Today I set out to learn more about human trafficking. Trafficking of human beings exists in our backyards. It's not just a crime that happens in other countries as we like to think. Even so, it took until last year in Dubai for me to truly face what is going on in our country. As I traveled through Dubai to my vacation in Bali (I am amazed at the amount of privilege I have) I was struck by a glaring polarization of wealth/beauty in Dubai and lack of humanity and consciousness occurring at the same time. There are many kinds of human trafficking in Dubai, but I was struck by this common story.
A woman from the Phillippines is promised a better life for her family. She could go to Dubai for a year, work for a family and earn a wage as a housekeeper that would be almost impossible for her to make in the Phillippines. She is promised that she will be treated fairly and compensated generously. If it doesn't work out, she can leave whenever she likes.
When she gets to Dubai, she finds an entirely different situation. Her passport is taken away. She has no money and is completely dependent on the family she works for. She is made to work 18-20 hour days, and is raped by the head of household. When she becomes pregnant by rape, she is disgraced, beaten, physically punished, and arrested. Otherwise, she must quietly carry the pregnancy to term and dessert her baby on the streets so that they both have a chance of living.
Too much to take? It's awful, and it happens all over the world, including right here in the United States. The International Labor Organization estimates that nearly 21 million people worldwide are enslaved. The state of California has the highest number of suspected or identified human trafficking cases. In fact, the Bay Area is one of the top 13 locations for child sex trafficking in the US according to the FBI.
Human Trafficking consists of labor trafficking and sex trafficking. Both men and women are victims of human trafficking: 55% women and girls, and 45% men and boys.
If you find all of this shocking and a little bit overwhelming, you certainly wouldn't be alone. I have been finding myself thinking a lot about what I can do to help. Today I did a free consumer training through Stanford online school. It only takes an hour. The link is here. It helps us to recognize victims of human trafficking and know what to do next. You can take the training yourself, share it with friends or in the workplace, and also educate yourself as a consumer.
Consumer demand drives the marketplace. Just as I have talked about in posts with chemical free beauty and healthcare product demand, the same is true of fair trade labor. We can demand, as consumers, that our favorite brands create and follow a policy on human trafficking and fair trade. This is truly in our hands.
Below are some tips that came from the training today, and great resources to learn more and help out.
Ways to get involved as a consumer:
- Buy Fair Trade when available
- Look up your favorite brands on knowthechain.org to see what their public statement on human trafficking is. Urge them to consider this if they already do not. This business is great for business owners who want to understand their supply chain.
- Compare brands: download the Free2Work app, and take a look and compare your favorite brands to assess how their doing in fair trade
RESOURCES TO KEEP ON HAND (From the training).
- Assessment of Human Trafficking Situations
- Potential Indicators and Red Flags
- Toolkit for building community action, empowering survivors, and holding their traffickers accountable
LOCAL (BAY AREA) ORGANIZATIONS
- Bay Area Anti-Trafficking Coalition (BAATC)
- H.E.A.T. Watch
- No Traffick Ahead
- San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking (SFCAHT)
- South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking (SBCEHT)
- National Human Trafficking Resource Center
- Operates the national hotline and provides information about all forms of human trafficking in the U.S.
- Polaris Project
- Free the Slaves
- Freedom Network
Don't underestimate your ability to help with consciousness and awareness! Let's all do this together.
Jen Riegle, ND