“When a man, desperate for work, finds himself in a factory or on a fishing boat or in a field, working, toiling, for little or no pay, and beaten if he tries to escape — that is slavery. When a woman is locked in a sweatshop, or trapped in a home as a domestic servant, alone and abused and incapable of leaving — that’s slavery.
When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed — that’s slavery. When a little girl is sold by her impoverished family — girls my daughters’ age — runs away from home, or is lured by the false promises of a better life, and then imprisoned in a brothel and tortured if she resists — that’s slavery. It is barbaric, and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world.”
-President Barack Obama
As we walk into Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we want to shed light and understanding on the presence of modern day slavery specifically in Uganda. Sex trafficking, the most widely known form of human trafficking, is a deafening and worldwide issue that deserves attention and our efforts to eradicate its debilitating effects. At Sseko we partner with a local non-profit in Uganda that works with young women who have recently come out of the commercial sex industry. Providing stable, dignifying and fair wage employment is a key component to keeping women from entering back into prostitution.
But we also want to talk about other forms of modern day slavery that continue to happen in the shadows around us…
Children are trafficked by kidnappers who ‘deal in’ the buying and selling of children, supporting their sickening business of providing blood and children’s appendages for ritual sacrifices. A common superstition in Uganda is that if you bury a child underneath a building, you will be wealthy, prosperous and have good luck in the future.
The LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) continues to abduct men, women and children, forcing them to fight, as well as do menial chores like cleaning, cooking and carrying supplies for the LRA soldiers. The women that are forced to essentially become indentured servants are often raped and must bear their captor’s children.
In Karamoja, one of the northernmost areas of Uganda, women and children are sold into slavery at the cattle markets. Girls are especially popular, as their abilities to cook and clean are desirable. Girls are also forced into arranged marriages to wealthy but abusive men because the girl’s family receives such a high bride price that supplements their needs to care for their remaining children. The culture of shame in Uganda is the reason that many girls don’t even attempt to escape from their captors and return home, knowing they will not be welcomed back into the family.
Jackie, one of our Sseko women explains the reality of this sobering truth. “They’ll come while you are fetching water in the village and take you and force you to marry. If the man is very bad, you still can’t leave because once you are raped, that’s your own problem. You’re worthless. If you try to return to your parent’s house, they would advise you to return to him, because they probably would have already used the dowry,” Jackie says.
Modern day slavery and human trafficking must be stopped. One of the primary ways to prevent trafficking before it starts and break the cycle is to create opportunity for education and dignified employment. We believe that every man, woman and child has the right to freedom, and it is our duty to fight for justice by bringing education and employment that is fair, sustainable, respectful and honoring. We know that for every dollar a woman in a developing economy earns, she will reinvest 90% of it into her family. Empower and educate a woman and you empower and educate an entire community.
Men, women and children in slavery around the world are still struggling and fighting for their voices to be heard and their desires for equality, safety and freedom to be met. At Sseko, we’re passionate about empowering women who will empower their families who will empower their communities who will empower their countries. With one action and one woman at a time, we can work together to change the future for women around the world. And that begins with giving women the opportunity to be independent, gain education and secure sustainable employment.