Easter is gone, leaving behind it the sweet taste of chocolate eggs that bring a smile to children’s faces and turn adults into children. The sweetness of Easter eggs can have a very bitter aftertaste though, when we realize that more than 15,000 children are reduced to live and work as slaves in the 60,000 cocoa farms of the Ivory Coast, the world’s larger producer of cocoa, raw material for chocolate. With the biggest chocolate manufacturing companies turning a blind eye to the fact, the unwitting consumer has a right to be enraged that money spent to bring sweetness and pleasure to loved ones, also helps finance an industry which preys on the young.
Ample evidence exists to document that children as young as nine are being trafficked into the Ivory Coast, usually from neighbouring Mali, and forced to work under inhuman conditions, in the thousands of small cocoa farms across the country. The children are either sold into slavery by their own families, or tricked by the promise of wages which they never receive. Instead, they are forced to work for twelve hours a day, they are severely beaten and starved. At night they are locked up in crowded rooms in order not to escape and forced to sleep on planks and use cans as toilets. The physical and psychological effects of their abuse are permanent.
The companies that have the power to put an end to child slavery in this context, are the same ones profiting from the cocoa they buy from the Ivory Coast. Since 2001, widespread pressure has been applied on the big western chocolate manufactures to eradicate forced child labour from their chain of production, albeit with little effect. Companies such as Nestlé, Mars Incorporated, Kraft, Cargill, ADM and Barry Callebaut tend to avoid addressing the subject, usually hiding behind evasive “choco-coated” official statements, such as “The vast majority of cocoa farms are not owned by companies that make chocolate or supply cocoa and we therefore don’t have direct control over cocoa farming and labour practices” (quote taken from the documentary “The Dark Side of Chocolate”.)
For this reason Anti-Slavery International has launched Choco-Coat.com in a new campaign to raise awareness which started during the period of Easter. In their words:
“To bring attention to the difference between the reality and official statements, Anti-Slavery International is calling on you to choco-coat the tweets you send to friends – covering them in a sugary sweetness that transforms the original message. Write the rudest, most controversial thing you can think of, hit ‘choco-coat this tweet’ and the tool will transform your tweet in to something lovely and send it to your intended recipient.
Upon receipt of the choco-coated tweets, your friends get the option to find out more about Anti-Slavery International’s campaign – as well as getting the chance to see the tweet that you actually wrote.
Anti-Slavery International hopes that creating an interesting, fun, topical tool for Easter will apply pressure on cocoa traders to take action. It aims to bring the traders out of the shadows and make them, and the brands and they trade with, accountable for child slavery in the Ivorian cocoa sector.”
So let’s get those bitter-sweet tweets going, and raise our voices against exploitation of children.
Anti-Slavery International, founded in 1839, is the world’s oldest international human rights organisation and the only charity in the United Kingdom to work exclusively against slavery. To find more about slavery in the 21st Century and about the work of Anti-Slavery International, please visit http://www.antislavery.org/english/