The Affero Blog
Mary and I are looking forward to participating this week in the Nashville Benefit Dinner for International Justice Mission this week. Gary Haugen and his team at International Justice Mission serve as a human rights agency rescuing victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals perform rescue missions and provide aftercare to victims. They courageously prosecute perpetrators and promote functioning public justice systems around the world.
As I shared in a previous post, human trafficking is one form of modern day slavery. Affero aims to be a part of the modern day abolishment movement. Human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world. We can stop it. We are working to bring it to an end.
But what about the child soldier? After 9/11 I remember reading an article in TIME about Mukhtar, an infrantryman in Afghanistan’s rebel army. He could shoot a man in a beard from a standing position at 200 meters or point out camouflaged Taliban bunkers through miles of dust. His platoon leader said the green-eyed soldier was perhaps the finest he commanded. Mukhtar took the compliment with a shrug of his skinny shoulders. “I have been in the army a long time,” he said. “So I should be good at my job.” At the time, Muktar was a four-year veteran of Afghanistan’s desert war. But he was only 15 years old.
The military use of children is widespread. There are international laws and dedicated organizations like Project: AK-47 committed to liberate child soldiers. The truth is many of the world’s youth have never known peace. Some kids are taken from their homes and forced to fight. Others join the war because there is little else to do and to keep their bellies filled. In countries with limited electricity or running water and few roads, many boys must forgo school to make money any way they can, even following cows with upturned palms to catch excrement to sell as fuel. Joining the army guarantees free food, clothes and cigarettes plus the chance to swagger. “When you fight for your people, you become a man,” says Shukrullah, 12, who strolls the mountainous streets of his country with a loaded, unlocked Kalashnikov. For these youngsters, it doesn’t matter that most soldiers have not received their $25 monthly salary for three months. “This is a very good life,” says baby-faced teenager Safaullah, sitting in a trench awaiting battle. “I can eat good rice, play chess with my friends and fire many interesting weapons.”
Children in war-torn regions of the world need our help. As I shared in a previous post, Affero is committed raise friends and funding to provide education and food for the orphans. Now consider a place like Uganda. Where 20 years of civil war has decimated it’s population to a litte more than 30 million and a median age of 14.9 years. Who will go and serve this young nation? Who will serve these children, provide day care, schooling, medicine and food? Meet Irene Gleeson.
An Aussie like our very own Lucas, she visited Africa and was moved by what she found. In 1988 she founded Childcare Kitgum Servants and left her beachside home, her four grown children and her grandchildren. This mighty grandmum courageously towed her caravan to the war zone of Kitgum and gathered her first 50 war-traumitized children under a mango tree and began to teach and feed them.
Today, Irene and her team give full day care, schooling and much love to over 10,000 children in five schools. They have established medical and malnourished feeding clinics and a AIDS hospice and infant orphanage.
Around the world, children are singled out for recruitment by both armed forces and armed opposition groups, and exploited as combatants. Easily manipulated, children are sometimes coerced to commit grave atrocities, including rape and murder of civilians using assault rifles such as AK-47s and G4s. Some are forced to injure or kill members of their own families or other child soldiers. Others serve as porters, cooks, guards, messengers, spies, and sex slaves.
But by sharing this post and joining the movement, you are changing all this. You are partnering with Irene and other champions working day in and day out as teachers, nurses, builders, drivers, counselors and cooks.
Approximately 250,000 children under the age of 18 are thought to be fighting in conflicts around the world, and hundreds of thousands more are members of armed forces who could be sent into combat at any time.
Ordinary people can stop this. Your support is life changing for these kids. Thank you.
Rachel Lloyd is a champion. She is also a survivor of human sex trafficking. As a child she was exploited commercially in the industry, first as a nude model at age 14 and then as a prostitute three years later. After a few years, Rachel left the sex industry and immigrated to the United States to work with incarcerated adult women, and later working to end domestic human trafficking. She began working with adult women who were coming out of prostitution, as well as women incarcerated at Rikers Island and county correctional facilities. She also reached out to women working the streets on Hunts Point in the Bronx. She now runs Girls Educational & Mentoring Services which empowers young women, ages 12-21, exit the sex industry.
Very Young Girls is an exposé of the commercial sexual exploitation of girls in New York City as they are sold on the streets by pimps, and treated as adult criminals by police. The film follows barely-adolescent girls in real time, using vérité and intimate interviews with them, documenting their struggles and triumphs as they seek to exit the commercial sex industry. The film also uses startling footage shot by pimps themselves, giving a rare glimpse into how the cycle of exploitation begins for many women. Very Young Girls will change the way law enforcement, the media, and society as a whole look at sexual exploitation, street prostitution and human trafficking that is happening right in our own backyard.
CraigsList Prostitution Sting Shows Illegal Sex Trade Still Rampant. A year after investigating prostitution via Craigslist, MSNBC has gone undercover to once again probe the illegal sex trade on Craigslist and see what the site has done to “clean up its act” since last May. The report found that prostitution on Craigslist was still prominent, even after the site had promised to crack down.
MSNBC’s Jeff Rossen rented a hotel room in New York City, then contacted individuals who had posted ads on Craigslist’s “Adult Services” section. Once the escort arrived at the hotel, “within seconds, it was clear this was all about sex,” Rossen reports. Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal compares the sex trade on Craigslist to “an online red light district” that’s “as obvious and plain to you as Times Square was in the 70s or 80s.”
The New York Times has a story estimating Craigslist’s sex-related revenue to be around $36 million dollars, or something close to a third of its estimated $100+ million in revenues. Many ads are are related to prostitution, and some to underage prostitution. So obviously Craigslist is being investigated yet again over this revenue. The fact that the company is fiercely private about its revenues and organization doesn’t make the picture any easier.
We believe the end of modern day slavery will come from individuals who gather together to push on businesses, media, and governments to support their existing values for human rights. We believe that this is a bottom-up movement that needs dynamic information, sustained inspiration, and most importantly, tactile activation. Will you join the movement?
CALL+RESPONSE produced documentary film that reveals the world’s 27 million dirtiest secrets: there are more slaves today than ever before in human history. CALL+RESPONSE goes deep undercover where slavery is thriving from the child brothels of Cambodia to the slave brick kilns of rural India to reveal that in 2009, Slave Traders made more money than Google, Nike and Starbucks combined.
There is a sea of change happening in human rights activism. The world’s issues cannot be solved alone by governments and non-profits, but require community-based participation. As a feature film, CALL+RESPONSE serves as a deft tool in the hands of 21st Century Abolitionists. We believe this is a fight that must that is won with passion, innovation, and commitment. What’s your response going to be?