Historian and teacher, Steve Jones, brought illumination and inspiration to participants in a short course held at Northern College between 12th – 14th July 2010, entitled Slavery and Colonialism in Yorkshire – Past and Present.
Below we have the pleasure of showcasing one of the group projects produced during the course, which helped to turn around people’s view of the world.
Twenty First Century Slavery: An Introduction
In 2010 an estimated 27 million people are enslaved around the world. They are often forced to work through violence or the threat of it. Usually they are under the complete control of their ‘employers’, treated as property and sometimes bought and sold.
To illustrate this using one example:
Mumbai is a city of poverty. More than half of the 19 million inhabitants live in the slums. An equal number have no toilets. And while a good portion of the slum-dwellers likely live below the poverty line of less than $1.25, there are actually more than a million that live on less than 50 cents a day.
Stanley, Rosa and Das are just three of the many children sold into slavery by their parents. They now work and live in a small shack making bangles in the poorest slum in Mumbai, India. Individually they made less than $200 a year, not enough for school, let alone food.
Traditionally India, Pakistan and Nepal are nations that are responsible, but it extends to global proportions. Children are trafficked between West African countries, men forced to work on Brazilian estates and Eastern European women bonded into Western Europe’s sex industry. China also has a huge section of industry based on slave wages but some culprits lay closer to home…
Corporate Slavery: Primark in the dock
Looking at the exploitation of child labour and using Primark as just one example begins to illustrate the level of depravity involved in the garment trade.
One pound in ten spent on clothes in Britain’s high streets ends in Primark’s pocket. They advertise openly in their stores a policy of no unethical commitment, no child labour. However a recent BBC programme suggests otherwise.
Primark market their clothes in Great Britain under various guises such as Gap and Atmosphere. It also markets its clothes in Ireland under the brand, Pennies.
The 2008 programme showed that although factories are used to manufacture the garments, the sequins and finishing is done in isolated villages where their earnings are 52 oence per day (half the level of minimum wages).
Reporters went into the factories disguised as buyers as they had been refused entry on prior occasions.
Notices within the factory showed that it was illegal to employ children. However:
When the children were questioned on their ages they were silenced by the factory managers. They declared ages of being 12 and 13 but were later proven to be aged 8 and 9. The children work 11 hour days 6 days per week.
Three quarters of the population worked in textiles. The communities have no clean water as the use of water for the textile industry is turning all the supply toxic.
In Tirapur, Westerners are banned from visiting the factories that supply Primark. United Nations are also banned from visiting. Children working on night clothes are as young as 7 years old and earn 19 pence per day.
Primark’s overall main supplier (The Fab An Fabrics factory) earns £700 million profit per year.
Is this not 21st Century slavery and exploitation at it’s very worst?
What we can all do:
– Join networks and organizations that are fighting slavery
– Make other people aware that slavery still exists
– Hold companies to account
– Lobby your government to take action. Write to your elected representatives and ask them to press for policies which would help to end slavery
– Make your money talk. Use your consumer power positively. Buy fair trade products – from bananas to chocolate to carpets. Badger your local retailer or supermarket to stock fair trade goods
This project was constructed by John, Enid and Gary. Huge thanks.