It's Our Turn - Chocolate-gilded barbaritiesI bite into a fresh-from-the-oven brownie. The warm aromas are enticing; I taste the sweet chocolate, the light texture and the child slavery. Wait, what? Slavery only exists in history books, right? It ended with the Civil War, right? Wrong.
By: Leah Stinson, Echo Press Intern, Alexandria Echo Press
I bite into a fresh-from-the-oven brownie. The warm aromas are enticing; I taste the sweet chocolate, the light texture and the child slavery.
Slavery only exists in history books, right? It ended with the Civil War, right?
In 2000, the BBC reported that thousands of child slaves were involved in the toils and travails of cocoa cultivation in the Ivory Coast, the world’s leading supplier of cocoa.
The CNN Freedom Project introduces us to Abdul: 10 years old; Burkina Faso native. When his father passed away, a stranger brought him to work in the fields in the Ivory Coast. The meager “wages” consist of the occasional meal and raggedy attire.
Abdul doesn’t know where the cocoa goes: he has never tasted chocolate.
He works alongside his friend, Yacou. Yacou, legs festooned with machete scars, laments, “I wish I could just go to school.” Like Abdul, the death of Yacou’s father led to a life in servitude.
He has never spent a day in school.
For the few child laborers who are paid, providing financial support to family is the main reason the work continues.
In 2001, the Harkin-Engel Protocol (also commonly referred to as the Cocoa Protocol) sought to eliminate child labor in the chocolate fields by 2005. Unfortunately, child slavery is as absent from Africa as calories are from chocolate. An estimated 200,000 child laborers remain on cocoa plantations in the Ivory Coast alone, the vast majority against their will.
Child slavery in Western Africa is not the extent of it, either.
There are somewhere between 20 and 30 million slaves in the world today. Why the ambiguity? Estimating statistics in a disguised industry is a challenging undertaking; slaveholders aren’t generally eager to dispense numbers.
Branches of human servitude range from agricultural slavery to state-imposed labor to sexual exploitation.
While discovering the statistics, I thought to myself: It’s absolutely horrid that other countries partake in such inhumanities. Thank goodness the U.S. knows better. However, I had considerable errors in thinking.
There are between 14,500 and 17,500 human beings trafficked annually through the United States. That means, on average, there are more than 300 trafficked humans in each state. Common addresses for these slaves include ritzy apartments in bigger cities.
Fortunately, there is hope: Fair trade organizations around the world are striving to increase transparency and respect while eliminating child and forced labor in the food industry.
Although the barbaric fields of Africa are thousands of miles away, change can start right here in Alexandria.
Fair trade products, though sometimes incognito, can be found around local grocery stores. If you’re craving some chocolatey granola bars, Lara Bars can be found in the organic sections of both Pete’s and Elden’s. If you want to mix in some justice with your chocolate chip cookies, Pete’s offers Sunspire Fair Trade chocolate chips. And, if you’re simply hungering for some ethical dessert, Pete’s and Elden’s both supply Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, which is always fair trade. My personal favorite: Ben and Jerry’s chocolate chip cookie dough.
And, good news: There’s an app for that! The Fair Trade app is available for all Apple users; the Fair Trade Finder app is an option for Android users. This app allows for shoppers to see where fair trade products are located and start mapping where fair trade products are found.
All I can do is raise awareness. Perhaps this awareness will spark a passion for fighting for justice. Perhaps it will inspire you to enlighten others with the atrocities across the ocean and around the world. Perhaps it will simply instill a greater appreciation for who you are, where you are and your ability to exert your volition. Or, perhaps the next time you take a bite from that brownie, you will taste more than just the sweet chocolate.
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“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.