August 23rd was the day that UNESCO designated the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, in their words they want to memorialize the slave trade. It’s also the day that William Wallace was executed in the year 1305 for treason. He was hanged and then drawn and quartered. If you’re not sure what that is, look it up. It’s not at all pleasant. I bring him up because he’s a guy that fought back. He died for what he believed in and he’s remembered as a result. He was interested in Scottish independence – he wanted to be free from English rule. I have British roots so I guess I shouldn’t really be a fan and yet I am.

The date is also important and bears major significance because, on August 22 in 1791, 485 years after Wallace, and on the island of Saint Domingue (Haiti), a major revolt began. The dominoes fell – a major factor in the abolition of the slavery and its trade.

Emmanuel Amon says he was extremely luck to have been removed from the tobacco farming industry in Malawi when he was just twelve years old. He’d been working the fields from the age of 5. Seven years as a child working in tough conditions, a harsh climate and with employers who were not very forgiving and allowed little room for error. At the time his parents were earning about $50.00 a year. Emmanuel didn’t have many other choices. Often poverty can be defined as a lack of access to opportunity. I think in this case we would all agree. School was never an option for him.

The shift for him occurred when the Malawi Ministry of labour visited his district to try and remove the children working in the tobacco farming industry. They had been working closely with the ILO and its international program that deals with the elimination of global child labour (IPEC).

The short story is that Emmanuel was successfully removed and was able to get into one of the better schools in Malawi and is now on his way to building a brighter future for himself, his family and his country. In his words,

“Over the last six years, I’ve been able to study Latin, foreign languages, history, religious studies, science, English, and economics. To earn extra money during the school holidays, I teach at a primary school. At the age of 18, I’ve completed my A-levels and will be graduating this year. If I can get financial assistance, my dream is to go to the University of Malawi or any university outside the country to study Marketing or Finance and Administration.”

Lofty goals for a former child slave don’t you think? Amazing indeed. We all have these kinds of dreams and goals it seems to me, but some of us have better access than others. Slavery is a pox on our world no matter how you look at it. It’s time to chisel away at everything that allows this to exist. Notice that he’s now teaching others as well and even wants to study agriculture at the University level. Brilliant on all levels.

Martin Luther King has said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

Why don’t more of us care about this global truth?

David Peck

First Published on:

August 23-2014