Trafficked children in Africa. Photography project @ Ana Palacios Documentary Photographer
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Modern Slavery

“No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.”

Article 4 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948


Human trafficking for exploitation is a modern form of slavery and an appalling violation of human rights, especially when it affects the most vulnerable members of society: children. West Africa is the region with the world’s highest rate of child trafficking.

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Modern Slavery

“No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.”

Article 4 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948


Human trafficking for exploitation is a modern form of slavery and an appalling violation of human rights, especially when it affects the most vulnerable members of society: children. West Africa is the region with the world’s highest rate of child trafficking.

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Slave Children: The Back Door

book+exhibition+documentary


What happens after a child in slavery escapes? How are their broken childhoods rebuilt? Is there a way out?


This documentary project documents the experience of thousands of children who are bought and sold as slaves in West Africa, the region with the world's highest rate of child labour. Her work shows that there is a way out for these victims of modern slavery, a “back door” which some of them manage to find, open and step through to live their lives in freedom.


www.thebackdoorproject.net


**In collaboration with: Salesian Missions, the Carmelite Sisters of Charity Vedruna and Mensajeros de la Paz.
Big thank you to UNICEF that has collaborated in the photo exhibition.


**Supported by: Grupo Henneo, Gesplaza 14, Fundación Tervalis, Anagán, Fundación Kyrene, Fundación Mémora and Saphir Parfums.
Big thank you to Deluxe Spain that has supported the film documentary.



Trafficked children in Africa. Photography project @ Ana Palacios Documentary Photographer
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Blessing is a fifteen-year-old orphan. She makes cassava paste to trade for food and a floor to sleep on. Some days her mistress gives her an hour off to go to a child protection centre, where she’s learning to read and write. The centre’s ultimate goal is to give child slaves the means of escaping from exploitation.

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Blessing is a fifteen-year-old orphan. She makes cassava paste to trade for food and a floor to sleep on. Some days her mistress gives her an hour off to go to a child protection centre, where she’s learning to read and write. The centre’s ultimate goal is to give child slaves the means of escaping from exploitation.

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"For many centuries, this region was the heart of the slave trade.

Today things have changed, but traditional practices and social perception with regard to children have not. It’s sad, but the truth is that sending a child from a poor home to a rich family is still considered part of tradition in the countries of origin, and now we

know that the Convention on the Rights of the Child states that the primary responsibility for the development, protection and education of a child lies with the family and the country of origin.

However, the population is ignorant of this. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is very clear. UNICEF’s mission is to remind the communities of origin, destination and transit that the rights of the child must be respected, and that it is in children’s best interest to be raised in their own community and with their own family, however limited their resources. There is no better place than their own

home. And that is our struggle."

Michel Ikamba, Chief of the Child Protection Section of the UNICEF Gabon Country Office.

Illustration: Andrea Trigo for “Slave Children: The Back Door” project.



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"For many centuries, this region was the heart of the slave trade.

Today things have changed, but traditional practices and social perception with regard to children have not. It’s sad, but the truth is that sending a child from a poor home to a rich family is still considered part of tradition in the countries of origin, and now we

know that the Convention on the Rights of the Child states that the primary responsibility for the development, protection and education of a child lies with the family and the country of origin.

However, the population is ignorant of this. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is very clear. UNICEF’s mission is to remind the communities of origin, destination and transit that the rights of the child must be respected, and that it is in children’s best interest to be raised in their own community and with their own family, however limited their resources. There is no better place than their own

home. And that is our struggle."

Michel Ikamba, Chief of the Child Protection Section of the UNICEF Gabon Country Office.

Illustration: Andrea Trigo for “Slave Children: The Back Door” project.



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Le Ciel and L’Amour can finally rest and relax. At this reception centre, they feel safe. Before coming here they lived on the streets, in a perpetual state of fear. They slept out in the open and knew that they were vulnerable to any type of aggression, easy prey for thieves and rapists.

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Le Ciel and L’Amour can finally rest and relax. At this reception centre, they feel safe. Before coming here they lived on the streets, in a perpetual state of fear. They slept out in the open and knew that they were vulnerable to any type of aggression, easy prey for thieves and rapists.

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Child Slavery in Figures


152 million child slaves in the world today.


72 million of which are in Africa, primarily in Sub-Saharan countries.


19,6 % of African minors–one out of every five–live in some form of slavery, the highest prevalence of child labour in the world.


50 % of the world’s 152 million child slaves are between the ages of five and eleven, according to the 2018 statistics of the International Labour Organization (ILO).



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From the car, Lavande and Marron glimpse the entrance to their village, Sedje Denou in Benin. When they left, they didn’t know they would end up being sold as slaves in Nigeria. Marron worked for a time at a biscuit stall until his masters, during one of many beatings, struck his head with a metal rod and he decided to run away.


Now, following their rehabilitation at the reception centre, the two are ready to go home. After several conversations with educators at the centre, their families have agreed not to resell them.

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From the car, Lavande and Marron glimpse the entrance to their village, Sedje Denou in Benin. When they left, they didn’t know they would end up being sold as slaves in Nigeria. Marron worked for a time at a biscuit stall until his masters, during one of many beatings, struck his head with a metal rod and he decided to run away.


Now, following their rehabilitation at the reception centre, the two are ready to go home. After several conversations with educators at the centre, their families have agreed not to resell them.

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Watch next video ►

Slave Children: The Back Door.
Documentary Trailer



Photography and video
Ana Palacios
Trailer Editor
Iván Castell


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Each state considers implementing measures against trafficking in minors with the help of NGO and civil society. They ensure the integral protection of children who have been rescued, attending to their physical, psychological and social recovery by supplying a home, medical attention, psychology and material; and facilitating access to education and job opportunities. They also carry out an exhaustive search for family and analyse alternatives for reinsertion in society.

Illustration: Andrea Trigo for “Slave Children: The Back Door” project.


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Each state considers implementing measures against trafficking in minors with the help of NGO and civil society. They ensure the integral protection of children who have been rescued, attending to their physical, psychological and social recovery by supplying a home, medical attention, psychology and material; and facilitating access to education and job opportunities. They also carry out an exhaustive search for family and analyse alternatives for reinsertion in society.

Illustration: Andrea Trigo for “Slave Children: The Back Door” project.


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Sitting on his mother’s lap, Indigo hugs his brother, who was a new-born baby the last time he saw him. Reuniting children with their families is conducted as an official public event, where the village chief tells the child’s story to warn the community of the consequences of selling their sons and daughters. In this way, if the family breaks their promise and sells or exploits the child again, the neighbours can report them.

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Sitting on his mother’s lap, Indigo hugs his brother, who was a new-born baby the last time he saw him. Reuniting children with their families is conducted as an official public event, where the village chief tells the child’s story to warn the community of the consequences of selling their sons and daughters. In this way, if the family breaks their promise and sells or exploits the child again, the neighbours can report them.

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As Grenat’s father doesn’t know how to write, he uses his thumbprint to

sign the agreement to take his son back in the presence of the entire village. To end child trafficking, governments, NGOs and society as a whole must be committed to a vital task: convincing peasants, potential slave owners–such as marketplace merchants–and the general populace that selling minors is illegal and violates the fundamental rights of the child.

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As Grenat’s father doesn’t know how to write, he uses his thumbprint to

sign the agreement to take his son back in the presence of the entire village. To end child trafficking, governments, NGOs and society as a whole must be committed to a vital task: convincing peasants, potential slave owners–such as marketplace merchants–and the general populace that selling minors is illegal and violates the fundamental rights of the child.

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