Posts tagged Rotary

What Rotary is doing about Child Slavery

Ironically, the International conference for all Rotarians from around the world was held in Bangkok, Thailand last week. I’m told around 30,000 people showed up.  I got a report from someone who just returned on a 20 hour trip via Japan. (It took 20 hours to get there too, no thank you long flights over the Pacific!) I am happy to report there are a few Rotarians who are doing something about child slavery. Mark Little represented his concern in the Friendship Hall at his booth from Norfolk, England.  He gave out buttons “Defeat Sex Trafficking.” I believe he was a very lonely voice among all the other action groups represented in the huge hall.  What I find MOST ironic is that the Rotary convention was held in Bangkok which has their highest income based on people from all over the world coming for the sex tourism.

Bangkok is well known for sex trafficking and what my friend told me was she saw very few children on the streets as they made their 45 minute bus trip from their hotel to and from the convention center. She did see much abject poverty while also seeing where the king of Thailand lives. (Supposedly he is much loved by his people.) They went on a tour of the city and their tour guide could not answer questions about the royal family, otherwise she could lose her job.  Her English was good which is probably what saved her from the dismal prospects of any young person growing up in Thailand.

Since Rotary’s inception over one hundred years ago they have been all about saving children from polio, the disease is nearly eradicated.  The organization that has been saving children from polio now finds that children live in poverty and are vulnerable to being a trafficked victim (enslaved) in manual labor or the sex industry. My friend told me something that was an eye-opener.  There are organizations giving out seed money to women so they can create their own industry and sell their own product.  Otherwise, some women will purposely get pregnant in order to later sell their children into slavery.  I can’t even imagine a woman doing that as we celebrate “Mother’s Day” in the U.S. today.  That is how desperate people have become in many countries.

That is why I was happy to find this factsheet from where Mark Little is the committee chairman of the “Proposed Rotarian Action Group.”  The following is what I found VERY sobering from his website:

RACS Factsheet 1

12 facts about Modern Slavery

  •  Slavery is not legal anywhere but happens everywhere.
  • Modern slavery shares two key characteristics that distinguishes it from slavery in the past:  slaves to day are cheap and they are disposable.
  • There are 27 million slaves in the world today. The majority are children.
  • Slavery: Forced to work without pay, under threat of violence and unable to walk away.
  • The majority of slaves can be found in India and in African countries.
  • 4,000 slaves are trafficked each year into Britain; 17,500 into USA.
  • Child slaves work in brick kiln works, clothing, firework and glass making factories, stone quarries, carpet looms, mines, brothels and farms – anywhere they can be better hidden from law enforcement agencies
  • The modern-day slave trade is now called human trafficking.
  • The average costs of a child slave can be as little as $40 – $90
  • Slave holders use many terms to avoid the word slavery: debt bondage, bonded labour,attached labour, restavec, forced labour and indentured servitude.
  • Obstacles stand in the way to ending slavery: lack of resources and lack of awareness.
  • Everyone has a role to play in ending slavery – government, international organizations, business, NGOs, consumers, Rotary clubs, YOU.

Old Slavery                                             New Slavery

Legal ownership asserted                                  Legal ownership usually not asserted

High purchase cost                                               Very low purchase cost

Low profits                                                               Very high profits

Shortage of potential slaves                                 Glut of potential slaves

Long-term relationship                                         Short-term relationship

Ethnic differences important                               Ethnic differences less important

Slaves maintained                                                            Slaves disposable

 (to be continued)

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“Why do you do it?”

Yesterday I gave a talk about Kazakhstan to a group of about 20 people at a Rotary meeting in my hometown.  The usual questions came afterwards, “What’s the weather like?” “What do people eat in Kazakhstan?” (Last talk I gave about KZ I answered “horse meat”)  But the inevitable question came up “Why do you do it?” In other words, “Why do you want to go back to a complex place that noone has really heard much about, that is the “ends of the earth?”  From port to port, on a good traveling day, it takes over 24 hours to get to my final destination from my hometown.  So, good question.

However, I’m ready for that question because I keep asking myself the same thing.  I am going back for the Kazakh students.  Also, I have met some fabulous friends who are waiting for me.  Not only that, I have plants that are waiting for my eventual return (thanks Benedicte for watering them) and also my stuff is stashed in about four different locations.  Ken and I moved to a new flat that is half the price of our old one and twice as far away from our university.  Fortunately, it will be up in cleaner air away from the highly trafficked Furmanova and El Farabi streets.  That is another upside.  The downside is that I won’t have the fantastic view of the mountains that we were paying for. 

I told the gentleman who showed genuine interest in what I had to say about Kazakhstan that I felt called to go.  I also added that noone goes to Central Asia as their first country to live in.  All my friends are seasoned travellers who have survived living in other countries, this place is NOT for greenhorns.  He finally said that he admired my going to the ends of the earth, to Kazakhstan. True, there are so few of us that go to this place and since there are only about 15 million (correct me if I’m wrong) Kazakhs who live in this vast land that covers the size of four Texases, not many Kazakhs make themselves known in other countries.

Why do I do it?  I love teaching, I love teaching my Kazakh students, I love Kazakhstan!!!

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