There are 27 million slaves in the world today: That’s more than double the number of people taken from Africa during the entire transatlantic slave trade.
These are the faces of the modern day slavery, captured by Lisa Kristine.
Lake Volta, Ghana: There are triumphs, too. Meet Kofi, a young boy who was rescued from slavery in a fishing village. I met Khofi at a shelter where Free the Slaves rehabilitate victims of slavery. He was bathing at the well, pouring big buckets of water over his head. Thanks to the efforts of organizations like Free the Slaves, today Kofi has been reunited with his parents, who were provided tools to make a living and to keep their children safe from human traffickers.
Lake Volta, Ghana: Child workers usually work from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. on cold, windy nights to reel in nets weighing as much as 1,000 pounds when they are full of fish. Skeletal tree limbs submerged in Lake Volta frequently entangle the fishing nets, and and slave masters will throw weary, frightened children into the water to free the trapped lines, sometimes drowning them. I didn’t meet one child who didn’t know another who had drowned.
Uttar Pradesh, India: In India I visited a village where whole families were enslaved in the silk industry. This is a family portrait. The father (hands in black) and his sons (hands in red and blue) are held captive in a “silk dyeing house.” The dye they work with is toxic. It’s common for entire families to be enslaved for generations. My translator told me their story. “We have no freedom,” they said. “But we hope, some day, we will be able to leave this house and make dyes in a place where we actually get paid for it.”
Kathmandu, Nepal: A worker blends in with the bricks at a Nepalese kiln. Workers mechanically stack 18 bricks at a time, each weighing four pounds, and carry them to nearby trucks for 18 hours a day without any payment or compensation.
Accra, Ghana: These gold miners have just come out of the shaft, their pants soaked from their own sweat. Most had spent all their money coming from the north hoping to strike it rich in legal mines. But legal operations require certifications. When they can’t get a job, the men take high-interest loans or join groups of slaves in mines abandoned by legitimate operations.
Kathmandu, Nepal: For this photo, I was escorted by women who had previously been enslaved themselves. They brought me down a narrow set of stairs leading to a green fluorescent-lit basement. This wasn’t a brothel as such; it was a “cabin restaurants,” as they are known in the trade — venues for forced prostitution. Each has a small private room where slaves, some as young as seven, entertain and serve the clients, encouraging them to buy alcohol and food. These cubicles are small, dark, and dingy, each identified with a number painted on the wall, and partitioned by plywood and a curtain. The workers here often endure sexual abuse at the hands of the customers. Standing in the near darkness, I realized there was only one way out — the stairs where I came in: no back doors, no windows large enough to climb through, no escape at all.
In the Himalayas I found children hauling stone for miles down steep mountain terrain to trucks waiting at the road below. These huge sheets of slate were heavier than the children themselves. The kids hoisted them with their heads using handmade harnesses made from sticks, rope, and torn cloth.