When I first learned about modern day slavery, and the fact that there are at least 27 million enslaved people around the world, who are bought and sold for sexual exploitation, hard labor, domestic work, and as soldiers, I felt shock, sickened and overwhelmed. To be honest, my first instinct was to avoid the pain by turning away from the problem. "What can I do about it?," I thought. Like many people, I was paralyzed by the enormity of the problem. Thankfully, I soon learned that there are many very successful efforts all over the world to combat slavery, restore victims, and prevent trafficking.
Along with my husband and concerned friends, we wanted to be part of that solution, so we created Made By Survivors to provide concrete help to people hurt by slavery: especially women and children. Our goal was and is to help these individuals, share the cause in a way people could hear and understand, and be part of a global community who are proving every day that slavery can and will be ended.
Understanding the basic facts about slavery is important - and I've shared the answers to most commonly asked questions below. I hope you will be inspired to learn more, but also to get involved and become a modern day abolitionist yourself. You can start simply, by purchasing products, making a donation, or sponsoring a child. You can share this information and encourage friends to get involved. You can ignite a modern day abolitionist movement in your own community.
Sarah Symons, Made By Survivors Founder and President
Okay, enough of me on my soapbox! Now for some facts:
In modern day slavery, human beings are bought and sold on an international market, for amounts ranging from $80 to $5000 or more. They have no control over their lives or their children's lives: where they live, or what work they do (usually dirty, degrading or dangerous). Being enslaved is extremely hazardous to human life and health - for example 22% of child slaves in India do not make it to adulthood.
Sometimes slaves are kept captive with literal chains or bars. In other cases threats of violence, or actual violence keep enslaved people from running away. Some people do not even realize that they are slaves, or that slavery is illegal. Millions of families toil as slaves for generations, to satisfy debts typically under $50, in the practice known as bonded labor.
Victims of human trafficking are subject to gross human rights violations including rape and torture.
Forms of Modern Slavery
- Sexual exploitation /Forced Prostitution – also includes Forced Marriage and Child Marriage
- Forced Labor – Agricultural, Industrial, Factory work, Fishing Industry
- Bonded Labor - Agricultural, Industrial, Factory work
- Domestic Work (nannies, housekeepers, cooks and gardeners)
- Forced Begging
- Child Soldiers
Where Does Trafficking Occur?
- Every country in the world
- Hardest Hit Regions for victims are South and Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa
- Destination countries include Europe, USA, Japan, Australia, India, Israel, Gulf States
Who are the Victims?
Certain groups are disproportionately exploited as victims of slavery, including:
- Children - Millions of today's slaves are kids under the age of 18. Girls are typically trafficked into forced prostitution between 10 and 14.
- Poor People - Poverty is listed as a major risk factor for trafficking in almost every published study (UNICEF, Free the Slaves, ILO)
- Minorities and tribal groups
- Rural communities and people living in border areas
- People in societies already destabilized by war, natural disaster, or civil unrest
How are People Trafficked?
- Sold by families of community members - this is often a last resort for families where selling a child may be the only means of survival. In South Asia, traffickers pay as little as $150 to parents for their child's life.
- Tricked by False job offers of loverboy schemes
- Children of slaves become slaves themselves – (kids born into brothels, children born into bonded labor)
- People displaced by natural disasters, war, political conflict or environmental devastation become vulnerable when they move to cities from rural areas with no resources
How Can Slavery be Stopped?
Slavery is an issue that responds quickly to intervention. In every country, there are profiles of hope.
- Survivors, with the help of anti-trafficking activists, have created their own networks - a modern-day Underground Railroad. Its purpose is to help others out of slavery, or to prevent others from being trafficked in the first place. These girls are going back into the same brothels where they were once slaves and helping rescue agencies to find and liberate other victims. Sometimes they find victims held in underground cages, or literally plastered behind walls. Survivors stop every car at border crossings between Nepal and India, looking for suspicious situations or trafficking in progress. They refer victims for shelter and other services if they are in an unsafe situation. Teams of activists, survivors and trusted police have rescued thousands of young girls from brothels, and many of these cases have been successfully prosecuted.
- Advocacy groups throughout the world are successfully pushing for better laws to protect victims and punish traffickers.
- Survivors throughout the world are speaking out, participating in publicawareness campaigns, or going door to door in remote villages, talking to mothers and daug hters about wh at happened to them and how to protect themselves.
- Survivors in Made by Survivors programs in India, Nepal, Thailand and Cambodia are transforming their families and communities from within, breaking down social stigma through their hard work and courage and setting a shining example for others.
Like many issues in history the fight to end trafficking can be won by a concerted effort of active, outraged citizens who refuse to tolerate it. We need a critical mass of people who just say 'no!’ Please join us!