Updates from the UN in the fight against modern slavery
Plan International UK spent last week at the UN General Assembly in New York. Our key message for leaders was simple - adolescent girls and young women are bearing the brunt of modern slavery, and this needs to change.
On Monday, the Secretary of State for International Development Penny Mordaunt revealed that 77 countries have now endorsed the Call to Action to End Forced Labour, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking, and announced an increase in UK funding to support them. Next year, we’ll be launching a major research study from Nepal, Nigeria and Uganda, looking at the reasons why adolescent girls and young women are so vulnerable to exploitation and suggesting areas for action. However, with the issue of modern slavery so clearly on governments’ agendas at the UNGA, we released some early findings in our brand new briefing.
Speaking at the launch on Tuesday, our CEO Tanya Barron told delegates that of the 40-45 million people affected by forced labour and forced marriage globally, 71 per cent are women and girls. In 2016, she added, an estimated five million people were sexually exploited for commercial gain. 99 per cent of them were female.
- Tanya Barron, CEO Plan International UK
Presenting our briefing’s key findings, Head of Policy, Advocacy and Research Kathleen Spencer Chapman called on the key players - governments, donors, UN agencies and civil society partners - to ensure that the needs of adolescent girls and young women are a high priority in responses to modern slavery.
Alongside Kathleen were Jill Helke from the International Organisation, and Caroline Read, Director of International Relations from the Department for International Development, as well as Faridah, a Plan International “Champion for Change” from Uganda who described the problem of recruiters who come to rural villages in search of the most vulnerable girls.
“They use their desperation to manipulate them and promise them decent work,” Faridah explained. “When they reach town they are exploited. Those who get the chance to work in local businesses such as bars and lodges, restaurants and local hotels do not work as bar servers but as customer entertainers. They are forced to have sex with the customers. They are forced to dress half naked to attract customers. The girls are so vulnerable because they are not able to speak out.”
Under Sustainable Development Goal 8.7, all countries have pledged to eradicate forced labour and end modern slavery and human trafficking. As a vital first step towards achieving this ambitious target, countries need to come up with national strategies which include the four pillars of prevention, protection, prosecution and partnerships.
Finally, as Faridah so bravely demonstrated, for these strategies to be truly transformative, all of us involved in the fight against modern slavery need to listen to the voices of young women and girls who are on the frontline, and support them in leading the struggle to free themselves from violence, exploitation and enslavement.
With a group of other Champions for Change in Uganda, Faridah will be launching a campaign to stop sexual and economic exploitation in early 2019, so watch out for it on our website and take action in solidarity with her and her friends.
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