Social Justice, Race, and Gender Issues in American Society

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Although known for its ancient history, large population, and incredible beauty; Africa also holds record numbers for its staggering amounts of child slavery and poverty stricken lands. Aside from AIDS, one of Africa’s major social problems is in fact, child labor and slavery. At the heart of Africa’s economic boom, the need for youth to actively become laborers on farms, in fields, workshops and factories is prevalent. Africa, being successful in producing rich, delicious cocoa, seeks young boys whose ages range from 12 to 16 have been sold into slave labor and are forced to work in cocoa farms in order to harvest the beans, from which chocolate is made, under inhumane conditions and extreme abuse.

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The West African country of Cote d’Ivoire is the leading exporter of cocoa beans to the world market. Thus, the existence of slave labor is relevant to the entire international economic community. This factor alone is critical in recognizing that it is not solely a Western African problem individuals are focusing on; yet it is an international issue as well. “The majority of children trafficked have been for cheap and controllable labor”. (

Child labor refers to the employment of children at regular and sustained labor. This practice is considered exploitative by many international organizations and is illegal in many countries. Trafficking of children is a form of human trafficking and is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of children for the purpose of exploitation. Child exploitation can also include forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, and servitude. Pertaining to the chocolate trade and slavery in Africa, forced labor is a practice of compulsory labor exacted by a state or by agencies of a state, other than as a punishment for a criminal offense. Today in Africa it involves the forcible recruitment of boys, to work on cocoa.

As the numbers of children being sold into Cocoa bean slavery increase in the Cote d’Ivoire it is important to take a glance at past statistics and background information representing the innocent lives at stake. “Every day in the Ivory Coast, as well as Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon, about 300,000 children are forced to pick cocoa beans that will be sold to big chocolate companies like Nestle and Cargill”. “About 6,000 of these children are treated like slaves – they sleep in dirty rooms, work for 12-hour days without pay, are fed very little, and are sometimes whipped”. (Dunn, 2009). Not only are the cocoa farms in the Cote d’Ivoire in violation of child slavery; but they are in double defiance of children’s human rights. The Cote d’Ivoire and Mali are not only involved in trafficking children but is also the site of forced labor “In addition, several companies have pledged to end the use of slave labor in the making of their products. Mars, Ferrero, and other chocolate manufacturers recently promised to eliminate slavery on farms that supply their cocoa by 2020”. (Zissou, p.14).

The horrendous conditions under which children must labor on the cocoa farms of the Cote d’Ivoire are even harsher when the facts are put together with the idea that much of this cocoa will ultimately end up producing something that most people associate with happiness and pleasure: chocolate. It is ironic that the connection serves to illustrate that the existence of sadness in one part of the world and joy in another part are no longer divorced as nations but are connected together in a globalize web of trade. Therefore, the pleasure that people from various nations around the world are getting from these chocolate confections could possibly be at the expense of none other than the child slaves in Africa. “Clearly generations of slavery, and of the aftereffects of slavery, including generations of poverty, have all exposed children to toxic stress”. (The problem of child slavery then is not simply a faraway concept with no immediate implications for anybody else except those who are directly affected, but rather it is an issue that everybody around the world should be concerned about and demand action to eradicate.

How could modern society allow the youth to be enslaved to produce a crop that becomes the very food (chocolate) that symbolizes and encompassed romance, luxury, the finer things in life and happiness? The bottom line: Forced child slavery is hidden. The enslaved boys work mostly on small farms scattered in remote parts of Ivory Coast. Few people get to the farms, even those in the cocoa trade. If individuals visit and see children at work, it’s almost impossible to tell if the children are members of the farmer’s family or have been bought by the farmer. It allows everyone along the chocolate chain to pass blame and responsibility for the boy slaves to someone else. Farmers who use slaves blame the people responsible for the price of cocoa. Middlemen who deal with farmers say they don’t see any slavery. Ivory Coast government officials who enforce slavery laws say its foreigners who are selling and using slaves in their country. Cocoa suppliers say they can’t be responsible because they don’t control the farms. Chocolate companies say they rely on their suppliers to provide cocoa untainted by slave labor. The trade associations blame Ivory Coast’s unstable political situation. And consumers don’t have an inkling that their favorite chocolate treats may be tainted by slave labor. As one can see, it is evident that these farmers use blame towards the people who adjust and fix the prices of cocoa. Either way, it is not justifiable.

The individuals who are in charge to oversee health and safety of the individuals in Africa (which is The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare) are responsible for enforcement of child labor regulations. They are charged with seeing that the relevant provisions of the law are observed. The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare will visit each workplace annually and made random checks whenever they receive allegations of violations (similar on a smaller scale of how child services work in Rhode Island). As mentioned above, when these checks were performed there were a large number of employers who should have been given infractions, yet they claimed they were unaware of the new laws. The most disturbing part about this growing problem is that there were no prosecutions for child/forced labor resulting from these inspections. Officials only occasionally punish violators of regulations that prohibit heavy labor and night work for children. The way I see it, African officials are just as guilty as the perpetrators if they do not take complete control.

It is possible to believe that with more reform and efforts to raise public awareness that this problem of forced labor can be altered, even if it just a minuscule amount of change. All law enforcement and judicial authorities in Africa are vulnerable, due to severe resource constraints and a lack of public awareness about child slavery and forced labor. Generally government administrations inform the employers about the provisions of the law and asked them to make changes; heightened penalties should be implemented when an employer is involved with illegal forms of labor; more examples need to be made from these employers who think that they are invincible. Child trafficking experts say inadequate legislation, ignorance of the law, poor law enforcement, porous borders, police corruption and a shortage of resources help perpetuate the problem of child slavery in Ivory Coast. Only 12 convicted slave traders are serving time in Ivorian prisons. Another eight, convicted in absentia, are on the lam.

Works Cited

  1. Dunn, Deborah. “Is it fair to eat chocolate?” Skipping Stones, Nov.-Dec. 2009, p. 22
  2. Zissou, Rebecca. “Modern-Day Slavery.” Junior Scholastic/Current Events, 11, Dec. 2017
  3. Makinde, O.A. (2016). Infant trafficking and baby factories: Child Abuse Review, 25(6), 433-443.
  4. Graff, G. (2014). The intergenerational trauma of slavery and its aftermath. The Journal of Psychohistory, 41(3), 181-197.
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Social Justice, Race, and Gender Issues in American Society. (2021, Apr 24). Retrieved from