Slavery is no longer legal anywhere in the world, but nevertheless, the U.N.’s International Labour Organization estimates that there are some 21 million people being held in forced labor in the world…including 60,000 right here in the United States.
Sister Janice McLaughlin, M.M. first arrived in the southern African nation of Zimbabwe in the 1970’s. For years, she worked with refugees and people displaced or endangered by the political and social strife in that region. Now, her efforts are focused on helping to end the terrible scourge of human trafficking in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe has 90% unemployment and little in the way of government social services. Its people are eager for any opportunity to make a living. Many of them-especially women-respond to tempting offers of jobs overseas with competitive wages and benefits. Unfortunately, they often arrive at their destination only to have their passports and phone confiscated (so they can’t turn to anyone for help) and are forced to work at domestic jobs for little or none of the pay that was promised to them. Many are subjected to physical, and in some cases sexual, abuse.
This evil human trafficking industry is illustrated by the case of a young Zimbabwean pictured below, who will call Rudo. Rudo, graduated high school and decided to look for a good job overseas to support her family. She responded to an ad for a job in the Middle Eaater nation of Kuwait, offering good wages and benefits. When she arrived in Kuwait, her passport and phone were taken away and she was taken to a private home where she was told she would work as a domestic servant. Rudo was forced to sleep on the floor, int he laundry room, perform exhausting work for long hours, and be paid half of what she had been promised.
Rudo eventually managed to escape to the Zimbabwean Embassy, where she was told that at least 120 other women from her country had been enslaved by the same scam. She has since returned safely to her homeland, where she works as an advocate, warning others against falling victim to similar frauds.
Sister Janice has put her experience, knowledge of the region, and passion to work with those dedicated to fighting this terrible injustice. She says: “A group of committed persons has volunteered to work with us to raise awareness about the issue, to conduct research on the extent of the problem and to carry out advocacy with those who can take action, such as immigration officials and police. In addition, some of the volunteers have offered to provide counseling and medical services to those who have been rescued.”
In several parts of the world, the Maryknoll Sisters work against evil in every way we can, as part of our commitment to promoting human rights and dignity wherever we are. With your prayers and support, advocates and activists like Sister Janice can continue fighting against these thieves of freedom and dignity.