon, and houses scattered over the steep mountain, the Jebel. As you go towards the Southern end of Damascus, you find Jeremanah, the predominantly Iraqi neighborhood. And if you go slightly further, along the Southern city outskirts, you can easily find some not-so-hidden secrets.

Ask any cab driver, any of those men selling corn on cob from their sidewalk stands, and they could tell you about the area on the edge of Damascus that is known for Iraqi prostitution. They could tell you about the Maraba roads famous for brothels, and the highways that are lined with “nightclubs.” There you can find not only scantily-clad women dancing, waiting for a man to “choose” them, but also girls as young as twelve sporting red lipstick and waiting for the same fate.

Since the war in Iraq began in 2003, over 2 million Iraqis have crossed borders and now live as refugees. After this influx, an estimated 10% of Syria’s 18 million people are Iraqis. Between 80 and 90 percent of these Iraqis live in and around Damascus. After leaving their lives of violent struggles and destroyed homes in Iraq, they now face new struggles in Syria. While Syria has certainly opened its doors to the Iraqi population in a time of need, one simple stamp in their passports as they cross the Iraq-Syria border takes away so much: a stamp that reads “Employment Prohibited.” They are not entitled to work in Syria, and there are no clear plans laid out on how to integrate Iraqis legally, economically, or politically.

Additionally, female-headed households account for almost a quarter of the refugees registered with the United Nations High Commission of Refugees in Damascus. Many of these women are widowed, divorced, or separated from their husbands by war, and most have families to support. Without the rights to find legal work, many have turned to the “underground” sex market. Iraqi women in these areas often engage in prostitution as a last means for supporting their families, but increasingly, they are tricked or forced into prostitution. Some nightclubs (i.e. brothels) allow women to work essentially “freelance;” they are able to walk in for free, dance, and only pay the bouncer if they leave with a man. Other brothels don’t allow for so much freewill… and other brothels don’t deal with women, but girls. Over the last five years, Damascus has become a destination for sex tourism, thriving with low-priced Iraqi prostitutes, many of them young girls.

Deborah Amos, an NPR reporter and author, interviewed several of these women for her book Eclipse of the Sunnis. She wrote, “Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of the Iraqi exiles in Syria had turned to the sex trade for survival. Nearly every war brings prostitution. But in Damascus, girls as young as ten were forced into the trade by parents- fathers or mothers, who made the deal and lived off the proceeds.”

Increasingly, families, from parents to husbands, traffic their daughters and wives. Families bring these girls to nightclubs, where they are forced to work as prostitutes.

“Not all of them do it willingly. The husbands threaten. Often a woman will get married just to get out of Iraq and then will be forced into prostitution when she gets here,” said Asir Madaien, a protection officer at the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Damascus, to Amos. She said that the youngest prostitute she had seen was a twelve year-old girl, who was accompanied by two men from the Gulf.

Madaien noted that there is a problem reaching out to families, even when assistance in the form of money and educational opportunities is provided. “Even when you get a girl released, if the family is involved, she will soon disappear.” The sex-trafficking around Damascus is being spurred mostly by families themselves.

Dietrun Günther, another official at the UNHCR in Damascus, expressed her concern over this human-trafficking in a New York Times article, saying, “We’re especially concerned that there are young girls involved, and that they’re being forced, even smuggled into Syria in some cases.”

The effects of the Iraq war are so often viewed in a purely political sense; undoubtedly the effects extend from increased sectarian tensions to a government in question to long-lasting consequences for American troops and their families. But some of the less obvious effects involve young Iraqi women and children, forced by their families to prostitute themselves. The less obvious victim is a young girl, who struggled her way out of Iraq and into the beautiful city of Damascus, the City of Jasmine, for a chillingly ugly life in human-trafficking. It is important that the world doesn’t ignore her, but attempts to protect her; it is important that she is given the chance for her voice to be heard.

An Army of Children: The Hidden Form of Human Trafficking

Posted: 07/09/2010

An Army of Children: The Hidden Form of Human Trafficking
There is no Amber Alert in Northern Uganda.

Children aren’t told by their mothers to watch out for strangers with candy. They don’t have a 911 number to call that lets them know safety is mere minutes away. They are forced to learn through the experiences of friends and acquaintances that safety precautions from abduction often entails fleeing for your life in the dead of the night. The alternative is to become a child soldier, to become, physically and psychologically, a slave.

The same can be said for a large number of children from the southern edges of Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Central African Republic. The cruel organization that victimizes these children is the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The Lord’s Resistance Army formed in the late 1980s as a rebel group to fight the Museveni government in Uganda, and supposedly to protect the Acholi people of northern Uganda. However, from the get-go, the LRA, led by Joseph Kony, launched a campaign of brutality against these civilians, and built itself up through the violent abduction and enslavement of children.

Over the past two decades, villages in northern Uganda have been attacked and decimated, families murdered, and children lost through abduction by the LRA. These children are physically and psychologically enslaved through the addiction to drugs, threats, and sickening manipulations. They are forced to commit acts of violence against each other and terrorize other members of the population. A boy may be forced to rape a woman who is old enough to be his mother. Others must choose to kill someone, or cutting off his or her hands or lips, in order not to be killed themselves by LRA commanders. Girls are gang-raped and turned into “wives;” if the girl has a child, that child is used as a bargaining chip to prevent her from attempting to escape. U.S. Representative Brad Miller highlighted the degree of the LRA’s violent crimes when he spoke with the advocacy organization Invisible Children this past May: “The LRA has abducted more than 20,000 children over the past decade for forced conscription and sexual exploitation. Almost 90 percent of the LRA’s soldiers are children, some as young as eight. They are brutalized and forced to commit atrocities on each other and on their own siblings.”

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) defines a “child soldier” as:

“[A]ny child- boy or girl- under 18 years of age, who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity… and anyone accompanying such groups other than family members. It includes girls and boy recruited for forced sexual purposes and/or forced marriage.”

Child soldiers are indeed a hidden form of human trafficking. Their subsequent actions after abduction may not be black and white, but they remain children, and certainly slaves.

The conflict in Uganda has been complex and has created long-lasting tears in Uganda’s social fabric. While LRA crimes have died down in Uganda following the shift in its base of operations into the northeastern area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2005, its atrocities continue regionally. Not only has the LRA created a national crisis in Uganda, it is also enhancing and extending regional conflicts in Eastern and Central Africa. It continues to terrorize innocent civilians in the DRC and in the Central African Republic and spread its brutal campaign. The LRA abductions of children have far from ceased.

In 2001 the United States placed the LRA on its list of terrorist organizations. The U.S. also supported Juba Peace Talks between the LRA and the Ugandan government in 2008 (Kony later refused to sign the peace agreement and the talks were suspended). But it is important that political will within the U.S. to take action against the LRA and towards peace not only continues but intensifies. Silence and inaction will only let this movement of using child abductions and enslavement as a tool for war expand.

On May 24, the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama. This crucial, bipartisan law gained more co-sponsors than any piece of legislation pertaining to sub-Saharan Africa in decades. It calls for “political, economic, military and intelligence support for viable multilateral efforts” to eradicate the threat of the LRA. Additionally, it calls for the humanitarian needs of past victims to be met, and for destroyed communities to be aided. This is the first law that sets forth a viable U.S. role in the protection of civilians from the LRA, and for the recovery of those whose lives have been broken by LRA attacks.

Uganda still lives in the shadow of this conflict. Parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic live its horrors in the moment. When you think about slavery, stop and think about these children, the most innocent of victims, who are dealing with an unimaginable reality. Think about the trauma that lingers with children who were forced to walk miles in the middle of the night to avoid abduction, who were forced to kill friends, or burn down buildings, or keep their tears to themselves for fear of death. Think about the children who are still trapped in this life with drugs and threats. And make the decision that the use of child soldiers, child slavery, needs to be confronted head on.

slavery - What would your definition look like?

Posted: 06/21/2010

slavery -  What would your definition look like?
Picture yourself sitting in a classroom, about to take a test. Maybe you have that slightly jittery feeling that comes with holding your number-two pencil during the few minutes before the exam commences, hearing nothing but the tick of the second-hand on the clock (let’s face it, no matter how many years it has been since you attended high school, you know exactly what feeling I’m talking about). Mentally preparing yourself for the true-or-false questions soon to come, reviewing definitions that you have memorized… and the exam is handed out. You look at the questions.

Here’s an easy one:

1) True or False: Slavery in America ended with the Emancipation Proclamation.

The tip of that number-two pencil should snap off as you resoundingly circle “False.”

Now it might get a little trickier.

2) Define slavery.

How crafty; a question with no definitive answer! You can start by looking at the legal definition:


The state of one bound in servitude as property of a slaveholder or household.

And you can think of this definition in terms of the 13th Amendment, passed in January of 1865, and designed to abolish slavery:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Though today, as modern day slavery defies all legality, it might be helpful to look at a more specified definition. Here is the definition of “severe forms of trafficking in persons” under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a federal law passed in 2000:

1) Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion or in which the person induced to perform such an act is under 18, or

2) The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of subjecting that person to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

However, even this definition doesn’t seem to do justice to the millions of people who are bound in servitude, controlled through violence, and forced to act without free will. End Slavery Now further explores how to measure and define slavery, highlighting important questions to ask when judging if an individual can be considered, and defined as, a slave: “Can this person walk away? Are they under violent control?”

At his 2010 speech for the TED Conference, a biannual event devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading,” Dr. Kevin Bales spoke about combating modern day slavery. Bales is the co-founder of Free the Slaves, the author of “Ending Slavery: How We Free Today’s Slaves,” and widely recognized as one of the foremost experts on modern slavery. In his talk, he discussed what it means to be a slave, and put forth his own descriptive definition of slavery:

“Agriculture workers in Africa, whipped and beaten… and I want to be very clear. I am talking about real slavery. This is not about lousy marriages, this is not about jobs that suck, this is about real people who cannot walk away, people who are forced to work without pay, people who are operating 24/7 under a threat of violence and have no pay. It’s real slavery and exactly the way slavery would be recognized throughout all of human history.”

But let’s be honest… these are just definitions. Why do they matter?

Because slavery is not just something of the past. The importance of its definition, and its presence, did not end with the Emancipation Proclamation, or with the 13th Amendment (remember your pencil tip breaking as you definitively circled “False” for Question #1?!). As Bales stresses, slavery is not low wages, it’s not cultural manipulations, it’s not bad marriages. Slavery is not illegal immigration. And it’s certainly not a joke.

Once you understand what modern day slavery really is, you can understand what approximately 27 million people deal with daily. Every day, millions of people are dehumanized in the most drastic ways imaginable. They are treated as nameless, faceless objects: they are “bound in servitude as property.” By understanding the definition of what you are combating, you can find new and effective ways to expand this anti-slavery movement.

Let’s try one last question on that test:

Freedom is:

a) just another word for nothing left to lose


b) personal liberty, and what we are working to ensure for every human being on this planet

I’ll give you a hint: Freedom’s not just another word for nothing left to lose. It’s everything.

A Father's Pledge

Posted: 06/20/2010

A Father's Pledge
Father’s Day is here. This year let’s forget about getting a card, or a barbecue, more chrome for our motorcycle or a new fishing rod. This year let’s not worry about presents. This year let’s take on a mission. This year, in celebration of Father’s Day, let’s do what dads were made to do; defend.

Let’s defend our daughters. Let’s leverage our political will to ensure that the men who buy and sell our children are fully prosecuted; and let’s make sure the punishment fits the crime. Let’s leverage our compassion (and what’s greater than a father’s compassion?) so that the daughters trapped in this nightmare can be quickly rescued and restored. And let’s leverage our moral courage and take a stand against the commercial sex industry and their attempts to glamorize prostitution and traumatize our daughters.

Just imagine if you’re one of the 100,000 fathers in America whose daughter – or son – is one of the 100,000 children who have disappeared in the last year, forced into the commercial sex industry. If your thirteen-year-old daughter vanished, and you didn’t know where to find her or how to get help, what would you do? How could your family endure that kind of emotional torment?

Though many think slavery was abolished long ago, as hard as it is to believe it indeed still exists. Child sex trafficking is one of modern slavery’s horrific forms. Our daughters and sons, taken from under our very noses, are being sexually abused and serially raped. Consider this staggering statistic – the average age of children entering prostitution here in the U.S. is just thirteen years old. At this age they are too young to protect themselves.

Fortunately, there are many groups and people working tirelessly to put a stop to sex trafficking in this country. And as a father, there is something you can do. You can help prevent the sexual exploitation of your child, and other children.

The Defenders USA program challenges men across America to step up and personally participate in protecting children from sex-traffickers. Founded on Father’s Day in 2006 as a project of Shared Hope International, The Defenders USA is a campaign by men, to men, and for men. We ask you to take a pledge to stand up and speak out: don’t purchase or participate in pornography, prostitution, or any form of the commercial sex industry, and hold friends accountable for their actions. We need good men like you to help reduce the demand for the sexual services of young girls and boys. Men started this problem; better men have to stop it.

Along with prevention, it’s important to provide the children already bound in sex slavery with help. We need to work with our legislators to strengthen laws providing victim services and treatment. And most importantly, we must recognize that children are just that – victims, and not criminals. A child being forced through violence to participate in the commercial sex industry should not be punished; they need our help.

The National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking found misidentification of victims to be the primary barrier to properly addressing America’s trafficked children. Shared Hope International conducted investigations throughout the country and found that children being prostituted are often arrested for the crime committed against them. While the men purchasing or selling their sexual services, the johns and the pimps, frequently go unpunished.

Rescued girls and boys who have suffered severe physical, sexual and emotional trauma need psychological and social services, as well as legal counseling. And they need somewhere to go besides the inside of a jail cell.

Today, surrounded by love and support from your family, take a moment to consider those fathers who won’t see or hear the words “Happy Father’s Day,” because their child is enslaved. As you count your blessings, remember there is something you can do to help – take The Defenders USA pledge, to help protect your daughter or son and shine a light on this important issue. Children all across the country will be grateful.

Tomas Perez

National Director

The Defenders USA Project

Shared Hope International


Lauren Taylor

Founder & President

End Slavery Now


The Irony of Juneteenth

Posted: 06/19/2010

Emancipation Day is inarguably a cause for celebration. Also known as Juneteenth, its origin stems from June 19, 1865 when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas with news the Civil War had ended and the enslaved were now free. Juneteenth commemorates the legal emancipation that came with the Thirteenth Amendment, as well as African American freedom and achievement. Thirty-six states now recognize Juneteenth, America’s “second Independence day,” and a sizable movement continues to push for June 19 to become a national holiday.

There is an irony to Juneteenth, however, that is lost on most of us. If you ask the average American when slavery ended, inevitably they respond with “1865.” And therein lies the tragedy: we all bought the story we were taught in school. So we stopped paying attention to things that looked like slavery, sounded like slavery or even felt like slavery. Although making slavery illegal was a critical milestone for the U.S., the truth is it never ended – it just went underground. It became a hidden crime. Right here, right under our noses, slavery still exists.

True, the visible balls and chains are gone. Modern slavery has evolved, and can fool even the trained eye. Today’s slaves, as documented in the new book The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today, are not only the housekeepers and field hands of yore, they are hotel maids, janitors, manicurists, construction workers, nannies, landscaping crewmembers, restaurant workers and more. People you may see every day. Hidden in plain sight.

For the slave, however, the experience is still the same as it ever was. Controlled by violence, unable to walk away, and paid nothing beyond subsistence.

The U.S. State Department estimates between 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked to America every year to become slaves, from at least 35 countries. At any given moment there are conservatively 40,000 people in slavery in the U.S. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (1-888-373-7888), operated by Polaris Project, received over 7,000 calls last year. A study by Free the Slaves and the Human Rights Center, University of California, Berkeley, found that forced labor operations had been reported in at least 90 U.S. cities between 1998 and 2003; the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has worked together with the Department of Justice and the FBI to uncover, investigate and federally prosecute seven cases of modern-day slavery in Florida’s fields alone. And not all victims are foreign-born – modern slaves include U.S. citizens as well, particularly children enslaved in the commercial sex industry.

So now you know. We Americans have a dirty secret. We make all kinds of noise about human rights abuses in other countries, but the greatest human rights abuse of all – slavery – is happening right here. And no matter how hard you try, you can’t unlearn it. Yes, you can choose to turn your back. Or you can join those of us who are standing up and saying, “Not on my watch.”

We pledge allegiance to a republic that promises “liberty and justice for all.” But there is much to be done before America delivers on this promise. We need stronger laws criminalizing all aspects of human trafficking. We need greater funding for victims services and rehabilitation. We need better training for law enforcement. And we need to teach our citizens to recognize modern slavery and identify victims – about a third of the slaves freed in the U.S. every year are rescued because an average person sees something he or she can’t ignore. We need all the boots on the ground we can muster.

Realizing a legal emancipation in the 19th century was an incredible achievement, but there is still much work to be done. Abolishing slavery didn’t end slavery. Let’s put our money where our mouth is and put in place the programs we need to make America truly the “land of the free.” Let’s set an example for the rest of the world – let’s finish the job we started and eradicate this scourge from our great country, forever. Then, by all means, let’s celebrate.

Dr. Kevin Bales


Free the Slaves

Co-author, The Slave Next Door

Bill Bernstein

Deputy Director

Mosaic Family Services

Ron Soodalter

Co-author, The Slave Next Door

Lauren Taylor

Founder & President

End Slavery Now

Get up, Stand up

Posted: 06/10/2010

Get up, Stand up
“And if you feel like you are witnessing a movement, then get up girl and let them know you’re free.”

- State Radio, “Calling All Crows”

John Lennon once asked us all to imagine; Lance Armstrong has made wearing a yellow LIVESTRONG bracelet a symbol in the fight against cancer; musicians of all genres have banded together and asked their fans to “Rock the Vote”; millions of dollars have been raised through annual AIDS walks, and just as importantly, millions of people have started thinking about safety and solutions as a result. Awareness is the first step to solving a problem, and the global tragedy of modern day slavery is no different.

The harrowing reality is that slavery did not end with Lincoln. Although slavery is not legal anywhere, it happens all over the world, even in the mostly unlikely of places. Forced to work in fields to brothels to American suburbs, there are an estimated 27 million modern day slaves. In this crucial movement to end slavery now, a lack of awareness about the reality of modern-day slavery might be holding us back the most. Awareness is not a human rights cliché; it is the greatest tool for change available.

In New York City, an entire human trafficking awareness campaign has begun within the last few weeks. The Somaly Mam Foundation, a nonprofit committed to eradicating modern day slavery, recently partnered with the Office of the Mayor of New York to launch the campaign, called “Let’s Call An End To Human Trafficking.” This awareness campaign involves print both print ads, placed in subway stations and bus shelters throughout the five boroughs of the city, and a new anti-trafficking website. The street advertisements, in both English and Spanish, evoke situations like forced labor and sex slavery with their images and phrases. They provide a 311 number to call to learn more about human-trafficking, and urge victims to seek help. The website further provides information and resources for victims.

On this new website, Mayor Bloomberg writes, “We hope our public awareness campaign, and the resources we are providing online, will help us involve more people in the fight against human trafficking.”

New York’s city-wide campaign highlights the value of awareness in both policy and reality. Hopefully these anti-trafficking advertisements will lay a foundation of thought in the minds of New Yorkers… which could turn in action… which could turn into change.

However, you don’t have to be plastering ads all over the country’s largest city or singing about empowerment at sold-out concerts (although it might help) to be raising awareness about modern day slavery. You just have to be talking. Everyone can do something: words are just a powerful as lyrics, and a conversation with a friend is just as important as a poster. Simply initiating the conversation about human trafficking is valuable, and often half the battle.

Embrace your own freedom - ACT!

Posted: 06/09/2010

Embrace  your own freedom - ACT!
“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” -William James

If you are reading this, you most likely have the freedom to state your beliefs to a friend, to write your opinion on a piece of paper and mail it, or even just to let the click of a button act as your voice. While these actions are all fairly basic, they are more than just freedom; they are power. Modern day slavery is an issue that holds an estimated 27 million people captive, from rural towns in India to the suburbs of America. These slaves are denied their freedom, and likewise, their power. Take action for them!

Access your own power in even the simplest of ways: send an email, stay informed, tell your friends, do something. Especially when a problem seems so far away (it’s not) and seems so embedded in society’s past, present, and inevitably future (it’s not), the easiest path may be looking away. But change only comes after action, from the press of a button to the echo of one voice.


Inform yourself about the horrors of modern day slavery! Know the facts that make up the tragedy. Then tell your friends, and let them know all that they can do to join this battle. With a few clicks, you can follow End Slavery Now on Twitter, become a fan on facebook, or receive daily email alerts on human trafficking. With a few more clicks, you can recommend the same to friends and family. And the movement expands.

Wear a hat, a sticker, or a tee-shirt with an anti-slavery message. This is fashion at its best. Brands are designed to draw attention to an idea, to make a statement… why not make one with a little more meaning behind it?

Start a library of anti-trafficking books at your church, or recommend an anti-trafficking book to your book club. Have a bake-sale to raise the money for these books; not only will you accomplish your goal, but you will help raise awareness about human trafficking among members of your community.

Write to a congressman. The power of a hand-written letter is shocking. After the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, U.S. Senator Paul Simon said, “If every member of the House and Senate had received 100 letters from people back home saying we have to do something about Rwanda…then I think the response would have been different.” Politicians make decisions based on constituencies, and support the issues that their constituents show interest in. Imagine if you and ten of your friends wrote letters to your senators or congressmen telling them to address the problem of modern day slavery… imagine if a few groups of friends in every state did this. Something so simple could change the course of history.

To be more directly hands-on, volunteer to do victim outreach. Polaris Project engages in local intervention in the Washington, DC metro area, providing victims with 24-hour hotlines, distributing outreach materials, and providing emergency services. Based on your qualifications, you may be able to provide modern day slaves with free counseling, healthcare, or legal services with the New Underground Railroad’s volunteer opportunities.

These are just some of the many ways you can take action, and get involved in ending modern day slavery. For more ideas, be creative! And click on the Take Action link to find a list of extensive opportunities and ideas. Harness your power- your freedom to ACT- and add your voice to the movement to end modern-day slavery.

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