I still remember sitting in the school library, in the fall of 2002, when my Grade 11 English teacher, Mr. Keenan, asked us to select the topic for our Independent Study Unit. I’ve always been a research nerd. Therefore, I was pumped at the idea of a semester long research project on current issues!
It was my turn to step up to the table and choose a topic from the list. A quick scan lead my eyes to rest on these words: “Child exploitation around the world.” I knew this was the one.
At age 17, I was fairly well versed to the various issues plaguing the world. I had a heart for vulnerable children and aspired to pursuing a career that would enable me to help them and advocate for them. So, I naively thought that I knew what I was getting myself into with this assignment.
Child exploitation meant children working in sweat shops, right? Not exclusively.
It wasn’t until I started leafing through my book haul from the Central Library on York Street that I realized that this issue extended beyond forced labour (as horribly cruel as that is) into something far darker than I had anticipated.
I knew about pedophilia and the existence of child pornography, but I had never heard about child sex trafficking.
There was a lot I had yet to learn.
I didn’t realize that many women who engaged in prostitution, did not do so necessarily out of a lack of morals, but out of either desperation or trickery. Often, they were forced to continue against their will.
I didn’t know much about forced labour, or how generations of families were kept in bondage to pay impossible debts.
Sitting in my room, reading through pages of shocking stats and case studies, I had to take breathers. I stared out my window overlooking lower Hamilton as my brain tried to comprehend the hell I was learning about.
It was a pivotal season. As I was learning new terms like “sex parties” and “sex tourism,” two powerful feelings were conjured up.
First, I was incredulous that this evil could be structured on such a large scale and, comparatively speaking, nothing was being done about it. All of the wealth between the world’s most powerful governments and organizations, and yet these crimes were thriving!
Second, I felt this mix of resolve and ineptitude. From deep down, I wanted to be a part of the solution, but what on earth could I do?
I believe that these feelings are all very common. We are horrified. We feel a prompting in our soul to do something, but we cannot think of anything seemingly powerful enough to combat this.
No one, not a single soul, gets to choose where they are born. But we have a choice on what we do with what we’ve been given.
Correction. There is One who had a choice. Jesus chose to be born among animals, in a place where sacrificial lambs were born and swaddled to preserve their unblemished state. He chose lowliness. He chose sacrifice. He chose to come here so He could set captives free.
If He chose sacrifice and mercy, should not we?
Press into the pain your heart feels when you hear of children being raped for profit, women being forced into prostitution, families in permanent servitude; all with no means of escape.
Resist any feelings of guilt. Let that uncomfortable feeling propel you to action; not in the “next,” but in the NOW.
There are 5 things that you can do today that will make an impact in the fight against human trafficking.
(Please take the time to follow the links. It is important to be informed and do your own research. Fortunately, despite the large scope of this problem, there are many ways that you can be a part of the solution.)
Get an understanding of the situation, memorize some stats, learn to recognize the signs.
You can do this by:
- Watching documentaries
- Reading books
- Listening to podcasts
- Following Instagram accounts that advocate & educate on this issue
- Take online training courses
For a detailed recommendations list, read this post.
There are many non-profit organizations that are already on the ground, all over the world, that are committed to rescuing and supporting the rehabilitation of the victims and seeing that their captors answer to justice.
Their teams are skilled and seasoned to do this work, but their ever present need is funding.
I realize that sponsorships are another means of financial support, but I am highlighting this separately for this reason:
Sponsoring children, especially girls, who are in economically vulnerable situations is an effective means of preventing child trafficking.
According to the Human Rights Commission, forced labour is the biggest sector of trafficking in the world.
When you do business with men and women who are impoverished and oppressed, you are making an impact.
Do not underestimate the long-reaching ripple effect that comes from shopping fair trade (or by other methods of ethical shopping).
I created a series called “12 Days Shopping Fair Trade” that shows the variety of fair trade products that align with your tastes and style, but that set people free, rather than keep them in bondage. You can view this series here.
Here are two excellent articles that further explain how our shopping habits link with human trafficking.
Lending Your Voice
Help support the movement by sharing the stories, articles, videos and podcasts with your friends and family via social media and one-on-one conversations.
Be a voice for the voiceless.
Use your voice by lifting them up in prayer and by sharing their stories with as many people as possible.
This is another method that should not, I repeat NOT, be undervalued.
The Abolition of Slavery in the 19th century was due largely to the contribution of many storytellers.
Through these blog articles, I have provided you with copious links for you to share. Please explore them, and spread the word!