Children Sold as Slaves in Western Africa
By Hibbah Khan

July 2006
Africa is famous for its wildlife but another thing it is highly known for is child labor. Every year 200,000 children are sold for work in West and Central Africa. These children are very young and usually are between the ages of 7 and 17. The children are sold by their parents for as little as $30 to work in fields, markets and houses. Children from West Africa are sold as slaves to Britain for as little as £15.
Many of the children in Africa are kidnapped by brokers and traffickers while they are playing outside or are wandering into urban areas. Other traffickers persuade the childrenís parents that their children will receive a professional training or a good education with a wealthy family. The children are smuggled to neighboring countries and the journey across is very dangerous. However, these children have to work very hard from early morning to late night in the heat outside. They face very harsh living conditions and are unable to see their families. Their owners pay them little or no money at all. Once these children are in their host family, they receive no money. They are bonded to the traffickers or to the person to whom they are sold.
A large number of these Ďslavesí run away from their employers. They are unable to return home and cannot find alternative employment, therefore many of them see prostitution, washing cars, or collecting fares on mini-buses as an option to earn money and live on.
Many poor families give up their children to people who promise and make the parents believe that they will give their kids a better life in Britain and other European countries. Nevertheless, the children repeatedly end up on sale in local markets.
These children in Britain are used as domestic slaves. They are beaten, starved and sexually mistreated. In 2005, an eight-year-old girl named Victoria Climbie was taken from her parents in the Ivory Coast. Victoriaís parents were left beleving that their daughter would have a better life in Britain. Their dreams turned into nightmare when they discovered that Victoria was brutally beaten and abused by her aunt and auntís boyfriend, causing her death.
Another type of slaves are Chocolate Slaves. These are boys between the ages of 12 and 16 who are sold as slaves to work in cocoa plantation. Most of these slaves are young men and boys taken from Benin, Togo, and especially Mali. These chocolate slaves, like other slaves, are promised good wages with housing and education, however they suffer foced labour and severe abuse working on cocoa farms. Therefore, these children run away and are found wandering alone at bus stations or begging for food. They are then again taken to the Ivory Coast and sold there. The Ivory Coast is the biggest producer and exporter of cocoa beans. The Ivory Coast, and the West Africa as a whole, supplies nearly 50% of world cocoa. These cocoa beans are then imported to many countries around the world and are used to make chocolate.
Chocolate is a kidís best friend but unfortunately the slave children who work hours in the heat do not see the same pleasure in chocolate that us North American kids do. This is because they know how hard they had to work to produce just one ingredient of the chocolate. Therefore, the next time you take a bite out of that yummy piece of chocolate, take a moment and think about how a child just like you had to go through so much trouble to plant it.


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