Have you ever thought about forced labour? About 168 million children work in different countries around this globe and almost 21 million people are forced into labour which means they’re slaves to their workplace. Therefore, it’s also called modern slavery. They have to work under bad working conditions, they’re physically violated and most of the times, they can’t escape this situation.
And for sure, this is by far not exactable! Not many people are aware about that and even less people are actively doing something about this issue.
But when I was in Toulouse, I came across a person who does an amazing job: His name is Aziz and he works for a non-profit organisation called ‘RHSF – Ressources Humaines Sans Frontières’ which wants to end forced labour around the world.
And so, he actively fights for human rights every day and this way, his job makes a big difference for many people.
[In their office space, they have a wall full of art which displays forced labour. Here you’re able to find more information on the pictures and the meaning behind them.]
When he told me about his job, I was interested at once because I came across this topic several times. Especially, when I started to inform myself about how the majority of our clothes are made: Big companies go to undeveloped countries in order to make the cheapest clothes possible. They hire people who have to work under bad working conditions, they get a ridiculous amount of money for that, they get sick from all the chemicals which are used for the clothes and it’s also destroying the environment because we use too much of our resources like water and fields which could have been used to feed people.
[A postcard with a serious massage to raise awareness – we should ask us: What is behind our cheap clothes which we can find at every store in every city?]
Aziz became interested in this topic when he stumbled across an article online – it was about Qatar, a country in the middle east and it explained how people from Sri Lanka, India, Nepal and Bangladesh were building a stadium for the soccer world cup under bad working conditions. Since he is a big soccer fan, he didn’t want that his sport is standing for something so cruel.
So, first he started to read more about human rights and he also started to volunteer in this kind of area. Later, when he had the job opportunity, he started to work for this organisation.
[Their office in Toulouse. To see their website click here.]
The organisation ‘RHSF’ has two main topics – forced labour and child labour. They want to have better working conditions for everyone in this world.
They already accomplished amazing things. For example, they went to a big factory in China where the workers had over 80 hours of work every week and the workers even slowed down the process of work, so they would be able to work more and get a higher salary. RHSF made a big accomplishment: they changed the way the company paid the people, so the hours of work were reduced from 80 to 60 but the salary, productivity and quality of the products were even increasing!
They also went to Panama and did a study on child labour in coffee- and banana-fields. The study had the purpose to make clear why children and teenagers work on these fields and what can be changed to end the child labour. Based on the study, they could write a guidance for the local minister of labour, so he can make a law out of it to make this change.
[You never know what you’re going to get… more info here]
I was working on a banana farm myself in Australia for about 5 months and it was the most horrible job I ever had. I had to stand in a humid, hot shelter and had to pick out the bad bananas from the good one’s – I had to do the same task for 8 hours a day, breath in all the pesticides they put on the bananas and so, it was boring and difficult. But at least I got a good salary. I could not imagine working like that in bad working conditions and getting a horribly low salary. And it must be even more horrible for kids!
At a normal day at work, Aziz does projects and his main project is to eliminate forced child labour. And to reach that goal, he’s raising awareness on this topic through organizing events, conferences and film festivals. In this way, people become aware of their buying habits because behind every product is a long process until it’s made and it can be a good process or in worst case, it’s the opposite. Therefore, many people are not aware of the damage their buying habits cause.
Of course, he tries to implement this on his own life. He stopped buying clothes from big clothing companies and instead, he buys his clothes at fair-trade and organic shops. And if his clothes are damaged, he tries to repair it and not just throw it away at once. He also looks out for food which is locally made and if he buys coffee, it’s always fair-trade.
‘Everyone can make a little difference like that in their life’s.’
Aziz has a big goal for the future: He wants to reduce the amount of people who are forced into labour to zero. There should be definitely more people like that with this amazing energy and optimistic vision. So much could be accomplished if people become more aware and want to make a positive change in this world:
It all starts with yourself and the right time is now.