February 3, 2014

Slavery Still Exists

"I want to be very clear:  I'm talking about real slavery.  This is not about lousy marriages, this is not about jobs that suck, this is about people who can not walk away, people who are forced to work without pay, people who are operating 24/7 under a threat of violence, and have no pay."
           - Kevin Bales (from his TED Talk in 2010.)

The quote above is from the video that prompted me to start Hearts Should Be Free.  That quote especially caught me, because, I think sometimes when people first hear about modern slavery they wonder, "Is it REAL slavery that we're talking about?  Or is this just some metaphor for being trapped in bad circumstances?"  But the more I learn about slavery today, the more clear it is that this is LITERAL slavery.  I have heard stories of people beaten if they would not work, people's lives being threatened if they tried to leave, and even some branded with tattoos so that they could be found again if they escaped.  Slavery today, in most of it's forms,  is almost identical to slavery throughout most of history.  But there are some differences...

1.  Slavery of the past was a legal activity.  As of 2007, there is no country around the world where slavery is legal, and yet it still continues as a criminal activity in nearly every country (even in developed nations like the United States and Canada).

2.  Slaves are cheaper than they used to be.  Before the civil war, adjusted for inflation to today's money, the average price of a slave would be around $40,000.  Today, the cost of acquiring a slave ranges from around $8,000 to as little as $5--with the average worldwide cost being around $90.  In the past because a slave represented a significant investment, slaveowners were more likely to take better care of their slave and less likely to endanger them.   In many places now  slaves are so cheep that they are treated as disposable.

Slavery is widespread.  There are as many as 27 million slaves in the world today, and the products of slave labor contributes to nearly every industry.  In recent years, slaves have been used to make, grow, mine or harvest a dizzying array of products, including...

Bamboo, Bricks, Carpets, Cassiterite, Cement, Charcoal, Christmas Decorations, Clothing, Cotton, Cottonseed, Coal, Coltan, Coffee, Drugs. Electronics, Fireworks, Flowers (real and artificial), Fluorspar, Food/Produce, Footware, Gemstones, Gold, Granite, Gravel, Iron, Nails, Palm Oil, Palm Thatch, Pornography, Rubber, Soap, Stone, Surgical instruments, Teak, Textiles, Timber, Tobacco, and Toys.

Slave labor has also been used for various services including prostitution, housecleaning, cooking, childcare, and hair styling.  Children are also forced to beg, while others are forced to fight as child soldiers.

The first step in ending slavery is simply making more people aware that it exists.  That's why I started Hearts Should Be Free.   You can learn more ways that we can help end slavery here.

To help me spread awareness, Temeka of Zen Custom Jewelry is donating a pair of earring and a bracelet for this giveaway.  She is also donating another pair of her beautiful hand-made earrings which is being given away in another Hearts Should Be Free giveaway here.

To enter to win the earrings shown above, just answer a question on the Rafflecopter form below.  Extra entries are available after you answer the first question.

You must be at least 18 to enter.  Entries accepted through Feb. 15.  Winner will be chosen and announced here on Feb. 16.  Full entry rules are listed at the link on the bottom of the Rafflecopter form.

This giveaway is only open in the United States, Canada (except Quebec), The United Kingdom, and the following areas of Australia  (QLD, NT, TAS, and VIC only).   I would love to make my giveaways open in more places, but it's hard to meet all the legal requirements for various countries.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For the information on this page I consulted the following sources:
2010 Ted Talk by Kevin Bales
US State Department's Trafficking in Person's Report
US State Department's List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor.
Wikipedia Abolition of Slavery Timeline


  1. Truly horrible, women forced into dingy basements catering and being abused, men working 72-hour shifts in dark mines, children forced to labor by dying silk (that can cause illness from the dyes) or carrying heavy stones up and down mountains. :( it's truly heartbreaking!

  2. The ones that do this (I call the devil), should be punished (& will be at judgement day) and not over looked. I believe in capitol punishment. They do it cause they get by with it.

  3. Kathmandu, Nepal: A worker blends in with the bricks at a Nepalese kiln. Workers mechanically stack 18 bricks at a time, each weighing four pounds, and carry them to nearby trucks for 18 hours a day without any payment or compensation.

    I can't imagine doing this once, let alone all day. I can barely carry my laundry basket.

    1. I know what you mean. That one particularly struck me as well. And they're doing this in 100 degree heat. I don't know how long someone could live doing that.

  4. The Atlantic article is very good. This really struck me: "In the Himalayas I found children hauling stone for miles down steep mountain terrain to trucks waiting at the road below. These huge sheets of slate were heavier than the children themselves. The kids hoisted them with their heads using handmade harnesses made from sticks, rope, and torn cloth."

  5. I was not aware of this

  6. I didn't know that this was such a world wide problem but I will help spread the word

  7. Accra, Ghana: 200 feet underground, a man labors in an illegal gold mine. He and others enslaved like him are underground for as long as 72 hours at a time

  8. I didn't think it was still as prominent in today's society.

  9. I am absolutely horrified! This struck such a chord with me!
    "Lake Volta, Ghana: Child workers usually work from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. on cold, windy nights to reel in nets weighing as much as 1,000 pounds when they are full of fish. Skeletal tree limbs submerged in Lake Volta frequently entangle the fishing nets, and and slave masters will throw weary, frightened children into the water to free the trapped lines, sometimes drowning them. I didn't meet one child who didn't know another who had drowned."

  10. It's heartbreaking to know that people are not valued simply for being human.

  11. The little boy, Kofi, was just heartbreaking. Thankful someone found him.

  12. The picture from ghana with the kids in the water looking for gold aboslutely killed me. I can't believe things like this are happening!

  13. Children hold a special place in my heart. I was the director of a daycare for many years and am saddened by the pictures I saw. The picture in the Himalayas of 2 children hauling slabs of stone heavier than themselves is horrible. I am so glad Kofi was rescued and reunited with his parents who can now make a living in order to keep their children safe.

  14. I was surprised by the picture of men in slavery. I guess I hadn't thought they were still vulnerable to it as well.

    1. Yeah...I think a lot of the focus has been on women and children...and women do account for most of the known cases of slavery, but I was reading in the US State Report on Human trafficking that men are often overlooked...people don't expect men to be enslaved and so even when there's signs of slavery people are less likely to notify authorities when the victims are men.

      Actually, one of the first cases I learned about of slavery in the US was some men from Mexico who were lured here for jobs and then forced to pick tomatoes without pay, locked in a trailer at night, beaten if they wouldn't work, etc. They didn't speak English or know the laws here, so they didn't know where to turn but finally one of them escaped and the men holding them were arrested.

  15. Amanda wont_forget_this_address@yahoo.com

    Kathmandu, Nepal: For this photo, I was escorted by women who had previously been enslaved themselves. They brought me down a narrow set of stairs leading to a green fluorescent-lit basement. This wasn't a brothel as such; it was a "cabin restaurants," as they are known in the trade -- venues for forced prostitution. Each has a small private room where slaves, some as young as seven, entertain and serve the clients, encouraging them to buy alcohol and food. These cubicles are small, dark, and dingy, each identified with a number painted on the wall, and partitioned by plywood and a curtain. The workers here often endure sexual abuse at the hands of the customers. Standing in the near darkness, I realized there was only one way out -- the stairs where I came in: no back doors, no windows large enough to climb through, no escape at all.

    That's completely awful. And to think this happens to seven-years-old???