Kids exploited for chocolate

Abidjan – West Africa’s cocoa industry is still trafficking children and using forced child labour despite nearly a decade of efforts to eliminate the practices, according to an independent audit published by Tulane University.

A US-sponsored solution called the Harkin-Engel Protocol was signed by cocoa industry members in 2001 to identify and eliminate cocoa grown using forced child labour.

A child-labour-free certification process was supposed to cover 50% of cocoa growing regions in West Africa by 2005 and 100% by the end of 2010.

However, independent auditors at Tulane University’s Payson Centre for International Development said in a late September report that efforts had not even come close to these targets.

“Hundreds of thousands of children are involved in work on cocoa farms,” the report said. Child trafficking for labour also continues virtually unabated as well, it said.

Thousands of children travel from impoverished neighbouring countries to the cocoa plantations in the Ivory Coast, where some of them live in substandard conditions and receive little or no pay.

Almost none of the children have any contact with NGOs or anti-child-labour organisations while working.

The Harkin-Engel Protocol set up community-based education and monitoring programmes in the Ivory Coast and Ghana – the world’s two largest cocoa growers – to improve the situation.

The International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), an industry funded organisation charged with implementing the protocol, said because of the protocol, thousands of children were no longer working in exploitative conditions on cocoa plantations.

The Ivorian government admits that progress has been slower than anticipated, but points to several key advances.

Mokie Sigui, the head of the anti child labour task force at the Ministry of Labour said: “We passed a law prohibiting the worst forms of child labour last week.

“Some infractions carry 20 year prison sentences.”

Sigui said the government was building two youth centres in cocoa growing regions where exploited children could be identified and then put back into school.

Manufacturers in the chocolate industry have also set up projects to help keep kids in schools and off the plantations, but the poverty of many families in West Africa makes it impossible for them to pass up the temptation to send their children to work.

Several international certification bodies are currently working to certify sustainable cocoa farms across the region. Though only 4% of the world’s cocoa is now considered sustainable, that figure is projected to rise to over 40% by 2020.

Stop Child Trafficking Now Nation Wide Walk a Thon

This weekend Stop Child Trafficking Now will be hosting walks across the Nation. I have included information on this event and have also included an article on how both FAMU and FSU will help Stop Child Trafficking Now. Please visit the website link listed below to see how you can help Stop Child Trafficking Now!

Join SCTNow and the fight to Stop Child Trafficking Now! This weekend SCTNow are hosting their 2010 Nation-wide Walk Campaign in an effort to end child slavery. Communities from around the United States are walking together this weekend, October 8-9, 2010, to Stop Child Trafficking Now!

Last year over 8,000 individuals, corporations, religious organizations, communities and student groups came from all over to participate in the inaugural Stop Child Trafficking Now Walk! This global event occurred in 39 communities, and involved students from over 80 college campuses.

The successful event in 2009 raised over $600,000 to end child slavery. This year, the goal is to raise $200,000 to end child slavery. To find out how you and your friends can donate go to

Join us as a walker, volunteer, or donater! Together, we can put an end to slavery!

For more information about SCTNow go to

The U.S. Department of Justice reports that 300,000 children in the U.S. are at risk every year for commercial sexual exploitation. In 2004, the U.S. Department of State reported that approximately 600,000-800,000 people are bought and sold across international boarders each year.

Florida A&’M University’s students are part of the movement to stop child trafficking. Stop Child Trafficking Now is a non-profit organization that raises money to fund more Special Operative Teams. These teams gather information on child predators and prevent child abductions both in the U.S. and abroad.

Students from FAMU and Florida State University in conjunction with members of the community are banding together to put an end to child trafficking, concluding a week of events with a walk at Lake Ella Thursday evening.

“We’re trying to make a change, and be the change we wish to see,” said Jasmine Johnson, 20, the FAMU ambassador for Stop Child Trafficking Now.

“According to UNICEF, Leon County is number two in the state of Florida for the amount of children in child trafficking. A pimp or a madam can stand to make 200,000 dollars a year off of one child,” Johnson said, emphasizing the average age of the children trafficked: 8 – 18 years old.

For third-year political science student from Orlando, Kuri Mickel, the statistics made the mission more personal for him.

“I heard about it [child trafficking] but I didn’t know how serious it was,” Kuri said. “I saw pictures of children who suffered, and I have a niece and a nephew who are both young. It’s a good feeling to help others.”

Analisa Velez, 21, third-year acting student from FSU, found out about the walk through her bible study group Every Nation Campus Ministries.

“It happens here…everybody thinks that it just happens in foreign countries, but it is happening here too,” Velez said.

Velez hopes that this walk will not only promote awareness of the issue, but ignite students to get involved.

“This is one step closer to making a difference… now that there’s more awareness more people will be on fire about it,” Velez said.

Stop Child Trafficking Now hopes to reach out to members in the community to make a difference and, most importantly, save lives. For more information, visit

Man gets 22-year sentence for child sex trafficking

A man who ran a ring of underage prostitutes in Kansas City and Overland Park received a sentence of almost 22 years in federal prison Wednesday for child sex trafficking.

But even though Randal G. Jennings, 43, had pleaded guilty to the single human trafficking count last year, the Chillicothe, Mo., man came close to getting another five years added to his sentence by minimizing his role as a pimp at the sentencing hearing.

Addressing the judge, Jennings said he thought the girls were college-age students. He also said he placed their ads on Craigslist and another Internet site so they could meet clients in nice hotels, not on the rough streets. He also said prosecutors had overcharged his case.

“I did research on human sex trafficking, and this doesn’t fit,” Jennings said. “What I did barely qualifies for it.”

U.S. District Judge Greg Kays came close to removing a credit Jennings had received for “acceptance of responsibility” under federal guidelines, which could have added years to his sentence. Kays ultimately relented, saying Jennings’ guilty plea had prevented a trial at which his victims would have had to testify.

Kays sentenced Jennings at the top of the guidelines.

“Prostituting young girls is a reprehensible act. … It’s a terrible thing to do,” Kays said. “Because you describe yourself as a nice pimp doesn’t make you less of a pimp.”

Jennings’ four working prostitutes were 16 or 17 years old when he was arrested in January 2009. Prosecutors also alleged that Jennings had tried to induce a 13-year-old girl to begin working for him, but she declined.

In interviews with investigators, the girls said that they paid about 20 percent of their earnings to Jennings, who often drove them to their “dates.”

Jennings also took photos of the girls with his cell phone camera and posted the images with their online ads.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Cordes asked for the maximum sentence under the guidelines.

“This is a defendant who sought out young girls, lost girls,” Cordes said. “He exploited them in a sexual manner, but he also took their pictures and put them on the Internet. That’s a whole different level of victimization.”

Jennings’ lawyer, Travis Poindexter, argued for a much lower sentence, noting that Jennings had had not used coercion or force on the girls. Poindexter said that Jennings had become involved in prostitution when his marriage fell apart, and he began to again use crack cocaine after being clean for 15 years.

“He was a lost person himself and was susceptible to controlled substances,” Poindexter said. “Any sentence he gets is going to be a significant deterrent. The past shows that he can conform his conduct.”

Kays left one sentencing issue unresolved Wednesday. He said he would rule within 90 days on how much restitution to order for future medical and psychological treatment for Jennings’ victims.

Prosecutors asked that Jennings be ordered to pay $882,650.