Welcome to the Bridge to Freedom Foundation Blog

Thank you for visiting the Bridge to Freedom Foundation (BTFF) blog, where we look forward to bringing you inside information on the inner-workings of BTFF, inside information on our volunteer team and leadership, in-depth coverage of BTFF and partner events, news and happenings from across the globe and so much more.

Learn more about Bridge to Freedom Foundation and how you can help on the BTFF website. We do hope you will subscribe to and follow our blog and please e-mail us at blog@btff.org if you have any feedback, ideas or contributions.

Thank you for your support!
Cassandra Clifford
Executive Director and Founder of BTFF

Monday, October 31, 2011

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Bengal slammed for not implementing right to education act
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) Friday slammed the West Bengal government for not implementing right to education act in the state. Addressing the media here at conclusion of a two-day-long public hearing, NCPCR Chairperson Shanta Sinha said the problem of child labor and trafficking were rampant in West Bengal because of non-implementation of the right to education act. “It seems that the issue is not of resources but that of will,” Sinha said. “These and many other children are falling victim to child labor and trafficking because the authorities have not implemented the RTE in all seriousness that could allow children a chance at education and better future,” she said.

U.S. is urged to keep up fight against trafficking
The U.S. remains a key player in the fight against human trafficking and a congressional proposal to cut funding would adversely affect the global battle to end the trade, writes Matthew Friedman, regional project manager for the United Nations Inter-Agency on Human Trafficking. Between 12 million and 27 million people around the world are trapped in slave like conditions as result of human trafficking.

If Super Bowl brings influx of human trafficking, prosecutors are ready
A two-day training session for county prosecutors this week was the latest in Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller's efforts to combat human trafficking. Two deputies from the Vanderburgh County prosecutor's office were among the 40 law enforcement officials who attended a seminar in Indianapolis and aimed at showing those officials how to prosecute traffickers and deal with victims.

Fighting Over Online Sex Ads
Village Voice Media has a classified network called Backpage.com that includes a section labeled “adult” with categories like “escort” and “strippers & strip clubs.” The vast majority of ads involve one consenting adult seeking another, but there have been instances in which the section was used to offer minors for sexual ends. In September 2010, Craigslist, which hosted a great deal of sexually related advertising, bowed to pressure and banned that advertising in the United States. A significant portion of the estimated $44 million in sex-related advertising on Craigslist found a home on Backpage.com. But in August the country’s 51 attorneys general sent a letter demanding that the site close its “adult” section, and now a coalition of religious leaders has joined that effort.

Senate leaders: Deal on human trafficking bill possible before Nov. 16
A day after a Republican senator broke with decorum and criticized colleagues for prolonged negotiations on a bill cracking down on human trafficking, the Senate’s point-person on the issue said a deal is within reach and could be sealed within three weeks, when the Legislature is scheduled to recess until January. The bills establishes the crimes of trafficking persons for sexual servitude and trafficking persons for forced services, each which would carry a potential 15-year sentence. Traffickers of children could face life in prison. The Senate bill proposed fines of up to $1 million on businesses found to engage in human trafficking, and added state-funded social services for victims of sex trafficking or forced labor. The House bill would authorize $10,000 fines for those convicted of soliciting sex from a minor.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi Named in Human Trafficking Report
Controversial Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was named in a U.S. government report on human trafficking. The 75-year-old media baron turned politician landed on the list because of his alleged relationship with a 17-year-old belly dancer, Karima El Mahroug, during one of his now-infamous "bunga bunga" parties. “In February 2011, judges set a trial date for Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for the alleged commercial sexual exploitation of a Moroccan child, media reports … indicate evidence of third party involvement in the case, indicating the girl was a victim of trafficking," the State Department report said. The annual report is just the latest embarrassment for Berlusconi over the incident, which has him facing criminal charges in Italy.

U.S. Lawmaker Seeks More Scrutiny on India Trafficking
A U.S. lawmaker on Thursday urged more scrutiny of India's record on human trafficking as the State Department insisted that the emerging Asian power was taking significant strides against the problem. In its latest annual report on human trafficking, the State Department took India off a watchlist and credited the democracy's independent judiciary and civil society with spurring action to rescue women and children. But Republican Chris Smith, author of the law that requires the trafficking report, queried the upgrade. Smith asked the State Department to look carefully next year at whether India is making "an all-out effort to eradicate slavery" or only trying to appease criticism. Robert Blake, the assistant secretary of state for South Asia, defended the administration's assessment. He said India had traffickers in their crosshairs, while until recently authorities would arrest the victimized women and girls.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Global Child Sex Trafficking Facts

1) Young girls make up the majority of the approximately 2 million children worldwide who are sexually exploited each year.
2) Globally, between 50 and 60 percent of the children who are trafficked into sexual slavery are under age 16.
3) 25 % of all child sex tourists around the world are U.S. citizens.
4) Sex traffickers often recruit children not only because they are more vulnerable, but also because of the high market demand for young victims.
5) Traffickers target young victims on the telephone, on the Internet, through friends, at the mall, and in after-school programs


Monday, October 24, 2011

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Girls prepare message for G20 leaders
Girls representing the G20 countries and the African Union have gathered for a G(irls) 20 Summit to highlight efforts to end child marriage and discuss other issues that affect young women around the world. Participants will prepare a communiqué on the issue to be delivered to policymakers at the G20 summit next month.

Elders work to confront child marriage
Working to bring an end to child marriages is a key focus area for Nelson Mandela, Mary Robinson and The Elders. The group of senior diplomats is endorsing community-level education efforts and engaging males in conversations on ending a practice that affects 10 million young girls every year.

Movement against genital cutting spreads across Senegal
Villages across Senegal are galvanizing behind a growing grass-roots social movement against female genital cutting. More than 5,000 such villages have promised to abandon the practice.

Vietnam province launches child-marriage awareness campaign
The provincial authority of Long An has issued an instruction to fight against child marriage in the province. The instruction was made after many marriages at an early age were reported in the province’s remote areas and districts with industrial zones, such as Tan Hung, Duc Hue, Moc Hoa, Duc Hoa and Ben Luc. To prevent child marriage, Long An People’s Committee has assigned the Department of Justice to better educate residents about marriage law. The Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs was asked to conduct a survey on causes of early marriages and to map out policies on vocational training for young people who may be involved in child marriages so they could more easily find jobs.

The Child Slavery Behind Your Chocolate
October could almost be designated “candy month” in the United States, thanks to the consumer buying power and commercialization of Halloween. As I wrote in my post, Trick-or-Treating Minus the Slavery, the chocolate industry in the United States alone is a$13 billion industry. It is led by Hershey’s, which holds42.5% of the U.S. chocolate market. Yet the global cocoa industry often traffics children to work as slaves, according to UNICEF (The United Nation’s Children’s Fund).

Trick-or-Treating Minus the Slavery
With Halloween quickly approaching, most of us are running around trying to find costumes and stock up on candy for the wee ones that will barrage our doors in their tiny costumes. Everyone wants make sure the little ghosts, princesses, supper heroes, and other characters are greeted with a sweet treat. But what if you’re handing them a sweet that was made at the price of another child? Chances are, it was. Last year Americans spent nearly two billion dollars on Halloween candies and treats. While it frightening to think of this financial cost, the real fright is that much of the stuff is produced by children and slave labor.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Do You Know the Red Flags of Human Trafficking?

Although every human trafficking case is unique, the following is a non-exhaustive list of potential red flags and indicators of human trafficking (compiled by Polaris Project):
Common Work and Living Conditions: The Individual(s) in Question
  • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex act
  • Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
  • Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
  • Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
  • Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
  • High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior
  • Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
  • Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
  • Avoids eye contact
Poor Physical Health
  • Lacks health care
  • Appears malnourished
  • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
Lack of Control
  • Has few or no personal possessions
  • Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
  • Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
  • Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
  • Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
  • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
  • Loss of sense of time
  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story

Monday, October 17, 2011

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Elders work to confront child marriage
Working to bring an end to child marriages is a key focus area for Nelson Mandela, Mary Robinson and The Elders. The group of senior diplomats is endorsing community-level education efforts and engaging males in conversations on ending a practice that affects 10 million young girls every year.

Vietnam province launches child-marriage awareness campaign
The provincial authority of Long An has issued an instruction to fight against child marriage in the province. The instruction was made after many marriages at an early age were reported in the province’s remote areas and districts with industrial zones, such as Tan Hung, Duc Hue, Moc Hoa, Duc Hoa and Ben Luc. To prevent child marriage, Long An People’s Committee has assigned the Department of Justice to better educate residents about marriage law. The Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs was asked to conduct a survey on causes of early marriages and to map out policies on vocational training for young people who may be involved in child marriages so they could more easily find jobs.

Revulsion over Nigeria rape video shows power of social media

In Nigeria, rape video depicting an apparent gang attack on a woman by college students sparks a criminal investigation, and raises questions of how much smartphones have changed Nigerian society. On Sept. 17, a popular Nigerian blogger named Linda Ikeji wrote that she was in possession of an hour-long tape of five students from Abia State University gang-raping a young woman. Ms. Ikeji is a widely followed and popular writer known for her accurate celebrity gossip and entertainment reporting. Her claim to be in possession of such a tape drew immediate attention.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

5 Facts About the Global Human Trafficking Crisis

1) It is estimated that there are approximately 27 million slaves around the world

2) The average cost of a slave around the world is $90.

3) Approximately half of all trafficking victims around the world are under the age of 18.

4) According to some estimates, 80% of trafficking involves sexual exploitation, and 19% involves labor exploitation.  

5) Trafficking victims normally don't get help because they think that they or their families will be hurt by their traffickers, or that they will be deported.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Inside the world of child brides
Understanding the true depth of the issue of child marriage sometimes requires a new lens so to speak.  BBC presenter Nel Hedayat travels to India and Bangladesh, countries with two of the highest rates of child marriage, to chronicle what life is like to be one of the 10 million girls worldwide who are married off each year before they reach the age of 18. The 23-year-old Hedayat has a legacy of child marriage in her family, as both of her grandmothers and an aunt were married as children in her native Afghanistan.

UNESCO hosts forum on education gender gaps
Academics, government and NGO representatives have gathered for a two-day UNESCO forum to discuss the causes behind gender equality in education. Enrollment ratios have increased around the world over the past decade, but large gaps remain in Sub-Saharan and Arab countries, UNESCO said.

Police in Peru say they have rescued nearly 300 women from sexual exploitation in a raid in the country's Amazon region. At least four people were arrested in Puerto Maldonado on suspicion of human trafficking. Among those rescued from about 50 brothels were at least 10 minors - the youngest was a 13-year-old girl. More than 400 police took part in the three-day operation in the region, known for its illegal gold mining. Prosecutors say young girls are lured to the area by women who travel around offering them jobs in shops or as domestic helpers, but that the girls often end up being forced to work as prostitutes in local bars.
EU Lawmakers Block Textile Deal with Uzbekistan Over Child Labor Concerns
European Union lawmakers have rejected a trade deal that would have made it easier for Uzbekistan to export textiles to Europe, citing objections to that country's continued use of forced child labor in its cotton harvests. The European Parliament's foreign affairs committee unanimously voted against the inclusion of textiles in the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), a document that has formed the basis of trade in most other goods between the EU and Uzbekistan since it came into force in 1999. The deal would have lowered the tariffs on EU imports of Uzbek cotton, which currently represent one-quarter of that country's exports. The committee wants international organizations to verify that child labor is not used during the cotton harvest in Uzbekistan before considering an inclusion of textiles.

Thailand: Escaping From Burma but Falling into Slavery

There are an estimated 2 to 3 million Burmese working in Thailand. Khun Mint says two years ago he had made up his mind to head to Thailand, but he needed help. When he reached Mayawatti, the Northeastern town that borders Mae Sot, Thailand, he met what many refer to as a "broker" or "recruiter" at a barbershop. The man helped him cross the river into Thailand, for a fee to be paid later, and from there, he eventually was led to a fishing village in the South. The young Burmese man essentially worked as slave labor the first six months, paying off his debt. Conditions were horrible, he says, thanks in part to enforcers on the boat, who carried what Khun Mint refers to as the, "stingray." "When you're casting the net or pulling it back up, if he see something he doesn't like, or even randomly, he'll start whipping you. It's like that."

Human Trafficking: Washington Works to Stem Demand

The Seattle area ranks among the top in the world for sexual exploitation of minors, according to Robin Schildmeyer of Genesis Project. Human trafficking is especially prevalent in Washington because of the state's ports, said Sen. Tracey Eide (D-District 30). In 2003, Washington became the first state to pass a law that criminalizes human trafficking. Since then, a series of laws have addressed restrictions on sex tourism, along with confidentiality and benefits for victims. In 2012, the Legislature will attempt to restrict advertisements for escort services related to underage victims. Chris Johnson, policy director for Attorney General Rob McKenna, credits the growing grass-roots support for allowing the state to "chip away" at human trafficking. "Where we are with human trafficking is where we were with domestic violence 30 years ago," said Johnson at a public forum. "We have a long way to go."

Intl. Bodies Hold Seminar on Curbing Money Laundering to Combat Human Trafficking

An expert seminar organized by the OSCE and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on leveraging efforts to fight human trafficking through clamping down on money laundering started in Vienna today. Trafficking in human beings is one of the most lucrative forms of organized crime, estimated to generate $32 billion dollars in gross proceeds each year. Criminal assets arising from this grave violation of human rights may be invested in legitimate and criminal activities. To minimize the profitability and increase the risk of human trafficking, these assets must be traced, seized, frozen and confiscated. A key goal of the seminar is to advance the body of operational knowledge available to law enforcement, financial intelligence units and private sector compliance departments in the use of financial investigations in identifying and confiscating the proceeds and instrumentalities of human trafficking.

Indiana Could Change Human Trafficking Law Before Super Bowl

State Attorney General Greg Zoeller is making a push for law enforcement to crack down on human trafficking in the state ahead of the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis. Zoeller says the last two Super Bowl sites had trouble getting out in front of the issue.  A major problem, he says, is differentiating commercial sex crimes that involve human trafficking from more standard prostitution. “I think the deficiencies are really that we look at prostitution where the prostitute is the criminal,” Zoeller said. “In this instance, where you recognize human trafficking, where the prostitute is a victim herself.” Zoeller says to help deal with the core issue, he will urge the General Assembly to pass legislation before the Super Bowl that will close gaps in state law.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

ILO: Hazardous Work is One of The Worst Forms of Child Labor

According to the International Labor Office, hazardous work* is one of theworst forms of child labor. In its recent report entitled, “Children in Hazardous Work,” the ILO states:
Children in hazardous work are in many respects the silent majority within child labour. Although they appear in photos, when it comes to action they are often eclipsed by form of child labour that have captured the public eye, such as child soldiers or trafficked children, or they are subsumed within general child labour efforts. Still too few policies or programmes are geared to the special needs of children who do hazardous work.
The Facts
  • According to the most recent statistics (2008), there are approximately 115 million children currently employed in hazardous work.
  • Although less than one-third of younger children in employment (those aged 5–14) are now in hazardous work, almost half of all children aged 15–17 who are employed perform hazardous work.
  • Hazardous work is increasing among older children, aged 15–17. Within four years (2004–08), it jumped 20%– from 52 million to 62 million. Boys outnumber girls by two to one in this age group.
  • Children have higher rates of injury and death at work than adults, as shown by data from industrialized countries.
Despite the Dismal Facts, Progress is Being Made
Although the number of children in hazardous work is large, some of the most dangerous types of child work are concentrated in specific localities, specific occupations, specific tasks and specific age groups. Focusing energies on these pockets could go a long way towards generating the momentum needed to make progress. However,…the scale of the problem could increase in many countries due to demographic changes, as youthful population bulges move into adolescence….Major and sustainable progress requires public policies that address the root causes of child labour: tackling poverty, ensuring children have access to education and providing a social protection floor which protects the vulnerable.
The Report acknowledges the challenges and difficulty in tackling this issue on a global level; however, the Report found that there is progress being made. Specifically, the Report found:
  • For younger children (aged 5–14) in hazardous work, rates came down 31 % between 2004 and 2008; for girls they are down by 24%.
  • There are 173 countries that have committed themselves to tackling hazardous work of children “as a matter of urgency” by ratifying the ILO’s Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999.
Call For Action
Children in hazardous work must be made a priority in the next five years, and the Report recommends action on the following fronts:
  • There must be a renewed effort to ensure that all children remain in school, at least through the minimum age of employment;
  • We must strengthen workplace safety and health for all workers, and enforce specific safeguards for youth between the minimum age of employment and the age of 18; and
  • Each nation must develop a legal foundation for action against hazardous child work, with the support of workers and employers.
*Hazardous labor is defined as “work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.”
Image: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_1EmsgX2RU3Y/SzKKNCKvvFI/AAAAAAAACPA/9tam6JJ8Qik/s400/childlabour.jpg

Friday, October 7, 2011

Mindfulness, Martial Arts, and Human Trafficking

This Sunday, October 9th First Defense Martial Arts is hosting a mindfulness workshop benefiting Bridge to Freedom Foundation.

What do mindfulness, martial arts, and human trafficking have in common? An Esoteric might argue the Quantum theories of connectivity, that whole ‘everything in the universe is connected’ business.  There is also a more straightforward connection.

Mindfulness creates an internal place of Center. In a centered state, I am much more aware of my surroundings and my own body.  This particular brand of awareness takes on the feel of an observer. In a centered state, we can solve our problems more easily and we get the huge benefits of increased physical health, which is a medically proven side-effect of mindfulness practices. 

In practices of self-defense, the more centered I can be--the more aware I am. The more aware I am, the easier it is for my mind to observe my own physical training and refine, improve my skills. With mindfulness and martial arts practices, my body trains better and I am more aware of my surroundings. Doing the math…increased awareness and better training equal an increase in personal safety.

When I feel safe in my own body, my eyes look up from navel gazing (contemplating all my own problems) and I realize there are other people out there.

Mindfulness is essentially the art and practice of learning to live consciously. In conscious living, we get to see things from a more neutral perspective. From a more neutral perspective, we notice that maybe those Quantum physicists in all their esoteric theories are on to something: we are all connected.  When I realize I am connected to everyone else out there, human trafficking is no longer so easy to ignore.

So at last we come to it: what do Mindfulness, Martial Arts, and Human Trafficking have in common? Self-defense is about the basic right to personal safety. So is human trafficking. Learning to live more consciously increases my capacity to be human. As I am more fully aware of my humanity, it becomes impossible to ignore the thousands of people who denied their essential human right to safety and freedom. 

Join us this Sunday for Falling Awake at First Defense Martial Arts Center from 10 am to noon. The cost of the workshop is a donation to Bridge to Freedom Foundation with a recommended starting point of $10.00 per person. You can register through First Defense at http://firstdefensemac.com

If you join us…you might want to bring a pillow! We will spend some time sitting on the floor (among other fun things!).

Tammy Yard-McCracken, Psy.D., LPC, A-CHT
Transformational Coaching
Integrative Psychology
Mind-Body Medicine
To learn more about the post author and facilitator, Tammy Yard-McCracken, please visit her website: www.thewellmind.com 

See more on First Defense Martial Arts and the Event Page here

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Conscious Consumer this October for Fair Trade Month

The month of October is TransFair USA’s Fair Trade Month, and the 2011 theme is “Every Purchase Matters”.  The goal behind this years theme is to stress and illustrate how individuals can get involved with Fair Trade and what impact that can have on farmers and laborers across the globe. The month of October is dedicated to increasing consumer awareness of what Fair Trade means and what certified products are available, how to find them, and what impact they have locally and globally.  The global impact can be felt as we begin to remove harmful child labor practices and slavery from the supply chain.  Locally the impact can be done at the checkout, or buy working to increase the number of Fair Trade towns across the country.

What is Fair Trade?
The Fair Trade label is applied to many types of food stuffs, which have high levels of exploitation, such as coffee, sugar, tea, cocoa, nuts, herbs, produce, etc.  Fair Trade labeling also occurs on other consumer products, such as sports balls, clothing, rugs, etc. Fair Trade Certification empowers workers and communities to lift themselves out of poverty by investing in their farms/businesses and communities, protecting the environment, and developing the business skills necessary to compete in the global marketplace.  Fair Trade is much more than a fair price, it enables safe working conditions, living wages for workers, prohibits forced child labor and slavery, is environmental sustainable, and prompts community development.
What is Fair Trade Certification?
For a product to be considered a Fair Trade, it has to be certified through an audit system, which ensures that all of the Fair Trade principles are met in the production, sale, and distribution of the item. The Fair Trade label is applied to products that pass this certification system.  However please note that just because a product does not carry the label, it does not mean that it is not Fair Trade, as many smaller co-ops and others have not yet been able to afford the certification.  Nonetheless do not let this put you off, being a conscious consumer and knowing where your products come from is always a better way forward for everyone, so don't be afraid to investigate and do some research.  There are sites like Fair Trade Proof.org and the list on Fair Trade USA will help you find brands that sell Fair Trade Certified products to help you get started.

What Can You Do?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ask the Founder & Executive Director

What was the stimulus for your starting Bridge to Freedom Foundation?  

Filling the capacity gap that existed in the field.  I wanted to do something that I knew there was a need for and that I had the ability to fill without hindering any other organizations progress...the main key was to ensure that what we were doing was sustainable and would truly make an impact on not only the lives of survivors, but in working to bring an end to the cycle of modern slavery.

The vision of Bridge to Freedom Foundation is one of a cohesive and sustainable anti-slavery movement that is empowered to work with victims as they transition out of oppression and into a thriving, well-rounded life of freedom. Bridge to Freedom Foundation’s mission is to ensure that all survivors of modern slavery are able to build the skills and resources needed to escape the cycle of modern slavery and abuse while attaining and achieving the lives they choose.
Do you have a question for Cassandra? Send your questions to blog@btff.org

Monday, October 3, 2011

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Global effort to end child marriages is under way
The Clinton Global Initiative and The Elders have joined forces to combat child marriage with a new worldwide initiative, the Girls Not Brides campaign. The initiative will bring together a global coalition of organizations working against child marriage in a bid to end the practice within one generation. 

UNICEF: Gender disparities emerge early
Boys and girls the world over are treated pretty much the same until they reach early adulthood, when girls become more likely to encounter domestic violence, HIV/AIDS infection and child marriage, according to a UNICEF report. Compounding the threats faced by an estimated 10 million girls who get married before they turn 18, primarily in Africa and South Asia, are poverty and poor health care, the report says.

Sex-abuse victims take case to ICC
A complaint filed Tuesday with the International Criminal Court at The Hague accuses Pope Benedict XVI, who formerly oversaw abuse cases, and three top cardinals of possible crimes against humanity for allegedly sheltering priests who sexually abused children. The Vatican had no immediate comment on the complaint, which was filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based nonprofit legal group, on behalf of the Survivors Network of those abused by Roman Catholic priests.