Today, March 31, in New York City, the United Nations hosted the International Donors Conference Towards a New Future for Haiti. On the table for discussion is the billions in aid requested by the Haitian government, $2.8 billion of which will be donated by the U.S. government.
The international attention on Haiti during the aftermath of the terrible earthquake has cast a spotlight on the inhumanity of a cultural norm known as restavec, a practice in which parents send a child to live with another family as a domestic servant. Declared a "modern form of slavery" by the UN, it is estimated by the Jean Cadet Restavek Foundation that 300,000 Haitian children are forced to live a life of servitude that sometimes involves physical and sexual abuse.
Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore's DNA Foundation, which aims to eliminate human trafficking and sex slavery worldwide, is speaking up on behalf of these children and asking that as we rebuild Haiti, we rebuild it right by banning the restavec system.
Their voices caught the attention of thousands of people on the social web this weekend and even inspired former President Bill Clinton to weigh in on the issue: "As the people of Haiti re-envision the future of their country and begin to build back better, there is an enormous opportunity for us to partner together to help develop a more modern economy that uplifts all Haitians. Protecting the rights of children is important, as is strengthening their access to quality education and health services. The Haitians are committed to this, and I am glad Demi and Ashton are taking action and supporting this important issue."
People often ask me what they can do to create change in their lives and the world. Sometimes it is hard to grasp the impact our decisions have on global issues and vice versa. That child slavery in Haiti has everything to do with us. That because we are all connected, slavery for some is slavery for all.
But if we remember that today is an effect of our yesterday and tomorrow is the direct effect of the decisions we make today, we can help shape a better future for Haiti. We can take responsibility for the present and take action to create change. We can add our voice to the DNA Foundation's campaign on the social web. And we can be the leaders of our own campaign to change the world -- by changing ourselves.