“Human trafficking is a lucrative industry. It has been identified as the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. It is second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable illegal industry in the world. In 2004, the total annual revenue for trafficking in persons were estimated to be between $5 billion and $9 billion. Today, trafficking is estimated to be a $32 billion industry, affecting 161 countries worldwide.”
There are more slaves on the planet right now than at any other point in human history. An estimated 27 million people are forced to work, without pay, under the threat of violence and unable to walk away.* (Statistic from Free The Slaves, click here for their interactive map.)
“Victims of human trafficking are not permitted to leave upon arrival at their destination. They are held against their will through acts of coercion and forced to work or provide services to the trafficker or others. The work or services may include anything from bonded or forced labor to commercialized sexual exploitation.”
It is hard for me to even think of a number that high and to know that there are people out there who have lost their freedom completely. I also never thought I would personally know anyone who had been a victim. I’ve read the statistics, I’ve done research and I have volunteered for the amazing organization, Free The Slaves. (I rock my ‘Freedom Rocks” shirt often…) That is until about 5 days ago. All of that changed and suddenly this seemingly far away issue became front and center in my life. Someone I knew, someone I loved had fallen victim to human trafficking.
I can’t really say much, for the safety of my family, but one of my relatives who had been missing for several years was finally found. The story is compelling and still unraveling but basically they were kidnapped, trafficked and have been in slavery for years. I guess for some reason I always thought it was children or young women who were the most trafficked. I was wrong. My relative is neither of those. Yet this still happened to them. And it made me think, if it could happen to them, it could happen to anybody.
What we know so far of the conditions they were in and the kind of work they were forced to do is pretty horrific. How can this be happening in our world right now? And how can it happen to someone close to you? I’ve been trying to figure it out the past few days and doing a great deal of research. It is genuinely scary…
However, as scary as this situation is, there are some really wonderful organizations out there who are working to abolish slavery for a second time. Free The Slaves is the one I am most familiar with as I have done volunteer work with them on their big event, The Freedom Awards, in 2010. This is what they do:
“Free the Slaves works on the ground with liberators around the world. We do what it takes to free men, women and children and help them stay free. Basic needs for food, shelter and safety from angry slave owners must be met. Then the system that allows slavery to flourish has to be dismantled and another created by former slaves learning to live in freedom.”
Another organization doing great work is Not For Sale. They have created programs and tools for anyone who wants to join the abolitionist movement. It is easy for all of us to get involved and take action right now:
“Not For Sale creates tools that engage business, government, and grassroots in order to incubate and grow social enterprises to benefit enslaved and vulnerable communities.”
“Our collective challenge is simple: Stand with those who are enslaved, work together to free them, and empower them in their freedom to break the cycle of vulnerability.”
The third organization I want to highlight is HumanTrafficking.org. They are a web resource for helping combat human trafficking. At their website you can get up-to-date information on what is happening around the world. They also offer a toolkit for those who want to learn more and take action. I can’t tell you just how valuable that page is. Here is is again: Individuals Interested in Helping to Combat Human Trafficking in the US.
Increasing the public’s awareness about human trafficking is the next big step in ending modern day slavery. In fact, all the organizations listed above believe we can see an end to it in our lifetime. Of course, that means there is a lot of work to be done:
“It is no longer enough to think about change.
It is no longer enough to talk about change.
It is time to shift gears — marrying movement with intelligent action.”
Slavery still exists.
I know there are millions of people out there who don’t know anything about slavery and probably think it’s something out of history books. Even if they are aware, they might think it is only happening to children/women/people in far away countries. But I can tell you that it happens here and it can happen to someone you love, unless we start doing something about it.
Here are more organizations that help spread the word and take action:
Polaris Project – Is committed to combating human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Promotes women’s human rights by working internationally to combat sexual exploitation in all its forms.
The Project to End Human Trafficking – PEHT engages in anti-trafficking coalition building, educational outreach, direct service to victims, and collaboration with other national and international organizations.
End Slavery Now -Helping fight human trafficking with the best resources available.
An estimated 12.3 million men, women and children are trafficked for commercial sex or forced labor around the world today. One of my loved ones was one of them.
This is in our hands. There is a growing recognition of the links between labor trafficking, regulation of supply chains, and the power of the consumer to end widespread exploitation by choosing goods that aren’t tainted by forced or child labor.
Let’s end slavery in our lifetime.
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