Today, I am still recovering from two intense but satisfying days of advocacy organized by the Not For Sale campaign, a non-profit organization that “equips and mobilizes Smart Activists to deploy innovative solutions to re-abolish slavery in their own backyards and across the globe.” Their goal: to end slavery in our life time.
I have a feeling that there are more than a few of you reading this and thinking, RE-abolish slavery? Slavery?! What on earth is she talking about?! Yes, it is a shocking and unfortunate realization for most, when they learn that modern-day slavery, know as human trafficking, not only exists today, but is thriving. Although slavery is legal nowhere, it is happening everywhere. Fact: there are more than 27 million people are forced to work in the world today. It is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world – a nine billion dollar industry, according to the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST). In fact, the global labor trade of today is larger than the trans-Atlantic slave trade of the 18th and 19th century was at its height.
Although many human trafficking victims are often from impoverished countries such as Nepal and Uganda this is not an issue that is distant or detached from the United States and other wealthy nations. For one thing, it is often the citizens of wealthier nations that partake in the services provided by trafficked labor (read The Men Who Drive The Demand). Also victims are frequently trafficked into wealthier nations as free, exploitable labor, often as domestic servants (read Diplomat’s Nanny Lifts Lid On Modern Slavery). It is likely that cases of human trafficking have been discovered and prosecuted in your area. You can find what cases have been discovered near you by visiting www.slaverymap.org .
The two day advocacy event put on by Not For Sale was known as Global Advocacy Days and gave individuals passionate about ending human trafficking a chance to learn more about the issue and take concrete steps towards re-abolishing slavery. The focus of the event was a bill that was recently introduced into the Senate, S.1631 “The Customs Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Reauthorization Act of 2009.” The first day, Monday March 1st, focused on the background of the issues, the details of the bill, and preparing for our meetings on Capitol Hill scheduled for the next day. Killian Moote, Not For Sale Campaign Director of Advocacy started the day off with an introduction to Not For Sale and to the issue of human trafficking in general. He was followed by Bama Athreya, the Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum, who spoke about the proposed legislation and the sections that Not For Sale is most specifically concerned with: section 307 and 308. These sections expand the definition of prohibited goods, goods that can not be imported into the United States, to include those made with the use of coercion or severe human trafficking as defined in the Trafficking Victims Act of 2000. The existing legislation, the Tariff Act of 1930 which S. 1631 would amend, only prohibits the importation of goods made with convict labor, forced labor or indentured labor. Sections 307 and 308 would also create civil penalties and possible disbarment against anyone who violates or tries to violate the new law.
All of this was in preparation for day two, March 2nd, which was almost entirely devoted to congressional meetings. These meetings were the centerpiece of the event, the advocacy that had drawn each of us to DC for two days. The individuals in the groups represented over 30 states and by the end of the day 74 meetings had been held, all talking about the most pressing human rights violation of our time. If each group had simply stopped by their assigned senator’s or representative’s office and dropped off some literature the event would have been effective just because of its scope. However, instead of pamphlets each group took between 15 minutes to an hour to present a well thought out message to the staffer assigned to their meeting. During the recap at the end of the day the immense effect each meeting had and the ripple effect that we had started became clear. Accounts of staffers being brought to tears were recalled by some groups while another had brought chocolate bars that they gave to the staff member at the beginning of the meeting only to have them handed back in disgust once they had explained the bars’ sordid past. Although many staff members could not make a solid commitment on their senator’s or representative’s behalf, the most important step to affecting change had taken place: education. Now, 74 members of congress are aware of the issue of human trafficking and understand the scope and breadth of the problem. More importantly, they now know what concrete action they can take to help solve it.
Global Advocacy Days was a successful two day event where awareness was raised about an important issue, but it is crucial that advocacy for these issues does not stop there. Human trafficking is not a problem that can be solved by a two day visit to Capitol Hill; it requires continued action and education. Whether you have known about the tragedy of human trafficking for years or you are just learning about it today, there are steps you can take to help abolish it. The Not For Sale campaign’s website is a wonderful resource for getting involved. They have recommended action you can take whether you are a student, an athlete, a business person, or just a consumer. If you are a student, they provide toolkits for getting your school or campus involved. The most important thing you can do is spread awareness; tell your friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, about this issue. The more people know, the more people will act.
To learn more check out these sites:
Not For Sale
Free 2 Work
Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking
The Project to End Human Trafficking
SIGN THE FACEBOOK PETITION TELLING CONGRESS TO FUND CRUCIAL PROGRAMS TO STOP HUMAN TRAFFICKING: apps.facebook.com/causes/petitions/403#sign