Free A Slave Today

The aim of this post is to get you to take action.

There are more slaves in the world today than there have been at any point in human history.

This comes as a surprise to most people and it can be hard to believe.

We tend to think of slavery as something from the past, associating it either with Rome or the ancient world, or with the horrors of the Atlantic slave trade.

Modern slavery is both illegal and invisible, but the are over 27 million slaves in the world; that’s more slaves than Australians !

Across the world millions of destitute, powerless, scared and tired men, women and children are being exploited right now by ruthless and greedy people. Two hundred years ago slaves were expensive, worth around £30,000 each. Today, if you’ve got more than £60 or so in your purse or wallet you could buy a slave. Slaves, it seems, are cheaper than ever !

Slaves today exist in brick kilns and quarries, coffee and chocolate plantations, working in fishing, textiles, manufacturing, waste processing and in forced prostitution. Whole families are enslaved into debt bondage, with debts passed from one generation to the next, with no realistic hope of freedom, andwhile most slavery occurs in Africa and Asia, we shouldn’t think it doesn’t also exist closer to home.

It’s also likely that a number of our possessions have been produced using some slave labour – gold, gemstones, cotton and clothing, minerals and materials used in electronic devices, rugs and carpets, coffee and chocolate.

The website My Slavery Footprint will help you work out how many slaves might have been involved in producing the things you own.

No one would defend slavery, but we could all do more to combat it.

The organisation Free the Slaves asks that we:

1 – Use our social media to make people more aware of the issue of modern slavery.

2 – Be more careful in the products we buy.

3 – Make a donation or fundraise in support of organisations working to fight slavery.

The aim of today’s post is to encourage you to do something.

By doing one, two or even all three of the things on the list above, we can collectively help bring about change.

Perhaps we can free a slave !


Photo by Ben Fredrickson via Flickr

RELATED ARTICLES – One of Life’s Guilty Pleasures, Brick Kiln Debt Bondage, Mererani’s Tanzanite

One of Life’s Guilty Pleasures

Most of us are aware of the terrible history of the Atlantic slave trade, which lasted for four hundred years until the 1860s, and saw an estimated 12 million black Africans transported by Europeans to the Americas to work as slaves in plantations and mines.

Numerous films and books such as Amistad, Amazing Grace, and Roots, portrayed the lives of slaves, slave owners and slave traders alike. Powerful and shocking though these depictions are, they mostly ignored another key party to the slave trade – indeed the party without which it is unlikely to have existed . . . the consumer.

The sugar, cotton, coffee, tobacco, rice and metals produced by slave labour was destined for transport to the markets first of Europe, then later across the Americas, and sold in order to provide the profits to sustain the system. Customers were happy to buy sugar and cotton, seemingly oblivious or uncaring regarding its production through slavery.

I’m sure we would never imagine ourselves as potential slave owners or traders – but if we were somehow magically transported back in time, would we also deliberately avoid sugar and cotton, or would we too become an uncaring consumer ?

It’s not an entirely hypothetical question.

It’s a depressing fact that although illegal in all countries, there are now more slaves around the world today than at any time in history. As has always been the case they are exploited by the unscrupulous and greedy in order to generate a profit from their labour, which includes the harvesting of cocoa for chocolate.

An estimated 1.8 million children work in cocoa plantations in West Africa. Many are trafficked from rural areas with false promises of paid work and are forced to work long hours in poor conditions, prevented from leaving, denied education and beaten if they don’t work hard enough or try to escape.

Despite global awareness of the problem, the international chocolate trade has so far been unable to implement guarantees or certification regarding slavery or child labour. Of course, no one is suggesting that all chocolate is tainted and it’s neither helpful or healthy just to feel somehow guilty that things are not as we would wish them to be in other parts of the world.

But the fact remains that our world is interconnected, we, the consumer, are part of the system and our actions and choices do collectively impact the lives of those far away. Ultimately if we want to change things then we must act . . . and the good news is we don’t have to stop eating chocolate !

Fairtrade is an increasingly well known organised social movement that aims to help producers of commodities in developing countries make better trading decisions and promote sustainable practices and ethics. Consumers pay a small Fairtrade price premium, which is then re-invested in improving local producer communities.

Increasing awareness and public concern about poor practices and exploitation in the cocoa industry has led to a recent rise in the number of companies producing Fairtrade chocolate – why not give them a try ? Even if you don’t buy Fairtrade 100% of the time, the more we switch, the bigger a positive influence we’ll have.

I imagine William Wilberforce would have approved !


Photo by Amrufm via Flickr

RELATED ARTICLES – Brick Kiln Debt Bondage

Life in Brick Kiln Debt Bondage

A series of ‘Foto Friday’ posts focusing on the lives of people living in extreme poverty around the world. Over 1 billion people across the globe live on the equivalent of less than $1 a day to meet all their needs. Being more aware of the lives of the world’s poor can help  us reevaluate the extent of our own hardships and build empathy and compassion.

Shockingly there are probably more slaves in the world today than at any time in human history – between 10 and 30 million.

Modern slavery can take many forms, and includes debt bondage, where an impoverished person or family is forced to work in order to repay a loan, often with ruinous rates of interest that make it impossible for them to escape. In many cases the debt is then transferred onto their children, and grandchildren, with many families remaining in slavery for generations.

In India, Pakistan and Nepal, more than a million people work in rural brickworks, enslaved into debt bondage, and forced to work long hours doing hard manual labour, for barely three meals a day and a small mud room for them and their family. Children are also required to work, typically from the age of ten, and sometimes much younger. No education and little in the way of health care is available. Complicity is enforced through beatings and threats to withdraw food and shelter.

Though illegal, lack of enforcement and official corruption means the widespread practice continues.

Several charities are working alongside the United Nations to expose and combat this form of modern day slavery.


Photo from Global Giving 

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