The disturbing cellphone camera footage released by CNN depicting slave auctions in Libya has rocked the world, and serves as a jarring reminder that slavery still exists in the 21st century.
Experts estimate that 40 million people around the world are currently enslaved. The Global Estimates of Modern Slavery report released by the International Labor Office and the Walk Free Foundation, notes that 71 percent of the world’s enslaved people are women and girls.
Forced labor, forced marriage, and sex trafficking are some of the ways modern slavery manifests.
The Libya situation is one of the latest examples of said forced labor. Located on the Northern coast of Africa, Libya is a prime passageway for migrants and refugees fleeing their respective countries for the chance at a fresh start in Europe via an illegal (and often deadly) boat ride from the Libyan coast.
Since the 2011 assassination of Muammar Gaddafi, lawlessness has further pervaded Libya and refugees have found themselves at the mercy of smugglers who sometimes take to enslaving their boat riders when passage to Europe is curtailed by international authorities.
It is estimated that at least hundreds of thousands and possibly one million migrants and refugees are currently trapped in Libya, unable to get to Europe or back to their home countries. These are the people being sold in Libya’s slave markets.
This occurrence is possible because some African countries are reeling from the ravages of colonialism, brutal dictators, unstable governments and, not to mention, many poor agricultural communities are often the most vulnerable to the devastations of climate change. There are a number of causal issues that need to be addressed in order to stop Libya’s slave trade, and Libya represents a small percentage of the world’s enslaved population.
Slavery is a despicable reality that is found in virtually every country. For the everyday person, confronting such an enormous problem is overwhelming. Fortunately, there are organizations filled with passionate experts who work hard everyday to dismantle slavery directly and/or address the root causes that allow slavery to flourish.
You don’t necessarily have to spend any more time or money on yet another cause, it’s a matter of redirecting what you already do. Below are some of organizations battling slavery and ways you can help beyond just donating money.
Flex Your Social Media Muscle
Maybe your pockets were a little light on #GivingTuesday and you couldn’t pass a few coins over to your favorite nonprofits. That’s OK! Sharing status updates and tweets about hardworking nonprofits is a practical and helpful gesture. The more exposure an organization gets, the more likely they’ll end up catching the interest of someone who has the resources they need to continue their work. While you’re retweeting the imagined playlist for the upcoming royal wedding reception, toss some RTs to a nonprofit or two. If you see something, share something.
Be a Responsible Consumer
Unless you’re a deep-pocketed board member for one of those giant global conglomerates, it’s unlikely that you have personally toured the facilities were some of the world’s favorite gadgets, clothes and shoes are made or the fields that produce the raw materials for the coffees, chocolates, and teas consumed everyday. However, some companies make a point to have environmentally and economically sustainable supply chains and/or they partner with organizations that do. Though this might not directly address slavery, it does address poverty, which is a major factor when it comes to forced labor.
Creating a robust economic ecosystem in the (often poor) countries where so many consumable items are manufactured and harvested, means that those communities will have options and stability and not be as vulnerable to devastation that comes with deep poverty. Many organizations that work with corporations have logos that are easily spotted on packaging, so it just takes a glance to be a more responsible consumer. There are also companies that do explicitly work to keep forced labor out of their supply chains. Give them a shout too.
Hold Trump and All Elected Officials Accountable
The Trump administration has been embarrassingly bombastic on a number of international issues including climate change, which disproportionally impacts economically disadvantaged people in rural areas—prime targets for the slave trade. However, U.S. United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley seems to be on the right side of the slave trade issue. (Such a ridiculous 21st century statement, right?) The UN Security Council has called for an official investigation into Libyan slave trade. That is a step in the right direction, but vigilance is necessary.
The U.S. is still a powerful voice in the world and our representation at the UN must accurately reflect the country’s priorities and moral compass. Contact the UN, the White House, and your elected representatives to make sure that the legislation and actions associated with ending the Libyan slave trade and addressing the underlying issues for the slave trade as a whole, are moving forward with all the necessary resources. Stay informed and stay vigilant.
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