With World Day Against Child Labor right around the corner, ILRF joined in sponsoring* the DC screening of The Dark Side of Chocolate, a documentary investigating child labor and trafficking in the international chocolate industry (check it out on Facebook here). Over 100 people came to screening. The film directed by Miki Mistrati and U. Roberto Romano took us behind-the-scenes into Mali and Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), showing us the grim realities of the West African leading suppliers of cocoa.
We are introduced to Danish journalist, Miki Mistrati, early in the documentary as he travels to the Sikasso bus station in Mali, the starting point of the majority of child trafficking occurring in the area. Busses filled with 10 to 12 year old, hopeful children cross into the border of the Ivory Coast where children are then taken by traffickers into the various cocoa plantations in the area and forced to work under hazardous working conditions and for no pay. Mariam, a young girl who almost fell victim to trafficking, told the cameras how she was promised a steady job and was now fearful of returning to her parents who expected that she bring home money. Unfortunately, Mariam’s story of false promises of work is all too common in the child trafficking industry while cases of prevention remain few and far between.
The documentary concluded with Frank Hagemann, Senior Policy Analyst at the ILO’s International Program of the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), expressing his “feeling of helplessness” upon watching the documentary. He spoke to the camera crew that although some positives have come about the already twice extended Harkin-Engel Protocol, real change is yet to be made.
I sat there next to my 14-year-old cousin who was among the first to raise his hand when asked if anyone was angry after seeing the documentary. Films like these are truly to be accredited for the daring and oftentimes dangerous lengths they go to to explain to us visually the harsh realities of our world today. Hagemann’s feelings of helplessness can be shared by many when facing such a vast and worldwide problem. There are, however, small steps in which we as consumers (and downright concerned human beings) can take that positively impact the chocolate industry. Steps like purchasing Fair Trade Certified chocolate or urging major chocolate companies to do so can help in ensuring that cocoa farmers are receiving a fair price for their harvest and that slavery is not being used in the process. See below for some quick and easy ways you can help bring justice to the international chocolate industry today!
- Call Hershey on June 10th!
- Shop Fair Trade and enjoy these deliciously, labor friendly chocolates: Divine Chocolate, Equal Exchange, Sweet Earth Organic Chocolate
- Send a message to Hershey, Mars and Nestle to stop child labor!
*The Washington, DC screening of The Dark Side of Chocolate was sponsored by: Africa Action, American Federation of Teachers, Break the Chain Campaign, DC Fair Trade, Foreign Policy in Focus, Freedom Network USA, Global Exchange, Green America, International Labor Rights Forum and Organic Consumers Association