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Arts & Culture

International Day For The Abolition Of Slavery: Dealing With Systemic Slavery In Africa

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On 2nd December this year, Africa joined the rest of the world to commemorate the international day for the abolition of slavery. Slavery is a phenomenon that has been around for decades. Essentially, it refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception, etc. Slavery manifests in different forms including human trafficking, sexual exploitation, child labor, and forced marriages.

In Africa, organizations such as the UN have come up with initiatives such as the international day for the abolition of slavery to eradicate these practices. The yearly celebrations aim to eradicate contemporary and modern forms of slavery. Sadly, systemic slavery is still pervasive in Africa. The most glaring of them is the migrant crisis rocking the continent. Is there really a way to put an end to this menace?

Reasons for The Abolition of Slavery By UN

United Nations (UN) is instrumental in the fight against slavery in Africa. The international day for the abolition of slavery was established in 1949 by the UN General Assembly. They saw it appropriate to spread awareness of the adverse effects of these practices. For instance, profits of up to human trafficking is a billion-dollar industry that generates profits of up to $150 billion per year are, according to the International Labor Organization.

Slavery in all its forms involves a gross abuse of human rights. However, it is difficult to tackle something so lucrative. To achieve significant gain, we need to set strong laws with stiff punishments against human rights abuses. As the world evolves, the perpetrators of these acts are also evolving. This is also a clarion call for the revision of existing laws to meet the new realities.

The Resurgence of Slavery in Africa Particularly in Libya

international day for the abolition of slavery

Illegal migrants from Africa, attempting to reach Europe, walk towards a detention center off the coastal town of Guarabouli on July 8, 2017. Thirty-five migrants, including seven children, were feared drowned after their inflatable craft sank off the Libyan coast, the coastguard said. Eighty-five migrants, including 18 women, were rescued with the help of fishermen who alerted the coastguard. / AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD TURKIA (Photo credit should read MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images)

Modern slavery borrows a lot from old slavery systems. Sometime in 2017, news of men being auctioned for slavery spread across the world from Libya. Upon further investigations, it was established that slave trade was an ongoing practice in the country. Libya being the main transit point for refugees and migrants trying to reach Europe has become an easy target for slave traders.

Common Forms of Modern Slavery in Africa 

Children solders africa

Young Congolese Mai-Mai fighters rest in an empty classroom in the remote town of Mutongo in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in this December 4, 2004 file photo. [Some fight in flip-flops, others hope potions will turn their enemy’s bullets into the water and most take little time to aim, trusting in the theory: “He who makes most noise wins”. But the government soldiers, militia fighters, and bush bandits in eastern Congo all have one thing in common – an AK-47 assault rifle.] – RTXORAT

#1 – Forced/Child Labor

Technically, there are tasks or jobs that people of a certain age aren’t supposed to do. Some tasks are physically and mentally challenging. Therefore, forcing anyone to do such jobs even when they are not ready can lead to serious physical and mental harm. This is the case in some African countries where young children as forced to work in construction sites, quarries, mining fields, and other harsh environments. For example, children are exploited in Congo DR for the mining of cobalt. They work under stringent conditions with little or no pay.

#2 – Human Trafficking 

Human trafficking is predominant in certain parts of the world including Africa and Asia. It involves the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons for exploitation. Exploitation exists in many ways, such as prostitution, forced labor, servitude, or organ removal. This should be one of the front burners in this year’s international day for the abolition of slavery.

#3 – Forced Marriages

Child or forced marriage is a tradition in some African countries to date. According to reports, sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected by child or forced marriages. This practice has seen many African girls drop out of school and starting families with little or no knowledge.  

#4 – Forced Recruitment into War

The growing violence in Africa is encouraging the recruitment of children into war. Some criminal organizations kidnap children and forcefully train them in combat skills. There are two major forms of forced recruitment: coercion and being born into rebel groups. The number of these children that fall victim to forced recruitment is worrisome. This year’s international day for the abolition of slavery presents an opportunity to shine a light on this ill. 

How to Deal with Systemic Slavery in Africa

African youths bear the burden of systemic slavery. Therefore, as we celebrate the international day for the abolition of slavery, we can do the following to end systemic slavery in Africa.

#1 – Support Anti-Slavery Organizations 

Many organizations are already putting in efforts to curb slavery in Africa. However, they need help in funding and human capital to run their operations. Thus, these organizations will need ambassadors who can get to the grassroots level and champion their purpose. Sensitization remains one of the keys to beating this malady. 

#2 – Speak and Stand up Against Slavery

Little effort like calling out slave traders and anyone involved in slavery in Africa can go a long way. Those carrying out acts like trafficking and sexual harassment are in our midst. It can be a neighbor that is violently abusing their young house-help. Take responsibility today by reporting them to the appropriate authorities. 

#3 – Volunteer

For more hands-on involvement, you can participate in activities and plans to end slavery. For instance, you could join an anti-slavery organization and take up public sensitization roles. Also, you can organize seminars in rural areas and educate them on the need for proper investigation before accepting seemingly juicy offers. 

#4 – Support Poor Families 

Poverty is a major cause of slavery. Thus, supporting poor families with money or supplies can help them to resist tempting offers used to lure them into slavery. You can also opt to train children in schools so they can grow to become useful citizens.

#5 – Educate Yourself and Others

There are numerous resources on the internet that can help you to understand modern slavery. Understanding the root causes and effects of systemic slavery can help you have a better reason to deal with it. Also, use your social media platforms to create awareness on the issue.

Take Action on International Day for The Abolition of Slavery 2020

The International Labor Organization (ILO) started a campaign that aimed to persuade 50 countries to ratify the protocol on forced labor by the end of 2019. This campaign has been doing well so far. Consequently, this year, more countries are being called upon to join the movement. Many initiatives such as this are on the frontline to end this menace that threatens our society’s vulnerable members—the youths. Therefore, we call on our readers to not only read but share this post as widely as possible. 

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