There are more slaves today than in the history of the world. Have you heard this before? It is a heavy phrase that can get thrown around as an attempt to pull heart strings, and it does. But, is there any truth to it? Who are these slaves and where do they exist? Modern day slavery is in fact, a very real thing. It is a complex, underground, and underreported problem. It is also full of misconceptions. One of which is that most victims are trafficked to be placed into prostitution. Unfortunately, this is a dark reality for many, but the majority of modern day slaves are trafficked for labor. Shining light onto this dark secret world, we begin to see the faces of individuals just like you and I.
So how does this even happen?
To understand this global issue, we must first unpack what “slavery” means. Does exploitation or cohesion make someone a slave? What if they are emotionally manipulated or physically threatened does that make them a slave? The dictionary defines slavery as “the practice of owning humans.” But, it also defines slavery as “a condition of exhausting labor or restricted freedom.” The International Labour Organization reports that there are more than 21 million people who are victims of forced labor. About 68% of these are victims of economic exploitation and 26% of these are children.
We have all seen the alarming photos of 9 year olds working on long lines of sewing machines in sweatshops and factories. These photos may seem like something from the past, but unfortunately this image is a reality to almost 6 million children worldwide. It is important to note that the type of jobs we are discussing are not after school chores, or working at the local General Store. These are jobs that involve dangerous work conditions, unlivable wages, and long hours, not allowing children to attend school. Many times they involve coercion by the employer through retaining passports or identification papers. Other times physical force and violence are used. All of these jobs place children in vulnerable positions being surrounded by older adults and working late hours. Their innocence is most definitely at stake.
Most of us are not even aware that this is still an issue. If feels like we have been talking about sweat shops and child labor laws for decades, and we have. So, why has’t it ended? Well, it is as simple as supply and demand, and the demand for fast fashion is high. Cheap clothes and new trends have pushed many factories into bypassing laws and policies in order to stay in business and compete in the market. Movements like Fashion Revolution and documentaries like The True Cost are calling companies out and demanding to know #WhoMadeMyClothes. This movement utilizes social media to hold fashion companies accountable for the unethical choices they are making. They are daring to suggest that with our influence, we can band together and use our collective voice as the power to change the fashion industry. We can demand transparency on child labor and safe working conditions. After all, we wouldn’t want a shirt FOR our kid, made BY a kid.
At Allmade, we are committed to safe and ethical working conditions. We abide by strict labor laws, and we promote the best interest of our employees. At our manufacturing facility in Haiti, we offer a living wage, health benefits, and paid holidays to our employees. You might not know exactly who made your clothing, but what you can be sure of, is that it once touched the hands of someone not so different than you. These hands work hard in hopes of a better future. And isn’t that what we all want? So, let’s make it better, together.
***If this topic is of interest to you, you can find out more information at Slavery Footprint. You can take a quick & confidential survey that tells you how many slaves indirectly work for you. This is a human rights issue that doesn’t just affect the apparel business, but the food, cosmetic, smart phone, and almost every economic sector. Knowledge is power, and this is a great place to start.