By NATALIA HAWK
How many slaves work for you?
How many slaves produce your coffee? How many slaves helped to create the smartphone you use every day? How many slaves made the t-shirt you’re wearing right now?
Slavery Footprint can tell you. It’s a website that was started by Justin Dillon, a musician who originally hosted benefit concerts for the anti-slavery movement. He made a documentary about human trafficking, was contacted by the US State Department, and created an online interactive survey that would help individuals understand their connection to modern-day slavery.
Before doing the survey, I didn’t understand the significance of the supply chain and how it relates to slavery. I didn’t know that more people are currently enslaved than any other time in history – about 27 million, in fact, which is just about the combined population of Australia and New Zealand.
And this is across all industries. The fishing industry, the sex industry, agriculture, mining. Producing coffee, cocoa, cotton. In a country such as Haiti, it’s estimated that 1 in 10 children are living in slavery. In Pakistan, 250,000 children live and work in brick kilns in total isolation.
Slavery Footprint introduces us to Ebenezer – a child who works 17 hours per day, fishing on Lake Volta in Ghana. He is one of thousands of kids who have been sold and forced into working on the lake. Ebenezer spends his time diving underwater to unhook heavy nets. He gets minimal food.
The worst thing? According to the site, a quarter of all fish caught in Ghana end up in European markets. So it’s entirely likely that if you’ve ever been to Europe, you’ve eaten something harvested by slaves.
So. How do you figure out how many slaves actually work for you?
It’s a bit of a process. You fill out a survey that asks about your home – how many bedrooms, bathrooms, cars you have. You’re asked about your diet and your wardrobe and how many gadgets you own. You have to specify what hobbies you have.
And then you get the result. So that’s how I ended up with 63 slaves working for me. Sixty. Three. Largely because of my car, my use of cosmetics and all the clothes I own.
I have no words.
Slavery Footprints says the purpose of the entire exercise is “not so you can feel bad. Not so you’ll stop buying stuff… so you will ask the brands you like to find out where their materials are coming from.”
I like a lot of brands. But I have no idea where their materials are coming from.
But I’m going to start figuring it out. Because this is something that needs to change.
Do the survey and tell us – how many slaves do you own?