Reducing Your Slavery Footprint

slaveryDespite my awareness of sweatshops, I was shocked while flipping through the July issue of Marie Clare on a recent flight, when I came across an article entitled, “What’s Your Slavery Footprint?”

According to slaveryfootprint.org, (which is backed by the U.S. State Department), there are up to 27 million slaves worldwide, many of whom work in the mining and agriculture industries. The result? A lot of our everyday household goods, including shoes, cosmetics, and toiletries, raw materials for cars, and the seafood industry utilize slave labor.

Some of the worst offenders include China, parts of Southeast Asia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (definition: irony) and India. You can actually add up the “slave footprint” in your home by utilizing the website, or by downloading its “Free World” app, which also enables you to send letters of protest to major chain stores known to use products made with slave labor. You can also make donations to Slavery Footprint to help enslaved workers.

As Alison Kiehl Friedman, deputy director of the U.S. State Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, says in Marie Claire, “[businesses] should be transparent in their practices.” We all need to pick our battles when it comes to purchasing power, but it’s fascinating, as well as chilling, to find out just how much of what we own is made using forced labor. Knickknacks for thought.

[Photo credit: Flickr user stevendepolo]

Galley Gossip: Flight attendants trained to spot human traffickers at the Super Bowl

flight attendants human traffickersWhat do hundreds of flight attendants, thousands of under-age prostitutes and the Super Bowl all have in common? Dallas. On Sunday they’re all traveling to Texas. American Airlines, American Eagle, Delta, United, and Qantas hope to help stop human traffickers from pimping out women and children by holding training sessions that will enable flight attendants volunteering their time on the ground to help spot signs of trafficking. According to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot in an article posted by Reuters, the Super Bowl is one of the biggest human trafficking events in the United States. During the previous two Super Bowls fifty girls were rescued. This year with authorities, child welfare advocates, and the airline industry all collaborating to fight under-age sex crimes, even more lives could be saved.

How did the airlines even come to be involved in human trafficking? It all started with Sandra Fiorini, an American Airlines flight attendant based in Chicago. Because of Fiorini flight attendants now know what to look for and who to call if they see something suspicious on board a flight. This after Fiorini tried to report a situation and no one responded. It involved an eighteen year-old boy on a six-hour flight carrying a newborn infant with its umbilical cord still attached. No wife. Just one bottle of milk and two diapers stuck inside his pocket. In 2007 Fiorini met Deborah Sigmund, founder of the organization Innocents at Risk, and soon they began working together with airline employees to become the first line of defense against human trafficking.




Flight attendants aren’t the only ones who can help. There are more frequent fliers now than ever before. Passengers should also be aware of what to look for while traveling.

Warning Signs

1. Someone who doesn’t have control over his/her own identification

2. Someone who has few to no possessions.

3. Someone who is not allowed to speak for themselves, or is made to speak through a translator

4. Someone who isn’t sure of where he or she lives or is or has no sense of time

5. Someone who avoids eye contact or appears fearful, anxious, tense, depressed, nervous, submissive.

6. Someone who rarely is allowed to come and go independently and may be accompanied by someone who controls their every movement

7. Someone who may be dressed inappropriately regardless of weather conditions.

Number to call

Human Trafficking Hot line 1-888-373-7888.

(Don’t wait until it’s too late. Put that number in your cell phone now!)

There are more slaves today than any other time in human history. A person can be sold several times a day for many years, opposed to drugs that can only be sold once. Because of this human trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world, only second behind drug trafficking. It generates 32 billion annually for organized crime. Each year two million women and children become victims. 300,000 children within the United States are being trafficked each year. Most are forced into a life of prostitution and pornography in large urban areas such as Washington DC, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Florida. If it can happen on my flight, it can happen on yours. Open your eyes. Get involved. Write that number down!

Photo courtesy of The Consumerist

american delta flight attendant

Ten most corrupt countries of the world

You spend every holiday weekend annoyed that you can’t talk your way out of a speeding ticket. If only there were some way out of that predicament … aside from taking your lead foot off the gas, right? You may be out of luck on the New Jersey Turnpike, but there are plenty of places in the world where money talks, according to a new study by Transparency International. So, if you tend to disregard local laws and customs, you may want to pick one of the 10 countries below for your next vacation.

WARNING: You may need to bring a bit of fire power for some of these destinations.

1. Somalia:
Is this even a country? It has no real government to speak of, not to mention a history of piracy, mob violence, warlord brutality and kidnapping. So, chew a little khat to take the edge off.

The Good News: You can’t really break any laws where there aren’t any.

2. Myanmar: Okay, the human rights issue here is pretty severe, and the military regime is known for being among the most repressive and abusive in the world. So, don’t complain about the thread-count in your hotel.

The Good News: There’s plenty of wildlife to enjoy as a result of slow economic growth. A bleak financial outlook is good for the environment!

%Gallery-106020%3. Afghanistan: Ummmm, there’s a war going on there – you may remember that. So, you’re dealing more with warlords than conventional law enforcement officials. This takes some of the predictability out of your mischief, and it does amp the risk up a bit.

The Good News: There are several options for civilian flights. Also, fishing is fine, but you can’t use hand grenades.

4. Iraq: Again with the war … The easiest way to get there is to wear a uniform, but that will make bribing your way out of trouble far more difficult.

The Good News: Prostitutes may not be in abundance, but if you have an itch in Baghdad, you’ll probably find someone to help you scratch it.

5. Uzbekistan: The CIA describes the government as “authoritarian presidential rule.” Is there really anything else you need to know? Yes, there is: Uzbekistan has a nasty human trafficking problem.

The Good News: Uzbekistan’s currency is the Ubekistani soum – that’s what you’ll use to bribe your way out of trouble.

6. Turkmenistan: Uzbekistan’s neighbor is no prize, either. Instead of trading in skin, though, Turkmenistan prefers drugs. It’s described in the CIA World Factbook as a “transit country for Afghan narcotics bound for Russia and Western European markets.”

The Good News: If you’re in the heroin business, this is a crucial stop in your supply chain. If you’re not, well, there isn’t a whole lot of reason to care about the place.

7. Sudan: The global financial crisis of 2008 actually affected this country. Until then, money was flowing in just as fast as oil could flow out. Then, economies crumbled around the world, which dealt a nasty blow to the country.

The Good News: There’s at least one form of equal rights in Sudan: both men and women can be drafted into military service.

8. Chad: Why is Chad so corrupt? Well, this may have something to do with the human trafficking problem, which the country “is not making any significant efforts” to address. Rebel groups in the country add to the likelihood for mayhem.

The Good News: Chad ranks 190 worldwide in terms of GDP, which means your bribe dollars will go much further than in more developed nations.

9. Burundi: A dispute with Rwanda over sections of the border they share has resulted in various conflicts and a spirit of lawlessness that will make your own nefarious plans pale in comparison.

The Good News: Though landlocked, there is probably some great real estate alongside Lake Tanganyika.

10. Equatorial Guinea: Any country that has failed to try to combat human trafficking is probably a top spot for corruption, so it isn’t surprising that Equatorial Guinea made the top 10.

The Good News: Government officials and their families own most of the businesses in the country, so any broad complaints can be addressed by a handful of people.

[photo by The U.S. Army via Flickr]

Lindsay Lohan investigates India’s child trafficking industry


So, after many differing reports on what Lindsay Lohan was doing in India (including ours, when we heard gossip that the whole thing was a liecation), the rumored BBC documentary previews, such as the above, are starting to appear.

Lohan indeed went to India in December 2009, allegedly to investigate both sides of the rampant child trafficking trade, from interviewing the parents in poverty with little choice but to sell their children and turn a blind eye to what happens to them to meeting survivors of the horrible industry, which regularly leads to physical and sexual abuse, as well as slavery.

According to a press release by the BBC:

As Delhi proudly prepares to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Lindsay meets young boys who work 16-hour days under the constant threat of beatings, for a fraction of an adult wage.

To find out why a parent would send their young child away to work, Lindsay travels to rural West Bengal, where the picturesque Sundarbans belie the abject poverty made worse by annual floods.

Lindsay meets a reformed trafficker who would make a quick buck luring young girls away from naïve parents with offers of gainful employment.

In Kolkata, Lindsay visits a shelter where young girls promised domestic work for India’s burgeoning middle classes were trafficked into brothels and forced into prostitution.

While we’re not sure Lindsay Lohan has the skills or qualifications for in-depth investigation, she’s definitely raising awareness about child trafficking, and for that we commend her. The topic is especially relevant now, as India is currently considering legalizing prostitution. If you’re interested in helping child and human trafficking survivors in India and around the world, visit madebysurvivors.com, where you can purchase goods which keep survivors employed, learn how to host your own home party or community event to raise awareness, sponsor a child, and more.

Rowing across the Atlantic to end slavery

Slavery is not dead.

There are millions of men, women, and children forced into physical and sexual labor around the world, but the problem is often drowned out by other headlines.

In order to bring attention to the modern slave trade, a team of ten athletes is Rowing Against Slavery across the Atlantic Ocean. They’ll be stuck in a small boat for weeks, each one rowing two hours and taking two hours off as other team members take the oars, nonstop until they make the entire 3,000 mile journey.

The team hopes to beat the previous world record for rowing across the Atlantic, which is 33 days, but more importantly they will be raising awareness for an often hidden crime.

There are some grim facts and figures on their website, and more on the website of Anti-Slavery International, which was founded back in 1839 but still finds itself fighting a global problem.

It’s noticeable that both sites use the term “slavery” instead of “human trafficking”, which technically only refers to slaves who are moved from one place to another through force or deception. Instead they call slavery what it is. There appears to be a trend in the media of using the nastier-sounding term “slavery” when referring to slaves in Africa or Asia, and “human trafficking” when referring to slaves in the U.S. or Europe.

Slaves in U.S. and Europe? Yes. Many women and children are forced into prostitution in the developed world and there’s no shortage of child workers, like the blueberry farm in Michigan that ABC News found was using children as young as five. Kids as young as twelve are allowed to work legally on U.S. farms. Child labor is often considered slavery because the children have no choice about working, and are often denied access to education and are subject to sexual exploitation.

To follow the team’s adventure across the Atlantic, check out their blog. There’s a donate button if you want to help the effort to free the slaves. In the land of the free, what could be a better cause?