The Fight for Freedom: 7 Organizations Combatting Human Trafficking
This is the second installment in our series on human trafficking, in honor of National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. For background on this complex issue, check out our first installment: Human Trafficking: The Myths and the Realities.
In the dialogue on human trafficking, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the statistics, the issues, and the politics. The problem is complex and pervasive, and there are more modern-day slaves in our world than at any other point in history.
But, there are also more people working to end human trafficking and modern-day slavery than ever before. Few of these organizations are large or well-known—rather, they work from the grassroots level, promoting awareness and advocating for change in the communities they’re needed most. These groups confront traffickers, criminal gangs, and broken systems in order to make a difference. They use their resources to take a stand and serve as a voice for those who are exploited and held against their will.
Each organization has a different strategy, but all of them, little by little, are making major strides in ending human trafficking. Read on to learn about seven organizations that are fighting to ensure freedom for all.
Trafficking Policy and Advocacy: Polaris Project
One of the most influential groups working on the issue in the United States, the Polaris Project takes a comprehensive approach to ending modern-day slavery. The organization advocates for stronger federal and state laws, operates the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline, provides services and support for trafficking victims, and works with survivors to develop long-term strategies to ending human trafficking.
Second-Generation Trafficking: Prajwala
In India, children who grow up in brothels with their parents often meet the same fate. In order to counteract this dangerous legacy, social activist Dr. Sunitha Krishnan co-founded Prajwala (which means "eternal flame”). Based in Hyderbad, India, the organization rescues women from brothels and then provides them with education, mental health care, and job programs. (Check out Dr. Krishnan’s powerful talk at the 2009 TedIndia Conference.)
Statelessness and Child Trafficking: COSA
Most Hill tribes in Thailand are “stateless,” or not governed by the laws of the country—which makes their women and girls particularly vulnerable to trafficking. After recognizing this, photojournalist Mickey Choothesa and social worker Anna Choothesa created the Children’s Organization of Southeast Asia to provide education, intervention, and support in Hill tribe communities. COSA works directly within trafficking communities to provide trafficked girls with healthcare, social services, and housing in the Baan Yuu Suk Shelter—as well as to bring awareness and education to the traffickers themselves.
Trafficking of Men and Young Boys: Urban Light
A number of organizations help girls in the sex industry, but very few work to aid young men. After a service trip during which she observed the industry in Thailand firsthand, Alezandra Russel realized that boys are often excluded from the human trafficking conversation. So she created Urban Light, an organization that works to help young men break free from child prostitution and sexual exploitation. By providing food, shelter, healthcare, and support services, the group helps restore and rebuild the lives of male victims.
International Sporting Events: Student World Assembly’s Red Card Project
When a large sporting event, such as the World Cup, takes place, fears often arise that trafficking will increase to meet demand from the influx of tourists. Student World Assembly’s Red Card Project mobilizes students from around the world to stage powerful and striking condemnations of human trafficking at these events, bringing large-scale and needed public awareness to the practice.
Child Labor: GoodWeave
The handmade rug industry has one of the highest child labor rates in the world. When GoodWeave began its work in 1994, there were nearly one million children—many kidnapped or trafficked—working on the looms in South Asia, often for up to 18 hours a day. Through its efforts, the organization has not only helped bring child labor in the rug industry down 75%, it has built affiliations with retail outlets all over the U.S. to ensure that all carpets sold are free from child labor.
The Issue of Choice: The Empower Foundation
Not all who work in the sex industry do so against their will—some do so by choice. While the resources of most organizations aim to assist those exploited and hidden in the shadows, The Empower Foundation grew from a movement of sex workers and entertainers who fight for fair and sustainable standards and equal rights in the professions they have chosen. The group runs the Can Do Bar, which offers just, safe, and fair conditions for its workers.
Standing up against human trafficking takes courage, but anyone can get involved by working for an anti-trafficking group or taking a stand on an individual level. Stay tuned for our next installment to learn how you can get involved in the fight to end modern-day slavery.
The Daily Muse’s Human Trafficking Series
Part 2: The Fight for Freedom: 7 Organizations Combatting Human Trafficking
Photo courtesy of shazwan.
About The Author
Natalie Jesionka has researched and reported on human rights issues around the world. She lectures on human trafficking, gender and conflict, and human rights at Rutgers University. When she is not teaching, she is traveling and offering tips on how students and professionals can get the most out of their experiences abroad. She also encourages global exploration through her work as Editor of Shatter the Looking Glass, an ethical travel magazine. Natalie is a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow and served as a 2010 Fulbright Scholar in Thailand.