As part of an awareness campaign this Lent, the Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH) is drawing attention to the use of child slavery in West Africa, which produces cocoa beans for chocolate. The campaign is part of a groundswell across Catholic agencies and schools to slavery-proof their supply chains.
Australians spent about $210 million on Easter chocolate last year. A lot of this chocolate is made using cocoa beans produced in West Africa using children, who are working for little or no wages.
The International Labor Rights Forum estimates there are 1.5 million children working in the cocoa sector in West Africa. It is estimated that up to 40 million people are trapped in slavery globally – one in four of these are children.
ACRATH president Sr Noelene Simmons sm said choosing slavery-free chocolate was a simple gesture that had the potential to change lives. She added there were now many slavery free certification labels on chocolate, as well as the three better-known symbols.
People can buy slavery-free chocolate in big supermarkets and smaller shops. The easiest way to tell if your chocolate is slavery-free is to check if it has one of these commonly used certification symbols on the wrapping, she said.
Last month Pope Francis said that faced with the tragic reality of modern slavery, “no one can wash their hands of it, without being in some way, an accomplice to this crime against humanity”. He urged people to work together, through grass roots action and corporate governance, to end slavery around the world.
In the past year there have been some major achievements in Australia to address human trafficking, including the passing in Federal Parliament of the Modern Slavery Act. This legislation requires big companies to report on their efforts to introduce slavery-free goods and services. ACRATH was part of a large network that worked for a decade to see this legislation introduced.
For more information about ACRATH’s Lenten campaign, go to: https://acrath.org.au/take-action/slavery-free-easter/
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