Last week the global Stop the Traffik and Finance against Trafficking teams met in Rio, congregating in a convent at the top of the hill in the St Theresa district. We came from all over the globe, with one mission- to strengthen our commitment to preventing human trafficking.
From across the globe, men and women shared their stories. Despite hearing about the grotesque crime so many times before, it still moves me to hear about the injustice to society, the deception, the violence, the betrayal, the children that are deprived of their childhoods, and in many cases their lives. The ongoing demand for cheap goods by consumers who are all too often oblivious to the fact that –
- the cotton in the shirt they are wearing was grown and picked by forced labour
- the chocolate they eat is made with cocoa harvested by children bought and sold
- the tea they drink is built on an empire of unacceptably low wages and slavery,
Consumer choices only serve to fuel this crime. Arguably worse, is the culture of today that views sex as a commodity, a right.
The picture of the victim rescued is a heart rendering one, but to focus on the rescue it reinforces the easily attained ‘feel good’ factor for many businesses and people- a tangible success. One person at a time is not enough.
Prevention does not have that same ‘instant gratification’. It is harder, much harder, to build a campaign raising awareness of human trafficking, to build proper frameworks into business models, to ‘sell’ the idea that through prevention we can rescue more than one person at a time. There needs to be a strategy to do both.
So what does ‘stop’ look like? What does a community that is traffick free look and feel like? What does a business that understands and responds to its ethical supply chain risks look like? This is the challenge for us all.
Even more difficult is understanding the dynamics of this crime.- the profile of the traffickers keeps mutating, other than the constant desire for one thing: money. However they can get their hands on it.
People’s perceptions of the victims of trafficking are not accurate either. It is often the braver ones in society (children excluded) that fall victim to being trafficked – they are the ones promised a better life, better education, a chance to help their families. Some don’t even realize they are victims after the fact – an astonishing truth uncovered during the UNGift box initiative during the Olympics. It really can happen to anyone. And for a mother with two young daughters that is a terrifying contemplation.
So the time is now – to turn up the volume against human trafficking. It’s time for all age groups and sectors across society to join forces, and to start ‘seeing’ and acting – be it schools, churches, sport clubs, or business. There is a role for each one of us to help raise awareness to prevent the trafficking of people. “People should not be bought or sold.” Simple.
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