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It escapes most of us that there are several items we are surrounded by which were once handled by children working in the most adverse conditions imaginable. How is it possible that in the year 2014, where there is so much awareness about many things, including what our governments do, or even most of what …   Read More

It escapes most of us that there are several items we are surrounded by which were once handled by children working in the most adverse conditions imaginable. How is it possible that in the year 2014, where there is so much awareness about many things, including what our governments do, or even most of what is in people’s minds, we still seem condone modern slavery? At some point, a highly (or at least moderately) educated person, or group of persons decided that in order to cost production costs, they should go about moving their production plants to countries where taxes are low or nonexistent. So these group of “professionals” continued on their cost-cutting brainstorm and asked themselves: If we can cut costs on taxes and facilities, what else we can cut costs on? Of course labour, then the next question is: Adults, in these often poor foreign countries can sure have a pretty low wage, but how about the children? They are not even a full person yet, their wages can be next to nothing. It may seem like a mockery, but this is not too far from what actually happened. After all, corporations are profit hungry machines, whose sole purpose is to make all the profit while killing off all the competition. In this survival of the fittest type of approach and under the anonymity of a logo or brand, these enterprises are allowed to break every human right available, not minding whether the victims be women, children or elderly. Why then in countries like Cambodia where there exist thousands of garment workers whose working conditions can be described as non other than slavery. Of course, in today’s society the type of slavery we can notice is rather not as obvious as what we ready in history books or for which we can see in movies. The type of slavery that exist today is much more covert. there are those who would even go as far as to argue that the type of conditions that labelled as slavery is not slavery because there is a consent of individuals to submit to such treatment, unlike slavery in the past where slaves were subjugated by brute force. I think, if society sets the conditions where individuals have to evaluate whether to be a slave or to die, it is no different than the option of slaves in the past, where the options were the same.

In a country like Cambodia, it is currently estimated that 52% of children age 7 to 14, or more than one-million-four hundred thousand Cambodian children work.

If some governments like Cambodia are so deep in poverty and the children die of starvation, where parents are forced to leave their children up for adoption, some sell them for sex trade or some simply abandon them so that they linger in the streets. Many children or parents come face to face with the decision, some may see a glimpse of hope, to submit to very harsh working conditions in order to live another day. Of course there are those who would place not responsibility to corporations who arrive in these countries and actually thank them for giving people hope. I would say, these corporations are taking advantage of the realities of these countries, also because these countries benefit economically for these corporation to bring their business and because they loom in unemployment. In a country like Cambodia, it is currently estimated that 52% of children age 7 to 14, or more than one-million-four hundred thousand Cambodian children work. This is only possible because poverty is severe in Cambodia. As if it is not enough that children need to spend many hours of their day working, they must also submit torture and beatings of the factory owners. Working at a factory is not the only type of labour that underage children face in Cambodia, there is also sex trade, where often parents are forced to sell their children, this is the case of Danet, who at age 10 was sold by her mother for a mere $750 dollars to British pedophile. It seems there is little, we can collectively do something to stop the abuse that happens in countries like Cambodia. If there is one thing you can do is do you part and become aware of the multinational corporations that engage and contribute to the abuse of children. These companies symbolize everything that is wrong with our society today, a hunger for profit with a complete disregard on human life. I invite you to learn which company is part of the problem and boycott their products, in essence choose a brand that is not part of the problem. Better yet, look for local small companies who engage in a more humane approach. Since I have mentioned Cambodia, here are a few of the multinationals who are worsening the situation in that country:

Wal-Mart does not operate as Wal-Mart, but they use sub contractors in order to avoid legal complications. This is the case of other multinational who employ garment workers in the country, reportedly, H& M, Gap and Levi Strauss.

In 2012, Wal-Mart declared a profit of 15.4 billion, garment workers in Cambodia organized a protest to demand better wages and better working conditions. As other multinationals, Wal-Mart does not operate as Wal-Mart, but they use sub contractors in order to avoid legal complications. This is the case of other multinational who employ garment workers in the country, reportedly, H& M, Gap and Levi Strauss. There is for example, the Cambodian based company Kingsman who in 2012 employed 400 workers, most of them women and employed only short, fixed-duration contracts or on no contract at all. These subcontracting garment factories often closed without any previous notice to the workers, thus not allowing for any kind of severance pay, sometimes they even go unpaid. Of course, Cambodia are only 1 out the many other countries where modern slavery happens with impunity. I encourage once more to be mindful of the situation and read your labels! Sources used: http://www.cgpi.org/mel/worldgeopolitics/3341-garment-workers-cambodia http://www.veganpeace.com/sweatshops/sweatshops_and_child_labor.htm https://sites.google.com/a/tapa.tp.edu.tw/modern-day-slavery/child-labor/children-labor-in-cambodia http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/easy-currency-poverty-and-abuse-in-cambodias-virginity-trade-9595726.html https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/53454

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