Today is Valentine’s Day, national Hallmark holiday of love, hearts, roses, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Milkchocolate, dark chocolate, caramel-filled chocolate, chocolate hearts, chocolate kisses. On Valentine’s Day,chocolate is the currency in which people are supposed to trade their love. Little do they know that the chocolatemight have been made with slave labor.
Recent investigations have uncovered a reemergence of child slavery and oppressive labor conditions in the cocoafields of the Ivory Coast. In the past few years, some 15,000 children have been sold into forced labor on cotton,coffee and cocoa plantations in that country. Most are between the ages of 12 and 16. Some, however, are as young as9.
While the Ivory Coast supplies more of the world’s cocoa beans than anywhere else, Americans, for their part, aresome of the world’s biggest buyers spending some $13 billion a year. But most Americans have no idea where theirchocolate comes from.
Well, today, people across the United States will hold rallies to raise awareness of the conditions in the cocoafields and to call on one particular company, See’s Inc., one of the largest Valentine’s Day retailers, to takeimmediate steps to end child slavery.
- Deborah James, Global Exchange, Fair Trade Director.