Tis the Season to Learn About Chocolate

Before you decide to purchase some holiday chocolate, you might want to re consider your dessert and treat options this season. With only 28 days til Christmas and a recession in full swing, you might be easily enticed into buying some pretty low cost chocolate on sale. I had never given much thought to chocolate in general, besides having a serious weakness for it. I hadn’t realized until recently, that chocolate and slavery were a serious human rights and poverty issue, affecting millions for several generations.

Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the G 8 don’t give much thought to the products we are continually consuming and how it adversely affects the global village, especially second and third world countries. While we enjoy warm holidays and chocolate treats with our loved ones, we truly have no idea how that precious morsel came to be or how it was manufactured or who it is exploiting. As we spoil our children, across the ocean more children are being forced into labor conditions which include long punishing hours, carrying back breaking loads, using dangerous tools and machinery, not to mention being exposed to dangerous pesticides and chemicals.

In places like West Africa, Ghana and the Ivory Coast, children are reduced to mere commodities. Living in extreme poverty, most children are hired to work at low wages if they are paid at all. They are working on farms because of a lack of opportunity for education and because they are easily exploited. Children and adults alike do not know their rights and have to find a way to survive. They have no choice but to continue working at the mercy of farmers and large corporations. The work is labour intensive and offers very little financial reward. It's barely enough to stay alive.

Trafficking and slavery was once thought to be abolished and a dark part of the worlds past. Tragically, modern day slavery is alive and flourishing and enslaves more than 27 million worldwide. It is estimated that more people are enslaved today than in the 400 years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. With worldwide demand for chocolate and labour offered at such low cost, there is little hope for those affected. What's even more tragic is that these African countries are so impoverished that many have never even eaten chocolate, nor do they see it as a luxury item.

The best strategy to eradicate these barbaric conditions is to spread the word amongst consumers. Multibillion dollar corporations do not listen to the cries for human rights or political agendas that support vulnerable societies and communities. They do however listen to their bottom line. On top of writing to your members of government and creating awareness in your own part of the planet, you can stop buying chocolate from any number of these corporations. You can try different holiday treats and recipes as well as buy foods that are marked as fair trade. While it is true, buying fair trade is slightly more expensive, you pay a little more to help those trying to build their economies and you can eat your chocolate knowing that no one was enslaved during the process.

We need a strong public awareness campaign initiated as well as simultaneously boycotting the chocolate industry. This would send a message that all people, especially children, deserve the basic necessities of life and have a human right not to be treated as slave laborers. Surely these companies can afford to pay their employees properly and invest in the communities they are currently benefiting so richly from. I believe by simply choosing not to buy into the industry, companies and governments will have little choice but to change their ways.

With the holiday season fast approaching, I look upon my own daughter and can’t imagine her having to work long hours for less than a few dollars or cents a day. World issues like extreme poverty and human rights can be improved upon. We need only to look to our own families and children to know how unethical these practices are. This is an issue that can be solved. In fact, it's the very least we can do to stop child slavery. Surely this is the right time of year to give something to those who need it most.

 

Africa, Child Slavery, Fair Trade, Human Rights

Erika Klein

Erika Klein is an author and freelance writer who spent many years serving the community through volunteer work, board of directorships and performing media work and public education. Self-taught and a survivor of Canada's child welfare system, she spends most of her time championing and furthering the human rights for those who are vulnerable and at risk. She's also the proud mother of a lovely daughter.