By Emily Miller, Writing Intern
According to the United Nations’ International Labor Organization, there were 50 million people living in modern slavery as of 2021. This number has risen significantly in the past five years; since 2016, the amount of those enslaved increased by 10 million, which is a fifth of the current number. Slavery is present all over the world, including the United States. Every December 2nd, the GCWJ celebrates International Day for the Abolition of Slavery to raise awareness of the need to eradicate slavery all over the world.
The term “modern slavery” is used to refer to both sex trafficking and labor trafficking it is often interchanged with the terms “human trafficking” and “trafficking in persons.” Modern slavery is fueled by the demand for cheap labor and commercial sex, and it exploits the vulnerable to meet these demands.
Vanguard University’s upcoming Live2Free president and vice president, Melanie Bracamontes and Abigail Craig, have this to say on the issue of modern slavery: “I think the biggest thing for us, when modern slavery comes to mind, is the failure to forget it is still active in our community. We see it happen in all different forms, such as domestic servitude and child labor. I think where the problem lies is that modern slavery has a new face. Individuals are using manipulation tactics to portray that these acts are not being forced upon. Manipulation is being used in a dual way: both toward the person directly affected by it, and the society around them.”
So, what are some ways that you can get involved in the fight to end modern slavery? One of the easiest ways to make a difference as an individual is to buy fair trade. Many of the products we buy – clothes, coffee, chocolate, and more – are made with slave labor. Products with a label saying “fair trade” are ethically made by workers who get paid a fair living wage and have safe working conditions. Buying fair trade contributes to a decrease in demand for slave-made products and an increase in demand for ethically made products. Another way to make a difference is to conduct research on the issue of human trafficking and raise awareness in your community through educational events, partnering with organizations, and contacting your local representatives to pass survivor-centered, trauma-informed legislation.
If you encounter someone who may show signs of being trafficked, or if you yourself are being trafficked, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888.