In the 21st Century, Children are still Victims of Slavery, Trafficking, and Prostitution
Despite significant progress in the global fight against child labor, slavery, trafficking, and prostitution, these issues continue to exist and influence millions of children worldwide. It seems unbelievable that in the 21st century, we still have to deal with such social problems, but the numbers speak for themselves. According to estimates by the International Labor Organization (ILO), around 152 million children are engaged in child labor worldwide, and millions more are victims of slavery, trafficking, and sexual exploitation.
Those millions of children are often forced to work in dangerous and abusive conditions. They are also, in most cases, denied their fundamental rights to education, health, and a decent childhood. Fighting child slavery, trafficking, and prostitution requires a multifaceted approach, including efforts to address the root causes of these issues, such as poverty and inequality.
“The biggest hope lies in the children we rescued from slavery, trafficking, prostitution, and other kinds of exploitation and abuse. I had come across thousands of such children whom we saved ten years ago, or twenty or thirty, or forty years ago when they took up the challenge when they demonstrated their leadership and compassion for the betterment, freedom, and dignity of other children. It brought me tremendous hope. And that always has been my dream that the survivors should lead the freedom of other victims of slavery and trafficking” – Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
However, we all must remember that issues connected with child slavery, trafficking, and prostitution are not insurmountable and that our world has all the necessary resources and tools to end those atrocities inflicted on the youngest, most vulnerable human beings. People need to become more compassionate and believe we can solve those problems and challenges to create a better future for all children.
“We can solve any problem. And every single problem is born with a solution in its womb. So we must be resilient, strategic, committed, and dedicated to finding solutions. I ensure that the solution to the problem of slavery and trafficking can also be found” – Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
The Fight for Education for Children is a Fight against Child Labor and Vice Versa
Education is a powerful tool and maybe one of the most important ones in the fight against child labor. When kids can go to school and receive a quality education with their peers, they are less likely to be forced into labor. Thanks to education, the youngest ones are also more likely to have the required knowledge to break the cycle of poverty in their families and be, in many cases, the first generation to obtain a formal education.
Education can also provide children with appropriate skills which can be used to advocate for their own rights and the rights of other children. As Kailash Satyarthi said, the biggest hope regarding the fight against child slavery, trafficking, and prostitution lies in the kids themselves. Nevertheless, the great responsibility for creating a better world for children lies on our shoulders, the shoulders of adults.
“For over forty years, I have been saying that eradicating child labor and education for children are the two sides of the same coin. Two sides to one coin. We can only achieve one with the other. If so many children are trapped in mining and factories, farms and fields, and various household courses, then we cannot ensure education for all children. The same child cannot be in the classroom as well as in a factory at the same time. So eradicating child labor is a must if we want to ensure education. But on the other hand, we cannot eradicate child labor without guaranteeing good quality, free public education for all children. So my fight has always been on both fronts” – Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
Perception of education and its role has changed significantly over the years. Especially right now, in the era of fast technology development, we can observe those changes even more explicitly. In the past, education was often seen as a means of obtaining knowledge for its own sake or as a way of gaining skills and knowledge which will help with getting a better job and ensure a higher income. However, in recent years, especially in regions of the world where education is not so accessible and is even hindered, it started to be seen as a way of empowerment and freedom, as thanks to it, one can express their opinions and make an impact.
“Now, for example, 160 000 000 children are working in child labor worldwide, which means 160 000 000 empty classrooms, and empty seats in classrooms, and that has to be fought together. In the last few years, say ten, fifteen years, or twenty years, we have seen a remarkable mindset change. People started valuing education. So earlier people thought that education was the key to better earnings or better quality of life or seeking employment and so on. But slowly, gradually, it has grown into a different label, where people think education means empowerment, education means dignity, education means the key to human rights and human freedom, gender equity and equality in all walks of life, and justice” – Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
Challenges in the Children’s World Regarding the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected children’s education. Especially those children who did not have access to technology, computers, and the internet, were the most disadvantaged. As schools worldwide closed their doors to prevent the spread of the virus, many children had to rely on different forms of remote education. However, this shift to remote learning only highlighted the digital divide in many countries and in separate communities. Many families and their children do not have access to the necessary technology to participate in virtual learning, such as computers and internet connectivity. This resulted in a significant disruption in their education path. Many children became victims of this situation and were disadvantaged compared to their peers who had access to technology.
“During the pandemic, we have seen in the last two or three years that 1.6 billion children remained out of school during the lockdowns and school closures. We are afraid that millions of children are not able to go back to their classrooms. But the serious issue here is also that 40% of such children were not able to get access or easy access or free online education. So when online education is very much needed during the lockdowns and pandemic, and it was necessary that every child can have access to quality education, only a few people could have it” – Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
Apart from the hugely destructive impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on children’s access to education, it also had other lamentable effects on kids. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the demand for child pornography increased alarmingly. With lockdowns, many people turned to the internet for entertainment and escaped the pandemic’s stressful reality. This situation increased the demand for illegal and harmful content, including child pornography. Child exploitation for sexual purposes is a terrific crime that causes lasting trauma and harm to its victims. The pandemic made it easier for perpetrators to create, distribute and access such materials.
“We conducted a study during the first two weeks. I would say ten days precisely, during the first lockdown in India during the pandemic. And then it was quite shocking to learn that the demand and consumption of child sexual abuse material have doubled, almost doubled. So the demand for porn material has also grown faster, but particularly the child porn material has doubled. So that is such a serious thing” – Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
The challenges of hindered or lack of education for children as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also the increased demand for children’s pornography content, are challenges of the modern world to which we must respond with decisive action here and now. Technology, including artificial intelligence, can be our ally in the fight against these atrocities inflicted on children.
How Data and Technology Can Help to Protect Children and Help Creating a Better Future for them
In today’s world, data can play a crucial role in helping to protect children from slavery, trafficking, and prostitution. By collecting and analyzing data and creating patterns of these crimes, governmental agencies, NGOs, and other institutions can identify perpetrators and predict their activities or monitor them in real-time to rescue victims or disrupt networks of traffickers. By harnessing the power of data, we can work towards a future where all children are safe from exploitation and abuse.
“In today’s world, data is the power, but data is also the problem solver. So we used to collect data of children whom we freed from trafficking or child labor or bonded labor for years” – Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation is one of the NGOs using data in many ways to fight against child trafficking. For example, the foundation uses data to map out hotspots of child trafficking activity, which helps with intervention efforts when needed. Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation also uses data to track and monitor the movements of traffickers. Finally, the organization uses data to evaluate the effectiveness of different interventions and identify areas where those interventions may be needed in the even larger range.
“So far, we have data on more than 113,000 rescued children and survivors, but we also have data on over 28,000 traffickers. So we could translate that data into heat maps so that we know more about the source areas, the tangent areas, the destination areas of those children, and the movement of traffickers on those routes” – Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
Why we Need Compassionate Leaders who Will Use AI to Make an Impact
In today’s world, which is changing at a dizzying pace due to the development of technology, there is an increasing need for leaders who will use artificial intelligence not only for business purposes but also for making a positive impact on society. AI can revolutionize many aspects of our lives, from education and healthcare to the energy sector, transportation, and many more.
However, for AI to truly make a difference, we need to raise and recognize compassionate leaders committed to using this technology for the greater good. These leaders will be able to understand the ethical implications of AI. They will ensure that it is used to respect the rights and dignity of all people, including also the most vulnerable ones – children.
Those compassionate leaders will create innovative and impactful solutions and inspire and motivate others to work towards a common goal of using AI to create a better world for all. By fostering a culture of compassion and collaboration, described leaders will be able to harness the full potential of AI and make a lasting impact on the world.
“I always say that we need compassionate leaders from all walks of life. I’m not talking about being just empathetic or sympathetic. Sympathy is the outermost circle. When you feel the suffering of others and sometimes express some sympathy, you move on. And then empathy is the inner circle. When you feel the suffering of others as your suffering, that makes you a much better human being. But empathetic people sometimes cannot hold so much pain and suffering and problems of the outer world, and they become sustained or burned out or even depressed because they see the problems, they feel the problems, but they cannot solve them. But a compassionate person becomes a problem solver because compassion is a feeling of suffering for others or the problem of others as your own problems and suffering with a strong drive to take action, to elevate that suffering, to end that suffering. So in that way, one has to be quite innovative, one has to be sometimes disruptive, and one has to be a leader and courageous person to take the risk in finding solutions. So, the compassionate leader is a problem solver, and AI is a problem solver. If a compassionate leader can hold the power of AI in problem-solving, that would help make this world a better place” – Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
Creation of the Real-world AI Solutions for the Children’s Better Future
“The young AI community can be very helpful in spreading the message of humanity and becoming problem solvers and leaders and champions simultaneously. I emphasize here that AI and human compassion have to go hand in hand. While we are living in the age of AI, we should not undermine, or we should not ignore the core purpose of being a human being” – Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
In Omdena, we launched the “impACT leadership” series to support and promote thoughtful and sustainable leadership, focusing on building solutions to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. Apart from the discussion in the podcast on how to create AI for a better future, we also launched the “impACT program” to put all those ideas into action.
The third guest in the “impACT leadership” series was Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 2014, who devoted his whole life to fighting against child labor and advocating for the right to education for all children. In the episode with the participation of Kailash Satyarthi, we discussed the topic “How to Create a Better Future for Children Using AI.”
Omdena conducted many projects focused on using AI to improve the lives of children in different parts of the world. Some of the projects include:
- Building an AI-based Personalized Language Learning Model For Bilingual Children, Including Immigrants and Refugees
- Preventing Online Violence Against Children
- Deploying an Accurate Classifier to Stop Online Violence Against Children using NLP
- Violence Detection Between Children and Caregivers Using Computer Vision