By Miranda Morton
On 26 March 2015, the DPI hosted an event entitled “Women and Slavery: its impact on women’s rights today” in commemoration of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. This International Day aims at not only honoring those who suffered at the hands of a barbarous slave system, but also at raising awareness regarding the implications of racism and prejudice in today’s society.
The theme of this briefing, Women and Slavery, paid tribute to enslaved women who endured inconceivable hardships, including sexual exploitation and forced labor, and celebrated the strength of women who fought the system. From prominent names such as Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman to smaller names such as Abby Kelly Foster and F.E.W. Harper to the millions of names that history cannot remember, each enslaved woman who recognized the savagery of slavery imbued her community with dignity. In spite of abuse and torment, countless enslaved women advocated for the abolition of slavery and passed on their African culture. In this way, these persecuted women ensured survival of their heritage and hastened the abolitionist movement.
In my opinion, I think that there should have been greater emphasis on acknowledging the present day slave trade. Slavery is not a bygone phenomenon—estimates of present day slaves around the world range from 21 to 29 million. From debt bondage to sexual exploitation, modern day slavery strips women, children and men of their human dignity just as it did in the 19th century. The United Nations is working with nations and NGOs to eradicate human trafficking, but governments often find drug trafficking “more pressing.” Although injustice in our world is comparably different than that of 19th century imperialism, there is still much work to be done in abolishing human trafficking and dismantling racial and structural discrimination that is rooted in slavery.
In order to permanently remember the tragic legacy of the slave trade, the United Nations erected a memorial titled “Ark of Return” by Rodney Leon, an American architect of Haitian descent, on 25 March 2015 at the UN’s Headquarters in New York.
National Park Service: http://www.nps.gov/subjects/ugrr/index.htm
National Women’s History Museum: https://www.nwhm.org/
Women on 20 Campaign: http://www.womenon20s.org/