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]

Lindsay Lohan rescues child laborers in India…or not

Looks like miss Lindsay Lohan has gone on a little “liecation” recently.

The actress/singer/celebrity trainwreck posted a message on Twitter that made it sound like she personally took part in a raid that saved child laborers in India while there filming a documentary for the BBC. “Over 40 children saved so far…Within one day’s work…This is what life is about…Doing THIS is a life worth living!!!”

But according to the New York Daily News, the charity that performed the raid in New Delhi said Lohan wasn’t even in India at the times. A rep for the BBC came to Lohan’s defense and said that her tweet never said that Lohan personally was there. It’s all just a misunderstanding, she said.

Maybe…or maybe Lindsay just didn’t follow Scott’s advice about how to create the perfect liecation and not get caught.

Travel Read: The Weight of Silence, Invisible Children of India

If you’ve been to India you’ve seen them–they beg at the train stations, or collect plastic from the side of the road, or sell candy and tissues on the buses. They’re India’s 25 million abandoned children, and the ones you see count themselves lucky. Millions more are worked to death in sweatshops or brothels, or simply left in the wilderness to die.

The Weight of Silence: Invisible Children of India, a new book by Dog’s Eye View Media, explores the struggles of India’s homeless or orphaned children. Author Shelley Seale’s discovery of this human tragedy led her life in a whole new direction, and it is this that gives the book its impetus. Not only do we learn about the struggles of India’s children, and the living saints who dedicate their lives to helping them, but we watch Seale’s personal transformation from a Yuppie into something much more real.

Besides her personal story, two things really set this book apart from the “see the horrible things happening in the Third World” genre. Firstly, it takes a mostly positive spin. While Seale doesn’t flinch from the uglier side of Indian life, she focuses on the children’s resilience and dreams. They don’t come off as poor victims waiting for rich peoples’ help. Her main point is that these kids aren’t in need of handouts, but the basic human right of a childhood.

The second strong point is that the book is well grounded in fact, skillfully interwoven with the narrative so that it never slows down the writing. We learn such nasty tidbits such as that rural doctors give their patients the wrong medicine 50% of the time, or that only one in three rural medical practitioners know how to make rehydration solutions to treat diarrhea, and horrible statistics about child prostitution. All of these are carefully annotated.

The Weight of Silence is part travelogue, part expose, and gripping reading. The fact that this book shows deep respect for India’s people while not ignoring their faults sets this book apart. Even people who have traveled extensively in India will learn a lot.

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