5 Things You Might Not Know About Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is becoming a regular part of the social justice conversation, but it is such a complex and widespread issue that there's always more to learn. In alignment with Human Trafficking Awareness Month, here are five facts that might surprise you about human trafficking.
#1: Human trafficking is happening in my community and yours.
For years, I only associated human trafficking with certain parts of the world. In my mind, the U.S. and my surrounding community felt untouched by this problem. The truth is, trafficking is all over the world, including the United States. According to the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the U.S. has become a transit country and source for trafficking, which has affected all 50 states. I was surprised to find that in my own state of South Carolina, 261 human trafficking-related calls were received by the National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2016. If you live in the U.S. you can find your state's statistics on the hotline’s website.
#2: Some of our favorite food, beverage, and clothing brands are linked to trafficking and forced labor practices.
There is a direct link between many of our everyday purchases and unfair labor practices and trafficking. In this age of instant gratification, we keep demand for many products high. To meet demand and continue bringing in high profits, many companies have unchecked labor practices and unethical working conditions for their employees. The Better World Shopper is a resource that I found helpful in providing a breakdown of companies and their social responsibility ratings as I plan my purchases.
#3: Human trafficking doesn’t discriminate by age, gender, race, or background.
It’s not uncommon to assume that trafficking is an issue that affects mainly poverty-stricken communities. However, according to UNICEF, “anyone can be trafficked regardless of race, class, education, gender, age, or citizenship when forcefully coerced or enticed by false promises.” Rich or poor, young or old—it’s a crime that doesn’t discriminate. One of the most surprising things I learned was the number of children trapped as slaves today. UNICEF reports that an estimated 5.5 million children have been trafficked globally for forced labor, begging, prostitution, pornography, sex tourism, forced marriage, migrant farming, and sweatshops.
#4: On average, the cost of a slave is $90 across our globe.
This number is staggering to me. The cost, reported by the Borgen Project, is so small. Yet the emotional, physical, and psychological cost of a single person victimized by trafficking is immeasurable.
#5: We can be the generation to put an end to Modern Day Slavery.
It’s a bold statement, I know. Yet, human trafficking will continue to be a problem until enough of us speak up for the voiceless and demand justice. Our generation can pool our resources and raise our voices to declare loudly: “Not on our watch.”
Here are just a few of the way you can help:
Each consumer decision we make casts a vote. Researching and carefully choosing products that have transparent supply chains, fair wages and ethical practices steer demand toward businesses that are responsibly empowering and caring for their employees. If you’re unsure of where to start, Slavery Footprint is a useful tool to see where your products come from. I also found The Good Trade to be a helpful site with numerous shopping guides on where to find ethically made clothing, home goods, food and more.
Learn more about your community.
Researching my own community and the challenges they face with trafficking gave me a clear starting point where I can affect change locally. Knowing the statistics, the programs and campaigns currently in place to help stop trafficking are great ways to start getting involved.
Campaigns like Dressember are just one of the many creative ways you can raise awareness about human trafficking. Other resources such as social media, blogging, local speaking events, and simply starting meaningful conversations with friends and family can all go a long way in raising awareness as well. The more people that know about the issue and ways to identify trafficking, the further we progress forward in rewriting our future.
About the Author
Michaela Judge is a military veteran and Southern transplant. As a Public Relations specialist by day, she is overjoyed to use her love of writing to help fight for freedom and justice through Dressember! Her favorite moments are spent with her husband, Phil, and daughter, Ellie, adventuring in Charleston, South Carolina, and spreading hospitality.