Tag Archives: Debt Bondage

How Haiti’s Quarter Million Slaves Will Survive The Quak

BY AMANDA KLOER

What has been a slow crisis of poverty and enslavement for almost 250,000 child slaves in Haiti, known as restaveks, turned into an immediate crisis this week with the brutal 7.0 earthquake that hit the country. Mere hours after the news of the devastation in Haiti broke, America and countries around the world saw an outpouring of aid from international organizations and individuals. Groups have organized drives for everything from donations to shoes to volunteers.

But as we all get that warm and fuzzy feeling from helping our neighbors in their time of great need, it’s important to remember that millions of Haitians needed aid before this earthquake, and they’ll continue to need it long after the media fervor has died. And those with the greatest need will be the enslaved restaveks.

Restaveks are a huge part of Haitian society and the economy. They are usually children from extremely poor families who are sent away to work as domestic servants in wealthier homes. The children aren’t paid for their work, but provided shelter and a sometimes meager meal supply. In the best case scenarios, families will send their restavek children to school. But restaveks often work long days performing a variety of household tasks for nothing more that a meal or two a day. Two-thirds of restaveks are girls, and they are extremely vulnerable to rape and sexual abuse from the families who house and control them. The life of a restavek child in Haiti often varies between bleak and hopeless, and many children never successfully leave their slave conditions.

Restaveks are also the least likely to benefit from the tide of international aid washing onto Haiti’s shores, though they might be the ones most in need of it. A restavek’s hunger and wounds take a distant backseat to those of their employer. And some restaveks are not officially registered with the Haitian government as people.

While it’s impossible to predict the exact long-term effects of a natural disaster of this magnitude on a country where the poverty is so immense and the enslavement of millions of children is a common and socially-accepted part of life, I feel comfortable predicting that even more children will become restaveks. And while life will get significantly harder for everyone, restaveks will be hit the worst.

If you’re interested in helping the people of Haiti, Change.org’s Michael Jones lists some great resourceswhere you can donate, and in some cases volunteer, to help relief efforts. In addition, I’d like to add a couple resources that will directly aid the restavek population of Haiti, including The Restavek Foundation and Free the Slaves, which works in Haiti.

But as you donate money, feel empathetic, and think about ways to help Haiti this week, remember that long after the buildings are rebuilt, Haiti will still be a country built on the slavery of children. And for the restaveks, every day they are not free is another disaster.

Photo credit: Lucas the Experience

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40 Ideas for Action on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day: From Facebook to Legislation

by Amanda Kloer

Today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. But here in the End Human Trafficking Community at Change.org, every day is about human trafficking awareness. So to build off the awesome awareness-raising activities going on around the country, I’m bringing you ideas for action. Last year, I gave you 11 suggestions of things to do today to help end human trafficking. This year, we’re raising the bar to 40. Everything on this two-part list is a quick, easy action you can take to spread the word about and help fight modern-day slavery. But all these little actions add up fast, and if every one of the over 43,000 people in this online community did just one thing on this list, we would see a huge difference in the fight against human trafficking.

So here is my challenge to you. 1 day. 1 action. 40 ideas. What will you do to end slavery today?

40 Things I Can Do to End Slavery on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day: Part 1

1. Grab my cell: save the National Human Trafficking Hotline number (888-373-3888) in my phone, so I can call it if I spot potential trafficking.

2. Update my Facebook status with information about National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, even if it’s just an announcement that the day exists.

3. Tweet a link to an article about human trafficking.

4. Call my mom and tell her it’s National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and ask her to call at least one friend and tell them the same.

5. Email all the people in my contact book a link to this blog, or another blog about human trafficking.

6. Wear an article of clothing which declares my support for abolition.

7. Put an abolition bumper sticker on my car or truck.

8. Distribute National Human Trafficking Hotline wallet cards.

9. Sign a petition on Change.org.

10. Create a petition on Change.org.

11. Comment on a blog post about human trafficking on Change.org.

12. Pass out flyers in my neighborhood, school, or community.

13. Put up posters in places where it’s legal.

14. Host a video or film screening.

15. Watch human trafficking videos online with my friends, family, or co-workers.

16. Invite people over for dessert and a discussion about human trafficking.

17. Find out if my state has an anti-trafficking law.

18. Ask my state legislators to pass an anti-trafficking law.

19. Attend a Human Trafficking Awareness Day event in my community.

20. Go online and buy a book about human trafficking for myself or as a gift.

A number of these actions were inspired by the even longer list available here. Click on “Take Action” for a list of ideas specific to who you are.

Photo credit: steveweaver

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40 Ideas for Action on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day: From Fair Trade to Fundraising

by Amanda Kloer

Today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. But here in the End Human Trafficking Community at Change.org, every day is about human trafficking awareness. So to build off the awesome awareness-raising activities going on around the country, I’m bringing you ideas for action. Last year, I gave you 11 suggestions of things to do today to help end human trafficking. This year, we’re raising the bar to 40. Everything on this two-part list is a quick, easy action you can take to spread the word about and help fight modern-day slavery. But all these little actions add up fast, and if every one of the over 43,000 people in this online community did just one thing on this list, we would see a huge difference in the fight against human trafficking.

So here is my challenge to you. 1 day. 1 action. 40 ideas. What will you do to end slavery today?

40 Ways to Take Action on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day: Part 2

21. Write a poem or a song about human trafficking.

22. Write to my congressman, asking what she or he is doing to address human trafficking in my area.

23. Write to my city council representative, asking what she or he is doing to address human trafficking in my city.

24. Make a video about human trafficking and put it on YouTube.

25. Find out if the products my employer buys are Fair Trade certified.

26. Ask my employer to consider buying Fair Trade certified alternatives of products.

27. Buy a cup of Fair Trade Coffee at a local coffee shop or a national chain.

28. Cook a meal for or bring food to a local anti-trafficking shelter.

29. Write a thank you note to my favorite anti-trafficking organization letting them know how much I appreciate their efforts.

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World’s Tallest Building Unveiled in Dubai; Built By Slaves?

BY AMANDA KLOER

Yesterday, Dubai, the economic center of the United Arab Emirates, did what any struggling economy on the verge of a painful collapse would do. It unveiled what is now the world’s tallest skyscraper, to be known as Burj Khalifa Bin Zayed after the president of the United Arab Emirates. And of course, this building was constructed in the most logical of places — the middle of the freakin’ desert. So how does an economically troubled country build the world’s tallest building in the middle of a desert? Unfortunately, all signs point to slave labor.

Saying Dubai has a problem with slavery and labor exploitation is like saying Tiger Woods has a problem with fidelity (and incidentally, he also has a problem with some labor concerns around his Dubai golf course). Dubai regularly imports poor migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Kuwait, and other countries where workers are desperate for income. Human Rights Watch found that many of these workers toil 12 hours a day, six days a week. They endure extreme desert temperatures that have led to illness and in some cases, death. Their substandard housing usually involves sleeping up to eight men to a room. And for all this work, researchers say migrant workers in Dubai average only $175 a month — less than $0.60 an hour. Since Dubai has no minimum wage laws, workers have little course of action against abusive and exploitative employers.

In addition to exploitative conditions, a number of indicators of full-fledged slavery have been found among migrant construction workers. Some workers have come to Dubai by means of debt bondage and  indentured servitude. Others have had wages withheld and passports taken away “for security reasons.” Slavery and exploitation in Dubai are the old and dirty parts of an otherwise shining city.

That Dubai Tower, as the building is being called until its official naming, was built by slaves and exploited workers shouldn’t be surprising. The costs of such a construction process are astronomical — the materials, engineers, supplies, media blitzes, and not the mention making the desert inhabitable for workers. So where can you safely cut costs? Not in the building materials or construction, unless you want an embarrassing and deadly collapse. And certainly not on the PR and media, if you’re trying to rebuild your image as an international economic center. So you cut costs on the workers salaries and housing by hiring poor and desperate people and preventing them from leaving when they realize how little money they’ll actually be making. For a more in-depth look into the lives of workers in Dubai, there’s a great BBC video on this issue here.

Dubai Tower is being hailed as a reminder and celebration of human accomplishment. But what have we really accomplished? Enslaving our fellow humans to drag steel through the desert? Destroying families around the world so we can weld massive metal beams together? Driving workers to illness, depression, and death to create a structure that pierces and interrupts the beautiful, natural skyline across the Middle East? If that’s the case, then I’m not in the mood the celebrate, Dubai.

Photo credit: Keeping It Real

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