Cameron Conaway highlights some efforts to combat human trafficking and how you can join the fight.
The story of Nadu in Human Trafficking: The Other 20% resulted in readers sending many heartfelt messages my way. Some expressed utter disgust and even anger that “this still goes on” while others felt heartbroken and helpless. Awareness, especially with human trafficking, usually comes not gently but like a slap in the face. Many are content to stay in the realm of knowing it happens but not precisely knowing why. I’ve actually talked to several people who couldn’t attend a conference to learn more because “they would get too emotional.” Though it remains an emotional issue, those who go deeper into the battle are able to discover the true complexities that make the heart of this monster tick. I’ve looked the monster in the eyes and want to share with you some of the warriors who are slaying it.
Survivors. Nobody in this battle stirs emotions and therefore true awareness the way they can. None of the horrible statistics I’ve studied will ever crush me as much as watching the innocent 6-year-olds play hopscotch while knowing that they’d been raped for years and now had HIV as a result. If “the test of a first-rate intelligence,” as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function,” then I failed miserably. With each passing second I found myself either smiling at the beauty of their playing or inching closer to the garbage can due to my imaginings of what happened to them. Perhaps the most famous survivor is Cambodian author and human rights advocate Somaly Mam. When Somaly fought back and wouldn’t have sex, she was forced into a cellar with snakes and scorpions and was eventually tortured and raped anyway. In 2006 she was named CNN Hero and Glamour Woman of the Year, and in 2009 she made TIME Magazine’s 100 influential people. Now, through the Somaly Mam Foundation, she works to support the rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration of victims.
Organizations. Human trafficking is a hot issue right now. While this is great for awareness it unfortunately means that too many people are trying to start their own organizations. Some of these people have good intentions; others seem to put having a business card with “CEO” beside their name ahead of the actual fight. “Implementing someone else’s dream tends not to be nearly as satisfying as building one’s own,” said Share Our Strength founder Bill Shore. That said, there are many organizations both old and new that are doing outstanding work. Here are three:
(1) Anti-Slavery International is the world’s oldest human rights organization and their mission is dedicated to ending all forms of modern-day slavery around the world.
(2) International Justice Mission is a global organization that uses their expert team of investigators to seek out the problem and educate the local public justice systems, and their lawyers to prosecute perpetrators. Their vision is “to rescue thousands, protect millions and prove that justice for the poor is possible.”
(3) Polaris Project, named after the North Star “Polaris” that guides slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad, is most often cited in regards to their operating the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline (1-888-373-7888), although they’ve also successfully pushed for state and federal laws.
(4) World Vision tackles the causes of poverty and injustice in nearly 100 countries around the world. Their work includes helping the survivors of natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes. This is ultra-important in the battle against human trafficking because environmentally displaced people are at increased risk.
Business Models. Human trafficking is called the “flesh trade” for a reason: it’s a business. Not For Sale, and its founder Dave Batstone, have quickly become the leading advocates of this viewpoint and I believe it has and will continue to change the way we fight. They look at the entire supply chain of human trafficking and strive for ways to destroy it. There’s much excitement surrounding their new beverage product line called REBBL. With ingredients coming from deep in the Peruvian rainforests (where traffickers often prey on vulnerable people), REBBL trains and then justly employs local workers which empowers their futures. They follow this hands-on teamwork approach while following the triple bottom line (people, planet, profit) throughout the entire supply chain.
Open Hand, founded by Christiaan Bosman, takes a similar approach but does it through the notoriously unfair textile manufacturing of India. Business brands of all types are becoming increasingly vulnerable to collapse as consumers become more aware of the story behind the receipt. While providing training, fair wages and employing many trafficking survivors, Open Hand pairs with major clothing brands who want to ensure their products are ethical.
5 Ways You Can Fight Human Trafficking
(1) Be a conscientious consumer. We often question when a product we buy is expensive but we must begin questioning why something is so cheap. Purchasing Fair Trade products may cost a bit more at the counter but there are reasons. Think of Nadu and then of Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
(2) Get out there. Complete IJM’s 100 Postcard Challenge. Attend Not For Sale’s Global Forum on November 1 & 2 in California. Walk to Stop Modern Slavery with the Polaris Project on September 29th in Washington, DC. Call your state senator with World Vision’s help to ensure the Trafficking Victims Protection Act passes.
(4) Think, question & share. This is a complex problem with roots in poverty, overpopulation, greed, political-social-environmental-economic instability and many more. Your ideas could be another’s missing link. What could your church be doing? Does your local police department have a human trafficking task force?
(5) Give. Many groups know exactly what they are doing and exactly how to do it. Their problem is one of money. Might your local university (or their sororities and fraternities) want to host a 5k? Can you swing $24 a month to become a Freedom Partner with IJM? In the hands of masters a few dollars can truly matter.
Image of barbed wire against a red sky courtesy of Shutterstock