ELT200709290310082503989Today marks the 12th annual World Day Against Child Labor,  started by the International Labor Organization (ILO) to highlight the plight of hundreds of millions of children engaged in work that deprives them of education, health, and basic rights. Many of these children are enslaved.

This year, the ILO focuses on ensuring that children are not exposed to abuse and exploitation in domestic work. The organization releases a report today, which estimates more than 10 million children perform domestic work. The report outlines the types of violence and abuse they face.

FTS is one of many organizations working to put an end to child slavery in domestic work.

Our program in Haiti targets a system known as restavek, which affects about 10 percent of all Haitian children. Thousands of children from rural communities are sold to serve as domestic workers in urban areas, waking before dawn to cook, clean and run errands that last late into the night. Most never go to school and many are abused physically and sexually.


Elvie Floriant (left) retrieved her daughter, Natacha Benoit, from restavek slavery after learning about the abuses children suffer. | Photo: FTS/FitzPatrick

Through our local partner, Fondasyon Limye Lavi, FTS has trained more than 600 community members in child rights and reproductive health through an in depth, community-based process.

This has inspired parents to retrieve 20 children from restavek in the past year. Villagers are forming community child protection committees that serve as watchdog groups to look out for restavek traffickers. Our Haiti program also helps community organizers that support needy families at risk of sending their children into restavek.

The protection of children is a major component of all FTS country programs worldwide.

On this World Day Against Child Labor, FTS is pleased to announce that we have recently joined the U.S.-based Child Labor Coalition, which consists of leading human rights organizations working to combat exploitative child labor domestically and globally.

photo1757May 13th is a special day in Brazil. It’s the date Brazilians celebrate the Abolition Act, which outlawed slavery here in 1888. This year marked the 125th anniversary.

Of course, slavery still exists in Brazil even though it has been illegal for more than a century. That’s why officials in several Brazilian states picked this year’s commemoration to launch new anti-slavery initiatives.

In the state of São Paulo, Governor Geraldo Alckmin launched enforcement of a new law to close any business for 10 years if it is found marketing products tainted by slavery.

The exact language for what tainted by slavery means: “in the manufacture of which, in any of its stages of industrialization, have been used practices that characterize conditions analogous to slavery.” Businesses caught selling slavery-tainted goods will have their sales tax license suspended for a decade—making it illegal for the company to continue operating.

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FTS board member Xavier Plassat of CPT | Photo: FTS/Chernush

Governor Alckman’s announcement came during a conference organized by São Paulo’s Federal Court of Justice. Many judges and attorneys attended, as did American diplomats, former Free the Slaves Global Ambassador Katie Ford, members of the National Commission Against Slavery, and leaders from FTS Brazilian frontline partners Reporter Brasil and the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT).

And there’s more encouraging news! On the same day, May 13, the governor of another state, Mato Grosso do Sul, signed on to a law which is exactly the same as the one approved in São Paulo. And two other states announced they are about to enact similar measures: Maranhão and Tocantins.

Over the past three years, these four states have been among Brazil’s worst slavery hotspots. Nearly 1,900 workers have been rescued in these states by specialized anti-slavery police squads.

This new instrument – to close businesses that make slavery possible – is a big step forward in Brazil’s long campaign to snuff-out slavery forever.

Editor’s Note: Xavier Plassat is a FTS board member and directs the Pastoral Land Commission’s anti-slavery initiative. See a video of him in action.

whitehouse_exteriorSeveral U.S. cabinet secretaries will gather Friday morning at the White House for the annual meeting of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

The meeting will be chaired by Secretary of State John Kerry, and will include Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett,  and other agency heads and senior White House officials, according to a State Department notice.

This event will be live-streamed on www.whitehouse.gov/live on Friday, May 17, at 9:45 a.m. ET.

“The annual cabinet-level meeting serves as an opportunity to coordinate government-wide efforts and discuss new initiatives in the struggle to end modern slavery,” the State Dept. notice says. It will be the first task force meeting under Kerry’s tenure as secretary of state.

He is expected to also present medals to life-long victim advocate Florrie Burke and the global hospitality and travel company Carlson, recipients of the first-ever Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons.

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Veero Kolhi | Photo: Zia Mazhar for FTS

Veero Kolhi is no stranger to adversity. She escaped single-handedly from slavery, and she’s helped hundreds of others overcome fear and intimidation to also break free.

That’s why Free the Slaves honored Veero in 2009 with a Frederick Douglass Freedom Award.

Tomorrow, Veero takes another inspiring step: she’s on the ballot for provincial parliament (Seat PS-50, Hyderabad).

You can read about her courageous run for office in one of Pakistan’s leading news sites, Dawn. They say her candidacy is astonishing.

One of her biggest supporters, Ghulam Hyder of the Green Rural Development Organization, says Veero’s campaign platform focuses on empowering the poor and marginalized:

  • Release and rehabilitation of 1.7 million bonded labor slaves.
  • Just distribution of opportunities for local people to benefit from Pakistan’s natural resources such as water, oil and forests.
  • Provision of equal wages and opportunities for women, and enabling women access to the court system to seek justice.
  • Ensuring the availability of education, drinking water, sanitation and other basic services.

There are more than 50 candidates competing in the provincial election on May 11. Veero is the only woman on the ballot, and the only slavery survivor to ever run for a general parliamentary seat in Pakistan, Ghulam says.


Pakistan’s elections have been marked this year by violent attacks on candidates. Veero has been subjected to threats, Ghulam says, but she presses forward.

As Veero herself said in her FTS Freedom Award profile video: “The slaveholders have sent messages that I will be murdered. But I don’t fear them anymore. And I will continue to fight. That is the spirit I have inside me.”

POST-ELECTION UPDATE (Monday, May 13): FTS has received news that Veero did not win the election. But everyone involved in her candidacy has felt that her run for office was a tremendous step forward. Veero has issued this statement to supporters:

I, Veero Kohli, your sister, am grateful to the men and women laborers for giving me more than 6,000 votes despite the fact that I could not contact many of you. This shows your confidence in me for which I am personally obliged to each one of you. I have been striving for you in the past and try my level best to come true to your expectations as long I am alive. May you need my assistance and happen to call me I shall proudly rush to you barefooted. Elections apart, I shall continue working on the manifesto declared by me and will contact you in this respect very soon to form a workable strategy for its implementation in letter and spirit.

Confronting the crocodiles was a herculean task and it was expected the rock-hard centuries old system could not be dismantled in a single stroke; nevertheless it is the beginning which is bound to lead to success. I once again offer my sincere thanks to all my benefactors including the people of my class who trusted me and voted for me.


Slavery in This Week’s News

We see slavery and trafficking stories throughout the world each week. It’s great news that journalists and bloggers are exposing the problem of slavery, and examining solutions to it. Awareness creates momentum for change. Here are 10 top stories that caught our eye:

1. The Journal of Commerce. “EU Seeks Supply Chain Input on ‘Conflict Minerals’.” http://www.joc.com/international-logistics/global-sourcing/eu-seeks-supply-chain-input-%E2%80%98conflict-minerals%E2%80%99_20130327.html

2. Huffington Post. “More Coordination Needed to Combat Human Trafficking.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jane-mosbacher/post_4536_b_2965776.html

3. Ghana Web. “Guide Princess Ocansey busted for human trafficking.” http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/crime/artikel.php?ID=269041

4. USA Today. “Human trafficking hotline accepts text messages.” http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/03/28/human-trafficking-hotline-now-accepts-text-messages/2026249/

5. Times of India. “HC for central probe into trafficking case.” http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kochi/HC-for-central-probe-into-trafficking-case/articleshow/19249855.cms

6. Global Post. “Congo’s subsistence miners dig for their livelihoods.” http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/groundtruth/congo-artisanal-miners-dig-livelihoods

7. Vision.org. “Down to Slavery.” http://www.vision.org/visionmedia/article.aspx?id=2172

8. My Republica. “Children trafficked to India for labor on rise.” http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=52162

9. UN News Center. “Honouring over 15 million victims of slave trade, UN calls for end to remnants of slavery.” http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44488&Cr=slave&Cr1=#.UVGyT1uDQXw

10. WSPA. “Child tells US court in Detroit he was slave labor.” http://www.wspa.com/story/21786771/african-sentenced-to-11-years-in-child-labor-case