Prostitution and Trafficking

When You Shop, Try to Leave Out All the Slavery

Thursday, April 24, 2014

As consumers, we shouldn't need tragedies like last year's factory collapse in Bangladesh to wake us up and realize that what we buy matters. Nomi, the group I cofounded, helps you join the positive ripple effect of women leaving sex traffic and forging better lives.

Bookmark and Share

 

Fair trade clothing
 

 

Credit: Erik Törner, IM Individuell Människohjälp, www.manniskohjalp.se, on Flickr, under Creative Commons

Bookmark and Share

(WOMENSENEWS)--The stats are haunting: There are 32 million slaves in the world today-- more than at any time in history, including even during the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Approximately 70 percent of the 32 million is attributed to labor trafficking. It is in the shirt you buy and the building you live in.

You might not realize it's in the latte you drink because the person selling you the Starbucks beverage is being paid relatively well and receiving health benefits.

However, if you were to take a closer look at the supply chain all the way back to the producer, that might not be the case. Coffee is produced with forced labor in Ivory Coast and Latin America, finds the U.S. Department of Labor, and with child labor in Colombia, Ivory Coast, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, El Salvador, Kenya, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Uganda.

It is highly probable that your latte has some form of exploitation because before it gets to you, it passes through a complicated value chain where there are profit maximizers at each level.

Whether it is the company that farms the coffee bean, the processing company preparing the beans for export, the freight company that transports the beans, the export agent that ships the beans, the packaging company stateside or the trucking company that transports the coffee to your local market, there is always room for error as the profit-maximizing firms can easily hide the exploitation of their workers. When you drink your latte, it is easy to forget the lives that are on the line.

As consumers, we shouldn't need tragedies like last year's factory collapse in Bangladesh to wake us up and realize that what we buy matters.

Companies open up shop in countries like Bangladesh because they have weak labor standards and even weaker enforcement. The website reveals the good, bad and the ugly of over 700 of the world's leading brands through an app that you can download right on your phone.

Creating a Ripple Effect

New organizations, such as the , are creating a vital ripple effect by partnering with local organizations in India and Cambodia to put an end to sex trafficking and to empower survivors to help transform their communities.

In India, in the state of Bihar, Nomi works with a local organization called Apne Aap to identify women who they train to become leaders in fashion manufacturing and to become entrepreneurs and trainers themselves.

Sex trafficking survivors have already began mentoring women in the local red light district to produce products, educate their girls and become leaders in their communities. One of Nomi's star trainees earns at least $3 a day for a six-hour workday, where they learn how to sew jewelry bags and pillow cushion covers that will be sold to a local Indian company. After the trainee graduates the program, she will earn almost twice as much as a trainer. That might not sound like much, but before joining the program, she earned less than 75 cents per day.

She also comes from a family that has the experience of intergenerational prostitution, but she has now told her husband that their daughter will not work in a brothel. Most importantly, with financial independence and money in their savings account, the women in the Nomi program now have the courage to even prosecute those who abused them. One trainee won a court case against her abusive husband. In the context of Bihar, a highly corrupt and unjust state, this is a rarity.

When a woman earns a viable income, she feeds and educates her children, stands up against her abusers and becomes a catalyst in her community. Her new way of making a living causes a ripple effect that reaches people far away, at the other end of the global supply chain.

Consumers can buy products that empower people instead of exploiting them simply because they were born into the wrong community. If you look around, you can find stores cooperating more and more. Within the next five years, for instance, Wal-Mart has committed to sourcing $20 billion in products by women-owned businesses and groups like Nomi Network through its website. Shoppers need to give companies like Wal-Mart and other retail giants the incentive to do more good by voting with their dollars.

 

Subscribe

Would you like to Comment but not sure how? Visit our help page at http://www.womensenews.org/help-making-comments-womens-enews-stories.

Would you like to Send Along a Link of This Story?

 
3 COMMENTS | Login or Sign Up to post comments

RELATED STORIES

Prostitution and Trafficking

Myanmar Garment Factory Tries to Mend Trafficking

Prostitution and Trafficking

Nepal's Sex Industry Boom Lures Young Jobseekers

Labor

Fears Awaken Bangladeshis from 'Garment Dreams'

Well, I applaud Walmart for committing to sourcing goods from these kinds of makers, but am bemused that the author didn't know or didn't mention that Walmart treats its employees, particularly women, pretty similarly to the slavery-type treatment this author is fighting. Isn't there another large company doing the same kind of good? I am committed to avoiding Walmart (not hard since I find better prices elsewhere) until they have established some track record of treating their employees better.

Of Walmart: Yesterday's New York Time's has a report about a successful effort to improve labor standards for tomato pickers in Florida. Walmart was instrument in making it happen. See "In Florida Tomato Fields, a Penny Buys Progress," by Steven Greenhouse. 4/24/2014.
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/25/business/in-florida-tomato-fields-a-penny-buys-progress.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=tw-nytimes#

The author responds: Thank you for the comment. I agree that Walmart needs to treat their employees better. They should hear definitely hear from you on why you chose not to support them until they treat their employees better. You have a voice and it should be heard. Companies like Nike have been very responsive to consumers who have made a lot of noise in respect to different issues. It is rare nowadays to find one company that is not guilty of forced or child labor in their supply chain. UNICEF estimates that nearly a half-million children work on farms across Ivory Coast, which produces nearly 40% of the world’s supply of cocoa. That is just cocoa alone and not counting forced labor. These statistics are conservative because as author Benjamin Skinner states,slaves to not raise their hands to be counted. If we are going to make any progress on combating this $99 billion industry, collaboration needs to happen at the top down and bottom up level, with both large and small companies. I think we need to hold corporations responsible -- make noise when they are mistreating employees and reward them when they are taking steps to addressing issues in their supply chain. At this point in history, I believe we need to be more solutions oriented and not exclude large stakeholders out of the conversation. --Diana Mao

Women's enews events

Visit Our YouTube Channel

Visit Our Bookshelf