This week, Karama is joining the International Justice Mission in an effort to raise awareness for modern slavery and take a stand against complacency and inaction. According to IJM's website, 36 million men, women, and children are enslaved in forced labor, sex trafficking, domestic servitude, and other forms of physical and mental captivity (IJM). Women and children are at an especially high risk, as they are lured with promises of work or impoverished families sell their children to support themselves. The issues surrounding modern slavery are complex and entangled in national economies, societal structures, and lack of opportunities for education or work. What we do know is that modern slavery is a global epidemic, spreading across 160 countries and generating over $32 billion in revenue each year (EndCrowd).
Once we are aware of these staggering statistics, we are forced to confront how we as individuals and countries can solve the problem of slavery. How can we possibly combat this kind of hidden, lurking evil on such a massive scale? IJM has published resources and is generating signatures for a petition for Congress, and many other organizations exist to educate, rehabilitate, employ, and advocate. Karama hasn't joined IJM only for this week; in many ways, Karama has taken part in this fight against slavery from the very beginning.
Since our creation as a company, we have been dedicated to providing purposeful employment to those in need, which is a far-reaching and complex undertaking. When people can support themselves and their families, they thrive. They are less vulnerable to the lures of unkept promises of employment, to the need to sell their family members, to the desperation of seeking employment overseas - to the threat of slavery.
In one of Karama's partner organizations in Ethiopia, the goal is provide employment for women who are forced to seek domestic work in the Middle East, which often leads to slavery in the form of domestic servitude. There, women work for little to no pay under harsh conditions and are vulnerable to being trafficked by their employers. Yami, the organization's founder, currently employs two women, Azeb and Bezuayehu, who worked in the Middle East but have since returned due to new employment opportunities with Yami.
Azeb used to work in Dubai in order to send money back to her family. But since she has worked with Yami, who taught her how to work with leather, she has loved her job and her ability to help provide for her family. She pays rent and school fees and hopes to be able to save money for her future.
Bezuayehu is grateful to have found work in Ethiopia - especially work that she enjoys. Now married and pregnant with her first child, she plans to put money away for the future and start her own leather business.
Local, consistent, and sustainable employment means that people can afford to dream and make plans. It means being able to not just find purpose through their work, but also exponentially reduce the risks that come with extreme poverty, not least of all slavery. Investing in organizations that provide meaningful employment means thwarting the snares of forced labor, human trafficking, and servitude with opportunities, relationships, and conscientious consumerism.
Karama is committed to providing employment - and along with that, products with purpose. Knowing who made your products is important because you know how they were paid, the conditions they worked in, and that the artisans are individuals with dreams and plans. Committing to this kind of purchasing power can change the world. Though a huge and burdensome task, preventing slavery is humanity's imperative. One life saved from captivity, one story shared and spread, one purchase made through careful consideration - it may seem small, but these actions bear fruit. There is something we can all do in our own way to make the swirl of good grow bigger.