January is the usual time for New Year Resolutions, but for Soroptimists it is at our annual conference in October/November each year.
In 2013 we voted to take the lead in campaigning to raise awareness of modern-day slavery. This is currently very news worthy with the release of the film ’12 Years a Slave’.
But what is modern-day slavery? It is when women and girls, men and children are forced to work without pay, under threats of violence to them or their loved ones and when it is impossible for them to walk away.
Modern-day slaves can be found in factories, mines, on cotton farms, fruit farms, restaurants, construction sites, brothels and private homes. The majority of slaves are under the age of twenty four years, their young lives brutalised and ruined. Many slaves come from vulnerable poor communities and have been tricked by traffickers with false promises of good jobs or education. But once they arrive at their destination, which may be across international borders or within their own country, they discover the brutal truth. Poverty often drives parents into the hands of unscrupulous moneylenders; when families can’t pay, children are taken into debt bondage. In poor communities parents will often send children to urban households to work in return for food and an education; in reality the children, often as young as five years, enter into a world of domestic servitude where they are denied an education and are at risk of physical and sexual abuse from members of the household. Young boys and girls may be kidnapped, brutalised and forced to be child soldiers; this too is a form of slavery.
We, as members of Soroptimist International Ipswich and District, have started by completing a quiz on modern-day slavery, which included questions such as:
- There are 192 countries in the United Nations. How many countries are affected by human trafficking?
- Does slavery only occur in illegal, underground industries?
Do you know the answers? (They are ‘161’ and ‘no’ respectively).
This was followed by a very powerful presentation by PC Janet Humphrey about child sexual exploitation and trafficking.
We now need to decide our next steps. But as we are ‘Women inspiring action, transforming lives’ we will certainly be doing something positive.
Please look us up on our website www.sigbi.org/ipswich-and-district or tweet us on Twitter@SI_Ipswich and learn more about us in our next article.