By Amanda Kloer
Human trafficking may seem like an insurmountable challenge because it is a multi-billion dollar global industry, but individuals can have a huge impact on the fight against trafficking. Here are 10 ideas for things you as an abolitionist can do to free slaves and end slavery.
1. Throw a Viewing Party. Educate yourself others about human trafficking by inviting your family and friends to watch a film on human trafficking and discuss the issue. A film, either a documentary or fictional story, is a great way to introduce people to the issue because it helps them connect visually and emotionally to the victims. A film will also provide some topics for discussion. For some suggested short films, see the 10 Human Trafficking Videos section of this blog.
2. Host a fundraiser for a local anti-trafficking nonprofit. While donating individually to the causes you support is great, there are many ways to take a small amount of money and turn it into a much larger amount for bigger impact. Instead of making a direct donation, try buying supplies for a bake sale or car wash and donate the proceeds, or recruit your friends to match your donation amount. Try some of these original fundraising ideas and don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
3. Oppose the commercial sex industry, including prostitution, escort services, strip clubs, pornography and the “pimp n ho” culture. Sex trafficking victims can be found in all areas of the commercial sex industry, and demand for commercial sex makes the business lucrative for traffickers and motivates them to enslave more victims. Have bachelor and bachelorette parties at non-traditional (commercial sex-free) venues. Refuse to watch pornography and encourage friends to do the same. When fewer people buy commercial sex, traffickers have less incentive to force women and children to meet the demand.
4. Support new or better state and local anti-trafficking laws. Many states already have anti-trafficking laws, but some don’t. Check to see if there are anti-trafficking laws in your state. Help strengthen state and local laws in your area by contacting your Governor, Senator or Representative. As a voter (or soon-to-be voter), you have the power to demand your representatives follow an abolitionist agenda. And remember, many voices asking for the same changes are powerful- consider a letter-writing campaign.
5. Buy fair trade. Consumer demand for cheap goods and services motivates traffickers to enslave workers to pick our fruit, make our clothing, clean our hotel rooms, serve our food and do a number of other tasks. By buying fair trade goods, you support companies and products which ensure a living wage for the producers and humane working conditions. Learn more about what buying fair trade means.
6. Support education and business opportunities for women and girls. Females disproportionately become victims of human trafficking because in many countries (including the U.S.) they lack the same educational and economic opportunities given to men. There are a number of international microeconomic development programs which give opportunities to girls and women, as well as U.S. organizations like the Girl Scouts which can help low-income girls afford college.
7. Think globally, act locally. Involve your community, like your school, club, sports team or place of worship in the abolitionist movement. It’s a built-in network to spread the word about your passion for abolition and a great place to get your feet wet as an anti-trafficking activist. You might be surprised at what resources are available to you in your immediate community.
8. Express the importance of freedom through art, music or performance. A college student with a love of theater and a passion for abolition once noticed that there were a number of young but talented theater majors at her school who weren’t getting cast in the big productions. So she wrote a short play based on real narratives of former slaves and cast her fellow students in the play. By charging a small admission fee to the show and selling products from Ten Thousand Villages, she was able to raise awareness in her community and over $1000 for a local anti-slavery NGO in a single night. A performance or piece of art stands out in a sea of facts and brochures.
9. Remember the past and learn from it. It wasn’t that long ago that slavery was legal in the United States and most other countries. While economics is and has been the driving force behind human trafficking and slavery, racism, hate, bigotry, indifference and ignorance of different people and cultures have allowed it to thrive. Remember and celebrate abolitionist heroes of the past and celebrate racial unity and diversity today.
10. Report suspected situations of human trafficking. Be alert to signs in your community that someone is being held, forced or coerced to work. To seek assistance for a trafficking victim, call the Department of Health and Human Services Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE or 800-787-3224 (TTY). Both hot lines are prepared to answer calls in a number of languages. To report suspected trafficking crimes to law enforcement, call the U.S. Department of Justice Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force at 888-428-7581 or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at 866-DHS-2ICE.
Image from Time.com