Category Archives: Education

Human Trafficking of Children in the United States Fact Sheet

Contrary to a common assumption, human trafficking is not just a problem in other countries. Cases of human trafficking have been reported in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and some U.S. territories. Victims of human trafficking can be children or adults, U.S. citizens or foreign nationals, male or female.

According to U.S. government estimates, thousands of men, women, and children are trafficked to the United States for the purposes of sexual and labor exploitation. An unknown number of U.S. citizens and legal residents are trafficked within the country primarily for sexual servitude and, to a lesser extent, forced labor.

via U.S. Department of Education.

In addition to a list of resources and publications, the Human Trafficking of Children in the United States Fact Sheet for Schools (pdf) also answers the following questions:

  • What Is Human Trafficking?
  • What Is the Extent of Human Trafficking in the United States ?
  • How Does Human Trafficking Affect Our Schools?
  • How Do I Identify a Victim of Human Trafficking?
  • How Do I Report a Suspected Incidence of Human Trafficking?
  • How Does the United States Help Victims of Human Trafficking?
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Open Your Eyes To Modern Slavery (Call And Response)

“Never forget, justice is what loves looks like in public.” These are the words of Dr. Cornel West.

“The first feature rockumentary to expose the the world’s 27 million most terrifying secrets” is set to open nationally on October 10, 2008.  Click the banner below to watch a trailer for Call And Response.

I have not seen this film yet, only the preview. But I know that it’s this kind of work that can help open the eyes of the world to the painful truth that of modern slavery. The truth that in 2007, “Slave Traders made more money than Google, Nike and Starbucks combined.

Make plans to go see this movie. I know it will be painful. I know it would be easier to NOT go see this film. Do it anyway. Open your eyes to the reality of modern slavery.

100% of the profits are going to fund global projects on the front lines of the issue.

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The Price of a Child

Dr. Manjeet Pardesi listened in horror as the young woman related her story. Neela had recently come to his home for children and pregnant women in Rourkela because she had heard it was a place where unwed mothers and their babies would be taken care of without abuse or judgment. The twenty-three year old was pregnant with her landlord’s baby and didn’t know what to do. There was no one to help her.

Neela had been caring for her eight year old brother and ten year old sister in their remote village in Jharkhand state, just north of Orissa, since their parents died several years earlier. Dire financial circumstances caused the small family to owe money to the landlord, who intimidated and coerced the girl into a physical relationship while the young siblings were sent into bonded labor in a rock quarry to pay off the debt. An outreach worker brought Neela to the home for delivery.

“The physical intimacy was not done due to love but due to fear,” Dr. Pardesi wrote me in an email. “In other words, you can term this as rape.”

While this seemed obvious, it was a brave and somewhat controversial statement for Dr. Pardesi to make. Such physical and sexual violence against Dalits, once considered the “untouchables,” is widespread and rarely considered abuse or even a crime at all. In an extensive investigation of caste-based discrimination conducted in 2006, Human Rights Watch found that rape of Dalit women by landlords like what Neela endured is all too common. Dalit victims of rape face significant obstacles when attempting to report the crime to police or to bring a case before the courts. Perpetrators are rarely charged or punished, and their victims are usually the ones ostracized from the community – so much so that rape survivors are often considered unmarriageable.

“Caste is very much the root of the problem,” said Dr. Pardesi. “The government gives them certain privileges, but due to acute poverty and caste dogma these things happen. The people who are Dalits are at the receiving end of exploitation.”

He began bombarding Neela’s landlord with constant communication on behalf of her brother and sister. “Initially he was reluctant to part with the children,” reported Dr. Pardesi, “until he was informed that the matter would be turned over to the police.”

At that point the landlord finally agreed to return the children from bonded servitude in exchange for the money owed him. Dr. Pardesi arranged to collect the children from Calcutta, where they had been put into labor, and bring them back to live at the home with their sister. He paid the price of their debt: Twenty-five U.S. dollars.

Neela’s young brother and sister were freed from their life of bondage, but for most such children freedom never comes.

One out of four children reported missing in India are never found. The strong link between missing persons and slavery indicates an immediate need to find and rescue children who have been reported missing. People trafficking is the fastest growing illegal trade in the world, second only to arms. With an estimated revenue of forty-two billion dollars it is so lucrative that many drug dealers are changing their cargo to human beings.

India represents forty percent of the world’s human trafficking. In 2007 the South Asia Centre for Missing and Exploited Persons was formed precisely for this reason. “Tracing missing children and women across South Asia before they are exploited is emerging as a key focus area in the efforts to prevent human slavery,” wrote Ashley Varghese, Legal Counsel for the organization, in a letter to me.

Pratham, a nonprofit organization that aims to give every child an education by taking schools into the slums and workplaces, has been at the forefront of the fight against child labor. In an interview with me, Farida Lambay of Pratham acknowledged that sometimes children have little choice but to work due to economic reasons; in those cases, when employment is stopped, then rehabilitation and a safety net must be provided to ensure that families and children have the ability to sustain themselves.

But she contended that the financial necessity of child labor as a whole is vastly overstated. “When these children work, the economic situation of most families does not improve at all. We must look at why children are really working.” She outlined the major factors Pratham identified as perpetuating child labor: Lack of opportunity, lack of education, lack of role models and lack of family or other parental support.

“The unemployment in this country is high,” Ms. Lambay continued. “So why are we employing children? Why aren’t their parents in these jobs instead?” She paused, and then answered her own question. “Because the children, they can be hired and exploited much more cheaply. In India we must come to a place where child labor is not acceptable.”

The 2006 Human Rights Watch investigation in India concluded that caste-based discrimination is at the heart of bonded labor and is hugely intertwined with child exploitation. The caste system sustains the mechanisms by which bonded labor thrives, through the centuries-old expectations of free or vastly underpaid work, discrimination and violence against Dalits, and the extreme marginalization that prevents them from accessing resources available to other members of society.

The HRW report stated that these children were forced to dip their hands into boiling water to make the silk thread, handle dead silkworms and breathe fumes that made them ill, and worked in cramped, damp rooms. They did not attend school and were often beaten by their employers or burned with hot tongs if they fell asleep.

When I read this, I had to close the report and set it aside. I felt sick to my stomach. It seemed more than I could bear to think about; but at the same time, I couldn’t bear not to. My mind reeled at how people could do this to other people – especially defenseless children. The work of another journalist, Philip Gourevitch, popped into my mind. In his brilliant book, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families about the 1994 Rwanda genocide, Gourevitch wrote of his fascination with the peculiar necessity of imagining what is, in fact, real. The way that a thing, even as it was happening that very moment in the world around us, could be so horrific that we could still only imagine it, our minds refusing to accept it as reality.

I understood exactly what he meant. In a way, it was far easier to let the vastness of these atrocities slip past my mind that didn’t want to accept them as possible, that became too easily overwhelmed and despairing at the thoughts. But I knew that to do that would be, for me, an unforgivable act. I did know. Now I could only decide if I chose instead to look away. And if I did that, if everyone did that, who would be left stand up for these children?

Gourevitch similarly examined his own pain and difficulty at spending so much time steeped in the genocide. “The best reason I have come up with for looking closely into Rwanda’s stories,” he concluded, “is that ignoring them makes me even more uncomfortable about existence and my place in it.”

Excerpted from Shelley Seale’s upcoming book, The Weight of Silence: Invisible Children of India.

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There Are No Simple Solutions

Little Indian directed me to a few excellent sites that detail what India is doing on it’s own to combat child labor and child slavery issues. One of them, a report from the Indian Embassy, begins with this staggering fact:

There are more children under the age of fourteen in India than the entire population of the United States. The great challenge of India, as a developing country, is to provide nutrition, education and health care to these children.”

We here in the United States are unfamiliar with numbers that large. What the number indicates is that even if, as the report indicates, only 3.6% of the workforce is under 14, the resulting numbers will still be beyond our ability to comprehend.

The report intro continues with this statement:

While child labor is a complex problem that is basically rooted in poverty, there is unwavering commitment by the Government and the people of India to combat it. Success can be achieved only through social engineering on a major scale combined with national economic growth. International policies and actions, therefore, must support and not hamper India’s efforts to get rid of child labor.”

I would hope that the words on this blog and the resulting actions would support and not hamper India’s own efforts to combat child labor and child slavery.

Fish Bowl-A Poem

~for the young ones in Thailand

(The glass room that the women sit behind in these brothels is sometimes called the ‘fish bowl’, where the men can sit and look at them and choose the one he wants to buy)

Through the thick clouds, tainted smoke
Pink vinyl on the seats
On the left sat Mama San
With ladies at her feet

Mr. X leaned in to hear her deal,
“4000 baht,” she crooned.
“Which girl you like?” she asked the man,
“You take in short-time room”.

And so the man withdrew his line,
he threw a heaving cast-
to grab a hold of some young thing,
to get him off real fast.

Her hair was thick, as black as night;
her frame a wee bit small.
Her face was turned towards the set;
her back against the wall.

He cast his net and reeled her in,
a toy with which he would play.
It mattered not her circumstance,
It mattered not her day.

He did not think on how she’d knelt
one hundred times already,
if she were tired, or she were sore,
as long as she was pretty.

Down the hall he followed her,
the girl with Mr. X.
He asked her for the soapie,
which meant he want the sex.

He’d paid her for the hour long,
and not a minute more.
Later on he’d a wife to meet,
and she was just a whore.

A good one though he would admit,
Mama San said she was her best-
better than the last one for sure
even if she’d had small breasts.

Nonetheless, this fisherman,
more skilled now at his game.
never gave another thought
to even ask her name.

Out the door and on his way,
his life feigned normalcy;
and from that day he never thought
of the girl who was Sumalee.

©07 KR


Child Rights Information Network

This organization was brought to my attention today. I’ve not had a chance to go through their entire site yet, but the Convention on the Rights of the Child is dedicated to the idea that children, anyone under 18, are born with basic freedoms the inherent rights of all human beings. I agree.

The Child Rights Information Network (CRIN) is a global network that disseminates information about the Convention on the Rights of the Child and child rights amongst non-governmental organisations (NGOs), United Nations agencies, inter-governmental organisation (IGOs), educational institutions, and other child rights experts. The Coordinating Unit is based in London, UK.

The network is supported, and receives funding from Save the children Sweden, Save the Children UK, UNICEF, Plan International, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and World Vision International. Project funding is also received from the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Slavery Is Not American History

We need to stop teaching our children about slavery exclusively in American History classes. Slavery in America is a current event.

I was taught as early as elementary school that slavery ended with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment. I knew that the bigotry did not end there. I saw it first hand. But I spent much of my life blissfully unaware that slavery, in any form, existed at all in America much after that event. I was not taught correctly.

Is a whole new generation going to grow up believing this?

Probably. Even today, if you go to the history page of you read this: “From the beginnings of slavery in British North America around 1619, when a Dutch ship brought 20 enslaved Africans to the Virginia colony at Jamestown, nearly 240 years passed until the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution officially ended slavery in 1865.”

And the image below is representative of the kinds of images we are shown; woodcut drawings and beat up black and white photos. They scream at us, “This is history! This is not happening today!”


Wikipedia’s history of slavery in the U.S. ends at 1865 as well.

This is a tragic misrepresentation. Yes, of course the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution made slavery illegal, but it did not end slavery in America. It simply took it underground. The U.S. State Department Trafficking In Persons Report of June, 2006 says that more than 50,000 people each year are trafficked through the United States. They are trafficked as sex slaves, domestics, and as garment and agricultural slaves. (1)

What would happen if we stopped teaching slavery exclusively as American History and started teaching it in social studies as a current event?

I am 45 years old and am just now waking up to the fact that slavery of all kinds, especially child slavery, is running rampant in our world. To open my eyes fully to the truth that this is happening inside the borders of this country is sobering at best, frightening at worse. Every day I spend time sifting through my google reader looking at the slavery news stories and blog posts that pour in each day. And as I work the topic into my social conversations, I’m not surprised at how few people understand the scope of the problem. It’s what our trusted teacher’s taught us.

As a society, we would be better off teaching our children, as early as is appropriate, that while slavery is illegal, it has not ended. It’s our only hope for ending it, not only here in the United States, but everywhere. They need to be educated about the ways slavery supports industry and commerce, both here and abroad. They need to be made aware that there are things they can do to help. They need to understand the geopolitical issues that make this a complex problem that can’t be solved with anembargo on all unfairly traded goods.

We’re not going to be able to teach this exclusively as a history lesson until corporations use their collective influence over their suppliers to force their vendors to stop using slave or forced labor. If we allow another generation to grow up believing slavery is already history, we make it harder to develop the kind of truly creative solutions that speak to the absence of resources and education that make it possible for people to be enslaved in the first place.

If we want our children to be able to help us solve the problem of slavery in the future, we’ve got to start educating them about it’s presence today.

The beginning of my journey.

I was asked by the hosts of this site to be a guest author. I have to tell you that I was absolutely honored.

The easiest way to describe my desire to support humanitarian causes is simple. It came down to following the examples of people who have already made the sacrifice. The act of being selfless. The act of empathy.

Human is human.

Strip away the material things… and what kind of person would I be?

I think I know… but now it’s time to prove it.

My contributions to this site will be from the ground up. I am armed with nothing but my ability to learn, and the desire to teach. I have no great insight to the world beyond my own doors, but starting today my world is going to change.

I believe that sharing my journey, and the insight I acquire may be the most generous contribution I can make to any humanitarian cause. I hope to teach the world that a “common” housewife, and mother of 4, can make a difference in the life of another person.

If my efforts can make a difference in just one person’s life… well then, this journey is more than worth it.

Please join me in the posts to come. I hope to inspire you, and cause you to act. I hope to stir a reaction from deep within your soul, that causes you to make a difference in the life of another human being.

My journey starts today.

The Small Hands Of Slavery

human rights watchThis is a long but informative paper from Human Rights Watch that details the scope of the bonded child labor problem in India. The report is entitled, “The Small Hands Of Slavery.” I urge you, if you are reading this right now, to open your eyes to the truth of what is happening to children all over this planet.

The Horrific Reach Of Modern Slavery

You can’t get far in an internet search without running into reputable sources that detail amazing number of slaves still being traded in the world today. The numbers are so overwhelming that, at first, I wanted to refute them. How could this be? 27 million slaves? This is obviously an estimate, but it’s an estimate that is touted by the best sources.

“There are more slaves today than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The modern commerce in humans rivals illegal drug trafficking in it’s global reach – and in the destruction of lives.” – Andrew Cockburn, National Geographic Magazine

This interactive map, from National Geographic, shows the scope of slave trafficking throughout the world.