Slavery - Not a Thing of the Past

Slavery - Not a Thing of the Past
When most people think of the word slavery, it’s likely that their thoughts turn to people and societies of the past. They might think of the slaves of ancient civilizations, like Egypt or Rome, or the slavery that existed in early American history. What may not occur to some people is the somber fact that slavery and indentured servitude still lives on today worldwide; even in developed countries like the United States.

I admit that don’t remember the first time I realized that slavery still existed in the modern world. As a child I knew that some people were overworked and paid far too little or not at all for some dangerous or unpleasant jobs, but it didn’t occur to me to connect those experiences with slavery. Both those experiences, and the concept of slavery itself, seemed so foreign, so distant from current times to me. But as I grew up, I came to appreciate the weight of those experiences, and how slavery was, unfortunately, far more common than I had previously understood.

According to the US Department of State’s 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report, there are at least 27 million slaves today; many of them are found in Asia. It’s an industry that rakes in about $35 billion every year. There are many different forms of slavery, including bonded labor, forced labor, and trafficked slaves. Bonded labor is a form a slavery where a person repays a debt by working long hours for little pay. Forced labor refers to when people are coerced into working against their will, often after being threatened. Trafficked slaves are people who are traded, internationally or within their own countries, for the purpose of sexual exploitation, organ removal, or forced labor.

It can be overwhelming to figure out how to tackle such a widespread issue as slavery. The enormousness and severity of it is daunting. But there are things that the average person can do to fight back. Here are four simple suggestions that each of us can do to eradicate slavery, one person at a time:

1. Raise awareness. Talk to your friends about slavery. Share articles on your social networking sites. Blog or micro-blog your thoughts about it. There are probably people within your sphere of influence who don’t know much about this issue, and it’s so important to spread the word.

2. Learn more about it yourself. Buy or borrow books on the subject, read articles on the web, find nonprofit organizations who have dedicated themselves to educating others to this cause—getting out there and learning more can give you more ideas on how to help.

3. Fight back with your wallet by a) Knowing what products are commonly produced by forced labor or child labor, and avoiding the companies or brands that sell things produced by forced or child labor, and b) Buying Fair Trade products. “Fair Trade” means that producers of goods in developing countries are paid fairly for their work. It encourages better wages and working conditions for employees.

4. Help prevent slavery by preventing poverty. Donating money to others can be a helpful tool in helping them avoid slavery or indentured servitude.

I challenge you to find one thing you can do to fight against modern-day slavery, whether it's one of the suggestions above or an idea of your own. Things can only change if each of us take action for our human siblings in need.

Helpful resources:
United States Department of State’s 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report
Identifying Fair Trade Products

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