When Roseline Odine was 14-years old she left her home in Cameroon, Africa for the United States with the promise of education and a better life. Instead, when she arrived, she was forced to work as a domestic servant with no pay. For over two years she endured emotional and physical abuse from her captors until she was finally able to run away.1
In school, we are often taught that slavery ended in the United States in 1865 with the thirteenth amendment. It is an unfortunate blemish on our past, but it ended long ago.
Roseline was manipulated into coming to the United States in 1997.
The title of this blog, Wake Up , Ma`am, has several meanings; one being how I feel when I come across a significant issue that was previously unknown to me – or possibly just ignored. For my summer semester, I am taking a course on Human Rights and learning about human trafficking and forced labor – basically, modern day slavery.
The statistics on how many people are enslaved in the world today vary and can range anywhere from 21 million2 to 27 million3. The numbers of people enslaved are understandably difficult to estimate! No matter what the number is, there is widespread agreement that slavery still exists. And I think anyone would agree, even just one person enslaved is one person too many.
Although the majority of these people are women and children in developing countries, slavery still exists in developed countries, too. It may have been made illegal in 1865, but tens of thousands of people are still enslaved in the United States.4 It turns out, slavery isn’t legal anywhere, but has been documented in every country except for Greenland and Iceland.5
No matter where the slaves come from, they are often targeted for the same reasons – they are vulnerable because they are impoverished and lack access to healthcare and education and other basic human needs. Poverty, education, and healthcare are so closely linked that solutions to REALLY ending slavery will need to be comprehensive and address all of these issues.
These issues can seem difficult to address for an individual. However, we can always take two relatively easy steps – we can educate ourselves (wake up!) and we can speak up. We can learn about and support the organizations that are already making a difference, we can write letters to our political representatives to encourage support of policies that address human rights (including the issues of poverty, education, and healthcare), and we can stop supporting systems and businesses that perpetuate slavery. Or better yet, we can support the ones that engage in fair business practices and strive for social responsibility – a BUYcott!
As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
We have to start somewhere!
Organizations making a difference: