On Thursday, September 20, 2018, AAFSW President Dr. Joanna Athanasopoulos Owen attended the 2018 U.S. Department of Labor’s launch of its new edition of the findings on the worst forms of child labor and the list of goods produced by child labor or forced labor. Marcia Eugenio, the director of the Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking invited U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella and Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs Martha Newton to open the presentation of the new international child labor and forced labor reports.
The award-winning humanitarian photographer, Lisa Kristine, presented her photo exhibit entitled: “Reflection on Bound to Freedom – Slavery to Liberation.” A master storyteller, Lisa Kristine documents indigenous cultures in more than 100 countries on six continents and identifies the human dignity in all of us. As Kristine’s body of work illuminates contemporary human enslavement, with her pictures, she elevates significant social causes — such as the elimination of human slavery — to missions. “Reflection on Bound to Freedom – Slavery to Liberation” incorporates profound images of the beauty, suffering, compassion, and the dignity of people around the world.
The round-table panel discussion which followed featured representatives from governments, civil society, and businesses and focused on the importance of strategic partnerships in order to accelerate the elimination of child labor and forced labor as well as tackling any abusive labor practices around the world. Its participants were: Rachel Rigby, Deputy Chief, Research and Policy Division, Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking, who acted as the panel’s moderator; Francisco Olivardia, Second Secretary, Embassy of the Republic of Panama; Martha Newton, Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs; Kevin Cassidy, Director, Washington, DC Office, International Labor Organization; Liz Garland, Senior Director of Raw Materials Programs, Verité; and Marika McGauley-Sine, Vice President of Global Human Rights, Mars, Inc.
While significant progress has been made in reducing child labor by 94 million since 2000, the global community still faces a major challenge in addressing the plight of over 152 million child laborers and 25 million forced laborers worldwide. Children still produce salt in the Middle East, cultivate bananas and cocoa in South America, work in brick-making in northern Africa and Eurasia, bake goods in Central America, work in the production of vegetables in Central and South America, raise goats and hogs in South America, produce timber in Eurasia, produce footwear and garments in Asia Minor, harvest sand in Africa, and extract illegal amber in Eurasia.
Since the Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) leads the U.S. government’s efforts to improve working conditions and fight labor exploitation around the world, reflecting the values of the American people, this event also focused on how to leverage ILAB’s knowledge and tools in efforts to protect workers globally. In 2008, along these efforts, the United States Congress established the Iqbal Masih Award for the Elimination of Child Labor to recognize exceptional efforts by an individual, company, organization or national government to end the worst forms of child labor (in memory of Iqbal Masih who was sold into bonded labor as a carpet weaver at age 4). This year ILAB celebrates 25 years of international research, awareness, technical cooperation, and policy engagement. Going forward, ILAB will further try to strengthen and consolidate the gains made over its 70 years history defending the dignity of work abroad while safeguarding it within the USA as well.
Joanna Athanasopoulos Owen, PhD