I find it hard to breathe in the city…. my heart goes out to the world, realising that most things we commercially or domestically use originate from some sort of exploitation. From the electronics we use to the clothes that we wear from high street brands.
Humans have fought for equal rights for centuries, to abolish or put in place laws that educate people against racism, homophobia and misogyny.
However, the more we progress as a society the more we also digress. If you are reading this on a tablet, smart phone or computer monitor, then you may be holding a product of forced labour and modern slavery.
Modern slavery refers to institutional slavery that continues to exist in present day society.
In 2013 the United Nations estimated that roughly 27 to 30 million individuals are currently caught in the slave trade industry. According to Walk Free Foundation, there were 46 million people worldwide enslaved in 2016 in the form of “human trafficking, forced labor, bondage from indebtedness, forced or servile marriage or commercial sexual exploitation”
Amnesty International has identified key electronics brands such as Apple and Samsung as not doing the necessary checks to prevent materials they use in their electronics like cobalt and lithium from being mined by children, an effect of the vast supply and demand chain our modern society works off.
Samsung told Amnesty International that “it is very hard to trace the source of the mineral due to the suppliers’ nondisclosure of information and the complexity of the supply chains.” The company said it was impossible for it to determine whether the cobalt supplied to Samsung comes from unregulated mines not following international standards.
“Millions of people enjoy the benefits of new technologies but rarely ask how they are made. It is high time the big brands took some responsibility for the mining of the raw materials that make their lucrative products.” – Mark Dummett, Business & Human Rights Researcher at Amnesty International.
Over half of the global supply of cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and the government estimates that 20% of the cobalt currently exported comes from miners in the south of the country, including children as young as 7 working with their hands and using basic tools, according to Amnesty International’s report.
Chronic exposure to dust containing cobalt can result in a potentially fatal lung disease, called “hard metal lung disease,” among this there is a list of other diseases that can come from breathing and skin contact with cobalt.
Slavery is something that’s with us always. We need to keep it in our conscious mind as individuals so that we make the small decisions that in turn boycott such brands not complying with regulations. To think about where we buy our clothes, to question where they are sourced, but most importantly Governments and CEOs need to think more carefully about what they are doing and what they are inadvertently supporting.