(CNN) – A flaring furnace blasts another wave of searing heat on the faces of workers hauling bricks under a southern Indian sun.
They work up to 22 hours a day propping heavy stacks of bricks on their heads. None expects to be paid for this labor. None knows how long they’ll be kept here. Some are as young as three years old.
Manoj Singh was one of 149 people rescued this year from a brick kiln outside Hyderabad, India. Like millions of other Indians, the toddler was born into extreme poverty.
When CNN correspondent Mallika Kapur visited Manoj’s family, now back home, he and the some of the 34 other children freed, showed her how they would make the bricks from wet clay.
“They recall from their muscle memory,” says Anu George Canjanathoppil, of International Justice Mission, a non-profit dedicated to eradicating slavery around the world. “So if you ask them to explain what they did, they cannot say.”
Older laborers, however, had plenty to say.
Pregnant woman kicked
According to reports from IJM investigators at the scene, one pregnant woman claimed she was kicked by her manager, when she pleaded for rest. A man had raw wounds so deep that the bone showed through.
The workers’ grueling schedule permitted little time for eating. After being freed and having a full meal, many of the malnourished workers vomited.
“We had to work 18 to 22 hours a day,” Manoj’s father, Lucky Singh, told Kapur. “We didn’t get time to eat or to bathe. One day, I dozed off. Then the boss came and beat me with a stick.”
Lucky says he ended up at the kiln because he was desperate to provide for his impoverished family.
When a recruiter came to his small village in Odisha state in eastern India, near the Bay of Bengal, he willingly went on the promise of a $400 advance, which became a $400 debt – and they were locked into working to try to pay it off. They couldn’t leave without permission and wouldn’t be told when, or if, they could ever pay off their debt.
Bonded labor in India is the most prevalent form of slavery in the world today. It was declared illegal in India in 1976 but persists. A vast majority of India’s workers scrape together a meager living through informal, unregulated work contracts, making them more susceptible to unsafe working environments and exploitation.
Illegal yet widespread problem
The CNN Freedom Project has worked for more than two years, taking aim at this illegal yet widespread practice and questioning the Indian government about its efforts to crack down on these human rights violations.
Eighteen months ago, Kapur was in the same state, reporting on the rescue of more than 500 victims from another brick kiln.
Months before, correspondent Sara Sidner filmed a three-part series showing the process for bringing entire villages out of slavery. When she asked the supervisor of a brick kiln factory to explain his use of bonded labor and why none of the workers was receiving a wage, he asked her to pay him for his answer.
At its core, slavery today exists for two reasons: greed and desperation. It’s greed on the part of landowners and illegal recruiters. And its desperation for the tens of millions of people who are willing to take a risk to improve their lives, no matter how long the odds.
“Although we can’t solve all the challenges of poverty or poverty itself, we can change the mindset,” says Saju Mathew, the director of operations for International Justice Mission in South Asia.
“We can equip these people to know the law and their rights and to be able to identify when traps like this are laid for them. 90 to 95% of the people we have rescued are not returning back into bondage. They learn to make a livelihood in freedom.”
Newly freed laborers
Working alongside the Indian government, International Justice Mission has carried out dozens of raids in the past six years. More than 3,200 people have been freed as a result.
Newly emancipated laborers are returned to their home villages, where they receive two years of community-based training and education, where they learn their rights and make plans for building sustainable businesses.
In addition, the government also provides them with 20,000 rupees, ($400) in restitution money, so they may begin to create a new life, far from the grip of illegal agents.
“For me, these are encouraging signs the government is taking proactive measures to address a very big problem. That’s a shift,” says Mathew. “There’s been such a culture of denial, but now there is a real movement among the government officials to take on something big and confront it.”
And that is all the millions of Indians like Manoj and his father would ask for.
At least 28% of South African schoolgirls are HIV positive compared with 4% of boys because “sugar daddies” are exploiting them, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has said.
He said 94,000 schoolgirls also fell pregnant in 2011, and 77,000 had abortions at state facilities, The Sowetan newspaper reports.
About 10% of South Africans are living with HIV, official statistics show.
Mr Motsoaledi has been widely praised for his efforts to curb the disease.
South Africa has run the world’s largest anti-retroviral (ARV) programme since President Jacob Zuma appointed him health minister in 2009.
The number of HIV-positive people receiving life-saving ARV drugs more than doubled from 678,500 to 1.5 million after he took office, according to official statistics.
The government of former President Thabo Mbeki, who questioned the link between HIV and Aids, had argued it could not afford to roll out this treatment to all the South Africans who needed it.
Speaking at a public meeting in the town of Carolina in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province, Mr Motsoaledi said the large number of young girls who were HIV-positive “destroyed my soul”.
“It is clear that it is not young boys who are sleeping with these girls. It is old men,” The Sowetan quotes him as saying.
“We must take a stand against sugar daddies because they are destroying our children.”
Mr Motsoaledi said some pregnant girls – aged between 10 and 14 years of age – also tested positive for HIV.
“[About] 77 000 girls had abortions at public facilities. We can no longer live like that. We want to put an end to it,” he said.
More than five million people in South Africa are HIV-positive – about 10% of the total population.
Last year more than 260,000 people with Aids died – almost half the figure of all those who died in the country.
More than a million Guatemalan children between zero and five years suffer from hunger. The information is comes from a report recently developed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Central Institute for Fiscal Studies (ICEFI) and the Campaign’s your turn.
With these figures, Guatemala has the highest rates of hunger in Latin American with more children malnourished, and the 6th nation in the world. The percentage of malnourished children is 49.8%.
While 65.9% of indigenous children are malnourished, the percentage drops to just half among non-indigenous – 36.2%. The percentage of indigenous children who suffer from hunger, exceeds that of the children of Afghanistan, where the malnutrition rate is 59%, considered the highest in the world.
In rural areas the figure is 58.6%, and lower in urban areas to 34.3%. Even the least affected groups face a higher rate of malnutrition, compared with the average for Latin America, which is 15%.
According to the bulletin, high rates of child malnutrition are the product of an unjust social situation where neglect prevails in areas like health, education, sanitation, social protection and income generation, especially in the field.
In this scenario, there is a 70% chance that children are born malnourished, once mothers have no access to health facilities and adequate nutrition during pregnancy.
In each generation of malnourished children, a cycle is restarted, says the text. The brain fails to develop properly due to the lack of nutrients in the first three years of life. In this situation, the Guatemalan children have harmed their physical and emotional, they get to break the cycle of poverty, and lack the basic conditions for active participation in society.
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The Global Campaign for Education warns of the risk that the crisis will stop the progress in literacy and child schooling
In the world there are nearly 800 million illiterate people, of which two thirds are women. A report by the Global Campaign for Education reports that a girl who complete primary school will have three times less likely to die of AIDS, and their children have twice as many opportunities to reach adults
The report, prepared by the Global Campaign for Education, an international coalition of NGOs, schools and social movements, discusses the educational situation in the 80 poorest countries in the world. And although progress has been made, there are still 67 million children (53% girls) who have never set foot in a school.
The data show the direct link between access to education and development. For example, a girl who completes basic education will have a risk of dying from AIDS three times less than those who do not attend school and their future children will have a 40% chance of surviving beyond five years of age. The report also notes that an extra year of school increased by almost 20% the salary potential of that child in the future, and thus improve the situation of his community and his country’s own economy.
Education is a fundamental right and an investment not an expense
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