THE IRONY OF A GIFT BOX: THINGS ARE NOT ALWAYS WHAT THEY APPEAR TO BE

Eucharia OkoyeBy Eucharia Ngozi Okoye, SNDdeN

During my visit to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur Office at the United Nations (UN), I had the opportunity to attend some of the events and committee meetings that our Office at the UN participates in. One such meeting was the NGO Committee to Stop Trafficking in Persons. I was also able to visit and reflectively read through the exhibition on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the third floor of the United Nations. The Universal Declaration on Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 to provide a global understanding of how to treat individuals. Among the numerous human rights outlined in the declaration, one that especially struck me was Article four. It reads: “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” It is quite disheartening that this Human Rights declaration of: “NO SLAVERY-PAST AND PRESENT. NOBODY HAS ANY RIGHT TO MAKE US A SLAVE. WE CANNOT MAKE ANYONE OUR SLAVE”, has been infringed and still being infringed on in various ways and means with names like slave labor, sex slaves, kidnapping, trafficking, etc.

Gift Box frontLastly, I visited what is termed a “UN GIFT Box” (www.ungift.org). This was an exhibition by the NGO Committee to Stop Trafficking in Persons to portray the scam used by human traffickers in luring unsuspecting victims into their heinous web. GIFT Box is a unique way to raise awareness about human trafficking and to gather knowledge on the issue. The large walk-in street sculpture invites you inside with promises and offers, but once inside you are presented with a different reality.

Gift Box insideGIFT Box for me is a life in a cage, a scam, and a modernized way of exploitation. It is a modern way of trafficking and modern-day slavery in the 21st century. People are promised heaven on earth contained in the GIFT Box which includes quality education, employment, food, good health, earn more money and support your family, life in abundance, etc. Once inside, visitors are exposed to the reality of false promises that can result in human trafficking. It involves exploitation which comes in many forms like child soldiers, forced child labor, compelling victims to commit sex acts for the purpose of creating pornography, forcing victims into prostitution, subjecting victims to slavery or involuntary servitude. It is a viable means of making illicit money and amassing wealth to the detriment of other peoples’ right and freedom which in turns jeopardize and ruin their future. There are 600,000 to 800,000 people trafficked across international borders every year, of which 80% are female and half are children (U.S Department of State).

NEW INSIGHTS AND LEARNINGS:

  • To look out for the “fair trade” logo when you purchasing products like coffee, chocolate and others. Fair trade products are items produced with raw materials not sourced using child labor, slave labor or the exploitation of the local people from where the raw materials are produced.
  • “Let us ask ourselves, as individuals and as communities, whether we feel challenged when, in our daily lives, we meet or deal with persons who could be victims of human trafficking, or when we are tempted to select items which may well have been produced by exploiting others. Some of us…close our eyes to this. Others, however, decide to do something about it …” – Pope Francis
  • To speak up, using different modes of communication like tweets, blogs, Facebook, and other modes of electronic communication, against the evils of human trafficking, child labor and slave labor.
  • Creating awareness on issues of human trafficking in our schools, parishes and youth groups.
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