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Slavery: A Thing Of The Past?

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It is 2019 and here we are making our selections for our ATAR courses for next year. We are thinking about the years to come and we are quietly excited that there is a future awaiting us where we will hold decent jobs, have decent homes and decent lives. Perhaps we will travel. Perhaps we will go and live in a country across the world and get to know a new culture or lifestyle. Perhaps we will go into business with our dads and be financially independent in record time. We have many options because we are free. You and I are free. To plan, to dream, to have a future, but not everyone is. We don’t often think of them, because we are already caught up in our daily lives. The fact, however, is that millions and millions of young people just like us are not like us because they are slaves.

I take it that you all know that In 1865, slavery was abolished in the USA. But is that really true when even as we speak, more people than ever before are enslaved, despite the ‘abolition’ of slavery? I’m not trying to say that our valiant efforts as a society to grant human rights to many people over the past centuries should be ignored. However, can we really focus on ourselves only if millions of people are still treated as mere property or tools? I’m going to draw your attention specifically to the countless children who are trapped in forced labour. You might be under the impression that I’m talking about the past, I am talking about now, in 2019. We turn a blind eye to the millions of children who are physically, mentally and emotionally abused every single day. And let me stop you before you imagine some setting far away from the civilised world, some of this enslavement of children is happening right here in our lovely Australia. We are so proud of ourselves for achieving human rights for all that we have not noticed that we have not actually achieved the goal at all. We do not notice that millions of enslaved children will lead to more millions of enslaved children and more millions of enslaved children as the generations go by because there is nothing to break the cycle. No education, no awareness, no regulation.

In 2019, 73 million children between the age of 5 and 11 work in forced labour. Here we are, in this auditorium, taking pride in ourselves on recognizing human rights and protecting the powerless while many children take part in jobs that are almost never visible, legal, or paid. The tragedy of these children’s lives is often unnoticed by the busy world, but once you have heard a story like this one, you should never be oblivious to it again. This is the story of Sapphira Rambe, who became a domestic servant at the age of 10. Her own family sent her into child labour. She served the landlord and his family, counting 15 members, from 5 in the morning to 11 at night, every day. She washed up, cooked, looked after the children, cleaned the house and collected cow dung. Her food was the leftovers. Her master abused her frequently until the day her leg was fractured and she became permanently disabled. The master then sent her home. Imagine you, or your best friend being abused day after day, only to be disposed of like a tissue after they’re deemed useless.

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The sorrows of child labour further include the treatment of children as people who are completely defenceless. Children in forced labour are still suffering from extreme violence. For instance, in Afghanistan there is still an ancient practice that is performed in modern days. The practice involves impoverished boys becoming sex slaves. The Afghan law prohibits the practice, but it still thrives. Boys are forced to dress up as women to dance for groups of men. After the dancing, the boys are then taken to hotel rooms for sexual abuse. Of course most of these boys are poor and to be able to eat and provide for their families, they allow the abuse. The next stage in the sad lives of these boys is that when they grow into young men and lose their boyish appearances, they are rejected. Rich and influential men prevent any prosecution of those caught at this incredibly foul crime. UNICEF’s research shows that boys who try to escape this lifestyle are violently attacked and even murdered. They are trapped by hunger or by madmen. In 2019, we still have barbaric practices that harm our children for life!

Obviously, I have now spoken about the most elementary understanding of child labour. But there is more. While these children are enslaved, they miss out on the opportunity to build an independent life. They lose the chance to break the poverty cycle in their families. Organisations such as UNICEF, the World Bank, and UNESCO all agree that the only weapon that can stop and destroy forced child labour is education. Without education, there will always be Sapphira’s and dancing sexually abused boys. Imagine a world where these millions of children are educated and capable of decent lives with enough to provide for themselves and their families. Yes, it is hard to imagine a world without poverty, but it is possible.

Here we are. In education. In privileged positions where we are growing stronger every day. We are empowered every day through our education. What will we do with our power? I hope that you will agree with me that one of the best things we can ever do is to use our collective power to save those children who have no education and therefore no power. All they have is suffering, but we can change it because we have an education! By using our educated voices and joining action groups against enslavement, we speak on behalf of those suffering, we can give a voice to the voiceless. By using some of that money that will set us up in comfortable lives, we can help to free trapped children. By refusing to become too busy with our own dreams, we can save the lives of others.

Forced child labour is not a thing of the past. Children are still begging for food while they are beaten, maimed, abused and even killed. It happens all around us – today. We, as a society, have not secured human rights for all as long as there are millions and millions of children excluded from human rights. We can save them. Let’s start right now.

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Slavery: A Thing Of The Past? (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 6, 2022, from
“Slavery: A Thing Of The Past?” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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Slavery: A Thing Of The Past? [Internet] Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 17 [cited 2022 Dec 6]. Available from:
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