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.

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

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Happy National Coffee Day: Have a fair trade cup of joe today!

In the morning as that alarm clock blares I shoot out of bed like bullet with a sudden, mysteriously founded burst of energy, as I quite literally whack my alarm off and scramble to my morning routine.  But that sudden burst of energy goes as quickly as it came and I know the only thing to get my now heavy feet moving again is a strong cup of coffee, which like magic turns me human again.  So if your anything like me you cannot live without one of the worlds most traded commodities, but for me each sip comes with a secondary level of comfort in knowing that my 'life's water' is slave and child labor free, as I drink nothing-less than fair trade coffee.

Child labor and slavery continues to plague the coffee industry, forcing children to often work to harvest what will soon become your cheap cup of Joe you sip as you trudge through the day.  Child labor in the agricultural industry consists of children being bought and sold as slaves or bonded laborers, as migrant or estate workers usually with their family. Many children work for commercial farms and plantations that produce our commodities and are estimated to be 7-12% of the work force. Besides coffee children are often found as labors in the harvest of cocoa, coconuts, cotton, fruit and vegetables, jasmine, palm oil, rubber, sisal, sugar cane, tea, tobacco, and vanilla.

According to the ILO, over 132 million children, aged 5-14 years old, work in agriculture around the world, they are just a segment of an the estimated 246 million child laborers around the globe.  UNICEF estimates that some 200,000 children are victims of trafficking each year in West and Central Africa alone, for the purpose of working in the supply chain for products such as; cocoa and coffee.  Global March Against Child Labor estimates that one in every eight children from 5 to 17 years old, some 179 million, work in the worst forms of child labor.  These children are placed in hazardous working conditions in order to ensure that we have our sweet treats, it is truly a bittersweet story.

Fair Trade is everyone's issue, it is more than looking at the world through a lens of more organic and healthy food, it is more than a fair wage for farmers…Fair Trade is the way to a sustainable future for all of the worlds children.  So join the fight for children across the globe, and join your global citizens for coffee with a cause and drink Fair Trade today!
Take the opportunity to learn about Fair Trade with your children and go on a few of the great sites out there that have games and resources for kids, such as Oxfam's Cool Planet and Kidz @ Work . Please see my Fair Trade and Slave Free Links for more information.

Please also see previous posts on Child Trafficking, Child Labor and don’t forget to check out the following resource pages:

Monday, September 16, 2013

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Great Britain: 'Modern slavery' bill to tighten laws on human trafficking
Home secretary, Theresa May, aims to toughen legislation and counter 'shockingly low' prosecution rates. The home secretary said that prosecution rates for human trafficking were still "shockingly low" across Europe and that an overhaul of the law was needed as there was still some uncertainty over which agencies should be tackling the problem. The bill, which will be introduced before the current session of parliament ends next spring, will consolidate and toughen existing anti-trafficking legislation.

Texas: Bill would target domestic human trafficking
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, co-sponsored with Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, will add to existing federal efforts to combat what he called the “scourge of human trafficking.” “We have to make human trafficking unprofitable, and we have to make the consequences such that people simply don't want to risk it,” he said. The bill would create a special fund that would finance human trafficking deterrence and victims' support programs through fines and penalties assessed on those convicted of child pornography, sexual exploitation, human trafficking and human smuggling offenses. Currently, about $20 million to $30 million in federal money goes to domestic trafficking prevention and deterrence — far less than that dedicated to international trafficking deterrence programs, Cornyn said. His bill would boost federal funding for domestic human trafficking victim support programs by an estimated $10 million to $20 million.

Black Mauritanians suffer 'slavery-like' conditions, says UN Black Mauritanians are still subject to slavery-like practices, including sexual violence and discrimination, a UN human rights expert has said. The UN special rapporteur on racism, Mutuma Ruteere, told the Guardian that generations of people, particularly women and girls, were still living with families in a "slavery-like" relationship, and were being forced into sex with male relatives, in some cases with their fathers.

Mauritania: Modern-Day Slave Finds Freedom in the Desert
At SOS Esclaves offices in Nouakchott, Mauritania's capital, Matallah Ould Mbarak Alsalem prepares tea. Matallah is a handyman and cleaner at SOS Esclaves, an NGO dedicated to the fight against slavery and coming to the aid of slaves and former slaves. He is one himself. Born in a desert region of north-eastern Mauritania, his mother was a Hratine, a slave, and by convention so was he. The Hratine, the main slave caste, are descendants of black African ethnic groups subjugated for the most part by white Arab Berbers. Estimates indicate that 10-20 percent of Mauretania's 3.5 million people are slaves, though exact numbers are hard to come by.

Cindy McCain: Address human trafficking before 2015 Super Bowl
McCain is calling on Arizona leaders to enact harsher penalties for human traffickers before the Super Bowl lands in Glendale in 2015 because the sports event is one of the largest drivers of the sex-trade industry. The annual football game is among the most-watched sports events in the world and draws tens of thousands of people to its host city. State attorneys general in Texas and Indiana, where recent Super Bowls were held, and other experts, have said the event creates an ideal setting for traffickers because they easily can go unnoticed in the influx of people, according to media reports. New Jersey, which will host the 2014 Super Bowl, recently passed a new law toughening penalties for traffickers.

ILO Initiative Protects Women from Modern-Day Slavery Over 100,000 girls and women in South Asia are set to benefit from a new initiative by the International Labor Organization and the UK Department for International Development, which aims to prevent trafficking within the region and to the Middle East. The Work in Freedom program, funded by UK aid, will focus on trafficking in domestic labor and the garment sector through known labor trafficking routes from Bangladesh, India and Nepal, to Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and India.

Friday, September 13, 2013

FACT: 2.5 Million People are in Forced Labor

Image from Little Hands Blog
An estimated 2.5 million people are in forced labor (including sexual exploitation) at any given time as a result of trafficking.Of these:

  •  1.4 million – 56% - are in Asia and the Pacific
  •  250,000 – 10% - are in Latin America and the Caribbean
  •  230,000 – 9.2% - are in the Middle East and Northern Africa 
  •  130,000 – 5.2% - are in sub-Saharan countries  
  • 270,000 – 10.8% - are in industrialized countries
  •  200,000 – 8% - are in countries in transition

Among the victims:

  •  The majority of trafficking victims are between 18 and 24 years of age.
  •  95% of victims experienced physical or sexual violence during trafficking (based on data from selected European countries).
  •  43% of victims are used for forced commercial sexual exploitation, of whom 98 per cent are
  • women and girls.
  •  32% of victims are used for forced economic exploitation, of whom 56 per cent are women and
  • girls.
  • Many trafficking victims have at least middle-level education.

Data Source:

  1. International Organization for Migration, Counter-Trafficking Database, 78 Countries, 1999-2006 (1999)
  2. The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Stolen smiles: a summary report on the physical and psychological health consequences of women and adolescents trafficked in Europe (London, 2006)
  3. International Labour Organization, Forced Labour Statistics Factsheet (2007)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Death of Child Bride in Yemen an All too Familiar Story

The recent story on the child bride in Yemen who was killed has me fired up again, as over the years I have written many times on child marriage across the globe.
"Al Nahar, Lebanon, has reported that an eight year old child bride died in Yemen on her wedding night after suffering internal injuries due to sexual trauma. Human rights organizations are calling for the arrest of her husband who was five times her age" (albabwa).
 Not only have I written countless times on the global plague of child marriage, but even more I have reported on Yemen numerous times since at least 2008, when I published  "Girls in Yemen Forced to Marry too Young".

In 2010 I even reported on a story that almost mirrors the one that is causing global outcries as we speak,  when a 12 year-old child bride died; "Child Marriage in Yemen Turns Deadly" and "Yemen Fights to Ban Child Marriage" just to name a few.

I am truly fired up over this one -not simply because of the shocking and unspeakable nature of the child's death, but as we have sought to speak out for so many years to only have the cries of child brieds in Yemen and across the globe continue to be silenced.  We cannot stand by one more day and ignore these innocent children, most of whom do not have their stories told and not only cry in silence, but who's deaths gain no tears.

 Stay tuned I have a lot more to come and will be writing a new post with a fresh perspective shortly.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Demands grow for child guardians to end shame of modern slavery in the UK 
Safe accommodation could stop suspected victims being found by traffickers, say experts.The number of children identified as potential victims rose by 12% last year, according to a recent report by the UK Human Trafficking Centre. It identified 2,255 potential child victims – up from 2,077 the previous year. Advocates of guardianship say it would ensure secure housing, education and legal support to stop trafficked children falling back into the hands of their exploiters.

Nail bars: modern-day slavery in plain sight?
...the beauty industry was one of the most resilient and dependably priced of all throughout the latest recession – nail-care businesses and lipstick sellers in particular. But it turns out that there may be another, far darker reason for the rise of the affordable manicure in the UK of late. A report by the Sunday Times (paywalled link) this week presented evidence about nail salons staffed by illegal immigrants, specifically from Vietnam. According to the report, industry insiders estimate that there are 100,000 Vietnamese manicurists working in the UK, despite only 29,000 Vietnamese-born migrants officially being registered in census data. [Questions raised below by commenters over these figures have been addressed in our Reality Check blog – see footnote.] It alleges that some of these illegal migrants are victims of "what appears to be a human-trafficking network" and that they are sometimes forced to work as prostitutes as well as manicurists. According to the latest numbers from Eurostat, 80% of human trafficking victims are female.

The economic case for ending slavery
Instead all of us in the anti-slavery organisations must start working together to effectively make the case to governments and the private sector of the economic benefits of eliminating slavery, over and above the unarguable moral case to end this atrocity. $32bn (£21bn) in annual profits sounds impressive doesn't it? Who wouldn't be happy with such huge profits? The problem is, that is the estimate of how much criminals make from modern slavery every year (pdf). It's a powerful statistic, and one of the most commonly cited. But it is becoming increasingly clear that focussing on these criminally generated profits frames the problem wrongly, and risks undermining effective policy action to end this atrocity.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sharing the Labor Day Spirit

Photo Credit: UN News Center

 Like myself, most of you, were barley able to wind down a long weekend full of end of summer trips, pool parties and BBQ's in honor of Labor Day- and are now rushing to get the kids to school or the catch-up on work. Nonetheless I hope you you all had the best weather and the time to both rest and play!

Other than the end of summer, what is the meaning behind Labor Day? According to the Department of Labor (DOL), Labor Day “is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers” and “constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” After more than 20 states adopted a holiday in honor of workers during the late 1800s, Congress passed an act on June 28, 1894 making the first Monday in September of each year the legal holiday of Labor Day.

 However while most of us in the U.S. took a well deserved weekend off and a day to celebrate our achievements and hard work, millions of others around the glob have never seen a day off, been rewarded for their hard work, nor giving a needed break or rest from the grueling routine of physical labor.  According to the International Labor Organization (ILO) some 21 million are victims of forced labor, an estimated 5.5 million of which are children under the age of 18. "According to new ILO estimates, three out of every 1,000 people worldwide are trapped in jobs into which they were coerced or deceived and which they cannot leave."  Forced labor included those who are trafficked for sexual exploration, forced to work in agriculture or mining and as domestic workers.

The fight against forced labor is a global fight, however it is a fight that can be won through unified global action, laws and the enforcement of such laws, empowerment/education, gender equality, and consumer awareness.

How do we take the first steps to move forward? First we must ensure that the voices of men, women and children around the world are heard, and that we keep the true spirit of Labor Day alive all year round -to remember not all are rewarded and honored for their hard work. Thus we never forget that forced labor labor continues to be prevalent, one must seek to educate themselves and others on the issue.  We must be aware that forced labor comes not only at the cost of the laborer and their families, but also ours and that we are part of the supply chain wither we want to be or not -for it is in our daily products.  Products such as coffee, tea, sugar, vegetables and fruit, cotton,, cell phones, and so much more.  Therefore, one must become a conscious consumer and try to shop Fair Trade as often as possible and support your local community.

Today education is the first step (You've read this post great start), tomorrow we begin to take action as we speak out and spread the word to others (share this post with your friends via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter), and continue to educate yourself and take a more active role as a consume (check out Free2Work for a list of tainted products and download their app to help while your shopping.  As long as we continue to educate ourselves on the issue and the products modern slavery taint to make educated purchases and take a stand against companies who support the demoralization and harm of others, we will see an end to slavery  in out live time and know that we all have a role to play.