Women and girls should be at heart of efforts to tackle modern slavery

Oped on CNN.com by Nick Grono, 17 January 2018.

Born to a desperately poor family in rural Nepal, Alina was just five years old when she was forced to work as a maid in her village. She endured long hours of hard labor without breaks, and was physically and verbally abused. She received no schooling.

When Alina turned 11, a neighbor lured her into work as a “waitress” in one of Kathmandu’s dance bars. For five years she was sexually exploited by customers there, during which time her employer withheld her wages, and regularly beat her.

Alina — not her real name — is safe now, thanks to the efforts of a local NGO. But this level of extreme exploitation is far too common around the world.

Every day across the globe, millions of women and girls are used, controlled and exploited for commercial or personal gain. They are trafficked into the sex industry, kept in servitude as domestic workers in private homes, forced to work in exploitative conditions in factories and bonded into agricultural labor. They suffer terrible violence and are denied their basic rights and freedoms.

Heightened risk of slavery

In many countries, the simple fact of being female creates a heightened risk of falling into slavery. Pervasive gender discrimination means that girls are marginalized, treated as second-class citizens within their communities and viewed as an economic burden by their families.

Many are forced to drop out of school early and sent to work in exploitative conditions, or are married off against their will. Women are more likely than men to seek work in unregulated and informal sectors where they are vulnerable to abuse, violence and exploitation. All of these factors contribute to women and girls making up some 70% of the world’s 40 million people in slavery.

Globally, more research is needed on the most effective frontline strategies to address the gender dimensions of slavery. In an effort to contribute to this knowledge, my organization, the Freedom Fund has published a new report, “Her freedom, her voice,” drawing on insights from its last four years working in countries with a high burden of slavery.

Read the rest of the oped on CNN.com here.

 

Women and girls cover

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