Today is Anti-Slavery Day. This is an issue very close to my heart as it’s something I come across every working day here at Jubilee Action.
Not only are we working with our partners in Kathmandu to support the children of women who have been trafficked and forced into prostitution, but we are also working to reduce child labour practices through our advocacy work to promote education over work in Eastern Africa. Much of our work to provide models of alternative care for vulnerable children is also driven by our increasing awareness of the risks to children who are living on the streets or as part of a child headed household, without a network to protect them from this ever-growing industry of human trafficking.
Jubilee Action is not, and does not claim to be, an expert organisation in trafficking, nor do we have the in-depth knowledge and resources to support the identification and prosecution of those responsible for human trafficking operations. However, we do recognise that we have a key role to play in addressing the systemic issues that can lead a vulnerable child to becoming a victim of this horrific industry.
For many people, child slavery conjures up scenes of abduction and trafficking, but it is important to recognise that for many children slavery is, and always has been, an intrinsic part of their life; they do understand that it is wrong, nor do they have the power to prevent it. Child labour, for instance, can mean anything from selling rubbish on the streets or, for a higher return, turning to prostitution. These activities are very often endorsed by their families: when the alternative is starving to death, sexual slavery can appear to be the lesser of two evils.
We understand that the issues facing vulnerable children are intrinsically linked to that of their families, communities, and socio-economic context. We therefore recognise that these same social structures can provide the solution to ensure the continuous protection of children from a life of slavery.
It is for this reason that we are committed to defending the human rights of a child with three approaches. Firstly, we promote alternative care models to ensure that children can be kept safe in their communities, but not institutionalised. Secondly, we provide education for children which will not only reduce street connections, but will promote a generation of adults who can support their own families, in turn ending the cycle of child labour. And finally we ensure that those children who have been victims of slavery have access to psycho-social services to support their rehabilitation and provide them with hope for the future.
Our programme interventions do make a difference. We know this because, regrettably, we cannot help every child and therefore, we have seen first-hand the fate of those children whom we cannot reach in time. When a young boy walks in to our street shelter and tells us of his friend who he has not seen for 8 days, there is little we can do, except to ensure that next time our street outreach worker gets to him first.
Please do what you can today to raise awareness of Anti-Slavery Day.