As a speaker, I have the great honour of traveling and meeting with many different people at various events. Speaking at schools are always my favourite as young people are so remarkably passionate about ending injustice and eager to make a lasting impact.
These young world changers are the ones who inspire me to keep fighting for freedom on days that are tough.
One such young leader is Emma Cont, who I had the privilege of meeting when I was asked to guest lecture the Westley Academy debate program back in November 2015. After my presentation, each student wrote a piece based on what they had learned about human trafficking and shared it with the class. I was so moved by her speech on chocolate slavery that I asked her permission to share her words with all of you. To my delight she has agreed and you can read her speech, in its entirety, below.
It is my hope that you are both moved and inspired by her writing, as I have been. And that her powerful plea for justice encourages you to keep fighting for what is good in your own lives while also bringing freedom for others with our ethical consumer choices this Valentine’s Day.
Hello my names is Emma and I will talk about Yamaka, an 8 year old boy in chocolate slavery.
I stare at the man who is stealing my life. He takes me away from my father’s arms, tearing my hand and fingers from my arm. I start crying suddenly, not only from the pain but also that I might lose my dad forever. The man forces me in a bright red car, so bright it stings my eyes. I try to run away but the man pulls me too hard. Another man with a tattooed face pushes me into the car. I can’t do anything, it is useless. They took me away from my innocent father.
I open my eyes and see a place with trees. I see little brown things on each tree. I ask what they are, and the man with the tattooed face tells me they are cocoa beans. Then I see a child about 7 years old with a long ponytail and a bruised eye. Then I see other children, crying or working. The man that stole me from my dad tells me there are 7.4 million children from ages 7-12 who are surviving it too. He also tells me it is ok, but even by his tone, I know that it is not ok. I knew suddenly that this was worse than dying.
I clean my hands and get ready for work. I have changed from the past 2 years. I have become fitter, taller and stronger. But my sadness never improved. It just got worse, and worse. I haven’t seen my dad in like forever. I also fell more hungry and tired. My dad would never let me starve, and he always gave me enough sleep. This is the complete opposite.
A man comes in my small room. He pushes me to work. I start to collect cocoa beans. They told me these brown things make yummy chocolate. I asked what chocolate is so they told me it is a sweet food. I wonder what it tastes like.
About 16 hours have passed and it’s dark outside. I counted 89 coca beans in my brown basket. Oh no, I had to collect 96 by the end of the day. I soon see a women with purple hair brought back in a ponytail. I always wondered how she got purple hair, I have only seen people with brown black or sometimes blond hair. She picks my basket and counts. I am so scared I even smell my own fear.
When I see her disappointed face she slaps my back so hard on the back that I fall on the ground and see black dots at the corner of my eyes. I hated my life. This is what happens every day. To every child who doesn’t do their work properly. This has to stop. But now we can’t do anything. This is my life and will be. I can’t fix it.
As you heard Yamaka say, we need to stop slavery. Correction: we MUST
For a full list of Ethical Chocolate Companies and to learn how you can be involved in ending slavery, please visit http://www.slavefreechocolate.org/
About the Author:
Emma Cont is a 10 year old student of Westley Academy in Vancouver, BC. She enjoys writing and has published short stories in both French and Mandarin. She speaks English, French, Romanian and is currently learning intensive Mandarin and Spanish. In her spare time, Emma enjoys swimming and drawing. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.