|(Photo by Veejay Villafranca)|
The Human Trafficking Project is a non-profit organization that utilizes art and technology to raise awareness of modern day slavery, connect those working to combat the issue and support trafficking survivors. Art has always been a powerful means of conveying a message and moving people to action. Combined with the technology to connect people, provide timely information and channel resources to support victims, the HTP's goal is to blend art, information and technology to create awareness of modern day slavery and take action to stop it.
Human trafficking (trafficking) is modern day slavery. It is forced prostitution, domestic slavery, forced labor and more. It is a brutal and thriving problem that generates an estimated 32 billion dollars annually according to the United Nations. Trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of subjecting that person to involuntary servitude, sexual exploitation, peonage, debt bondage, slavery, or other forms of exploitation. Trafficking in persons is the third most profitable business for organized crime after drug and arms trafficking.
An estimated 17,000 victims are trafficked into the United States each year. According to the U.S. State Department, up to 800,000 people are trafficked around the world annually. Free the Slaves, a Washington D.C.- based nonprofit, estimates there to be up to 27 million active slaves in the world today, more than at the height of the Transatlantic slave trade. Although trafficking may seem like an exotic issue that only affects Africa or Asia, the reality is that it exists in every country, whether as a source or destination country for victims.
The December 2000 signing of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children by 88 countries in Palermo, Italy signaled the recognition by the international community of modern day slavery as a serious global issue. Additionally, over the past several years there has been an increasing global movement to combat trafficking spanning all sectors of society involving the creation of anti-trafficking legislation, the development of law enforcement task forces and the mobilization of resources and manpower from diverse sectors of society to address modern day slavery. Despite these efforts, however, there is still much work left to be done.
Complex issues need to be addressed such as the coordination of stakeholder efforts (government, law enforcement, criminal justice systems, intergovernmental organizations, the civil sector, businesses) and the development of a reliable global database to effectively monitor trafficking. At the same time, basic but integral challenges still remain, such as raising the level of awareness and providing opportunities for the public to get involved.
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have been instrumental in combating trafficking and have proven their effectiveness in increasing public awareness, pushing for legislation and assisting in the rescuing, rehabilitation and reintegration of trafficking victims among other achievements. Many NGOs have been working on the issue of trafficking for over a decade and have the networks and know-how to make a difference, yet they often lack sufficient resources and manpower to fully execute their programs. By leveraging the collective economic power of concerned citizens around the globe, much can be done with comparatively minimal resources to support those NGOs that have proven track records of effective work, yet are in need of additional funding to solidify or expand their programs.
Many trafficking survivors are young girls who look for work instead of attending school to help support their families. Poverty and unemployment, among other factors, create a large population of young people desperate to enter the work force who are easily seduced by the lies of traffickers. Even when rescued, many survivors return home to the same situation of poverty, unemployment and instability they initially fled and continue to be vulnerable to exploitation. Some survivors are even re-trafficked. Resources are needed to provide opportunities for education and livelihood skills training to trafficking survivors that will decrease their susceptibility to future exploitation and provide the opportunity to find stable employment and rebuild their lives.
The Bottom Line
Human trafficking is a product of many factors including poverty, unemployment, political instability, war, globalization and gender bias- it is a complex problem with no simple solution. We need a holistic strategy that involves the coordination of all sectors of society to truly end slavery once and for all.
Because of the massive scope of trafficking, it can be difficult to think about and connect with the actual people who are victimized. It can be hard to imagine the real people who are enslaved and forced into prostitution or forced to work in a factory or beg on the streets. Although the issue itself raises eyebrows, if people cannot connect with actual victims it makes it easier for them to disengage and forget.
One of the HTP's goals is to use art to bridge this gap between the public and the victims, pierce the veil of hype and humanize trafficking. At the same time, people need to know how to find opportunities where they can channel their energy and talent to combat trafficking. With this in mind, the HTP will provide an easy to navigate database of trafficking news articles for researchers, connect people to organizations that need help and develop partnerships with trusted organizations to support trafficking survivors.
Let's Get Free
We, ordinary people around the world, hold an immense amount of power and influence to end trafficking.
Whether it be by volunteering at an NGO, creating an organization, putting pressure on our governments, law enforcement and criminal justice systems to pay attention and take action, or the numerous other ways to contribute, never underestimate our power as individuals and as a group to make great change and to end modern day slavery once and for all.
Here's to a world where all are free, none are exploited,
- The Human Trafficking Project staff
*For more information on the Human Trafficking Project and how to get involved email firstname.lastname@example.org