In 2013, the United Nations designated today, July 30, as the World Day against Trafficking in Persons. The resolution declared that such a day was needed to “raise awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion of their rights.“
So, what IS human trafficking? Basically, it’s the exploitation of men, women, and children for purposes including forced labor and sex, and it happens all over the world. It doesn’t just happen in Africa, or Asia, or “somewhere else.” I recently read BBC reports about clothing factories in Leicester, England where migrants were forced to work in unsafe conditions, for much less than the legal minimum wage. Oh, and remember when New England Patriots owner, Robert Kraft, was caught up in a prostitution case in Florida? That was part of a human trafficking investigation.
Human trafficking has been at the edge of my mind long before I joined Trades of Hope, but it was at the very edge. It didn’t impact me directly. And I didn’t think of it when I thought about prostitution. After all, aren’t we told that women make a choice to go into that ancient of professions? And then there are the famed “Red Light Districts” such as in Amsterdam. What about the movie Pretty Woman, where Julia Roberts’ character found love with her client played by Richard Gere? Okay, so in many places it is illegal but we all know it happens and that various groups are seeking decriminalization of the industry.
I’ve had an interest in fair trade since I was a student in the 1990s. There was a church in central Edinburgh, Scotland, that had a fair trade store in the basement. It had pretty things from places like India: throws, cushion covers, dresses, and the like. Oh yes, and the chocolate. And I LOVE chocolate. Well, most of it. (Don’t get me started on Hershey v Cadbury!) But I didn’t think much more about it, until I was invited to join TOH. And, if you’d asked me back in April 2017, I couldn’t have told you what fair trade had to do with trafficking… I also didn’t know why TOH partnered with a couple of artisan groups in the USA. Didn’t fair trade items come from overseas?
Then I began to read the artisan stories. The founder of one of the American groups had been trafficked by someone she trusted. An artisan in another group was trafficked by her OWN MOTHER! I’m not a parent, but the very thought of a mother doing that… I was stunned. During the next couple of years, I learned about women in Asia, girls really, who were trafficked into brothels from rural areas. They were desperate from work, and the promise of a good job serving customers was too much to resist. Organizations were bringing these women out of the darkness, training and employing them, and giving them a decent enough wage that they would no longer feel the only way to make ends meet was to return to the pimps and the brothels and the sweatshops.
But it was on a Sunday evening a couple of months ago that I heard something that really made me sit up and take notice. TOH had recently begun selling items made by a group in the Dominican Republic. I’ve never been to the DR, but I knew of people who’d visited on vacation. What I didn’t know before TOH began the partnership is that families sell their young daughters to drug runners and the like. These men had money, liked young girls, and knew of others with similar tastes. Oh yes, Americans like to spend money on prostitution in places like the DR. That Sunday evening, TOH co-founder Gretchen came online to tell us that a teen girl had been rescued by Operation Underground Railroad and taken to our partners in the DR who operate a safe house. They were able to take her in and start her on the road to recovery, because of an order we’d placed! Yes, this group could afford to look after this girl (and her wee son) because the TOH home office had sent them the funds for an order of two new items: the Peso Keychain, and the Sky Jasper Bracelet. BOOM! It became real. I ordered both items when they became available.
They’re tangible reminders of the work we do as Trades of Hope Partners.
There are millions of problems in this imperfect world, and I’d love to do something about all of them. What about the environment? Social justice? Abandoned dogs? Homelessness? Immigration? COVID and whether or not we should be forced to wear masks in public spaces? I could keep going. There are so many causes that if we were all to embrace all we’d spread ourselves extremely thinly. But what I’m learning is that some are interconnected. Fair trade can provide incomes for those who’ve been trafficked into exploitation and it can provide a means of ensuring that parents aren’t pressured into trafficking some of their children so they can provide for others. Fair trade can take women who’ve been conditioned into thinking they’re worthless and turn them into smart, confident members of society. So, that’s why I do what I do. And that’s why I’m sharing my journey of discovery on this particular day with you.
United Nations Website https://www.un.org/en/observances/end-human-trafficking-day
Thistle Farms https://thistlefarms.org/
Please note: I am a Partner with Trades of Hope. All Trades of Hope links on this post will take you to my replicated TOH website. I will earn a commission on any and all orders placed through it. When you join TOH through a link from this post, you’ll join my team (and I’ll be happy to have you 🙂 )